Nov 2, 2018 Skolar Award Team
Science and research have the potential to solve many of the pressing issues of our time. Tech entrepreneurship has the capability to rapidly scale the ideas born out of scientific research discoveries. This is why we need more science on stage. What Slush wants to provide for the research community is an interdisciplinary, inclusive environment where multidimensional research can thrive. Reciprocally, startups and tech ecosystem benefit of the scientific innovation. Besides insights on the recent trends in science and research, this post will cover the most important aspects of what Slush has to offer in terms of science-related stage program this year.
In Europe, research is traditionally funded through tax money as well as private research foundations. This kind of funding is tied to the researcher’s academic success, ie. previously funded research projects and number of academic papers published. This mechanism is most beneficial for those researchers who have an extensive background in academia – not so much for researchers at the very beginning of their careers.
However, the research world needs both experienced academics and young minds who are not afraid to take a leap of faith and think outside the box. As one Skolar Award alumnus said: “Postdocs are brimming with ideas and they haven’t yet become stuck with certain patterns or models.”
Competitions and private investments offer another way to finance ambitious research. Though research is time-consuming and based on extensive and even expensive work, it is still an attractive investment for private investors. Though apps and software may seem like a less risky investment, research has the potential to solve major problems and bring long-time value. Global issues such as climate change, cancer, food crisis and scarcity of resources demand solutions that go beyond the surface and increase our in-depth understanding of the topics. Instead of creating more products or ideas, we need to see knowledge in action.
Venture capital and idea-based risk investment is what the startup world is all about. However, it is still a path less traveled for researchers. Slush Research Pitching competition Skolar Award strives to change this. The aim of the competition is that the best idea wins, not the best CV of the applicant. This invites young postdocs with fresh ideas to step on stage and encourages them to forget playing it safe and go for daring ideas. The winner of the competition walks away with a hefty €100K prize to advance her/his idea.
Though pitching is a fundamental part of the startup scene, it is an unexplored territory for researchers – and a bit of a scary one. However, in order to connect ingenious researchers with funding agents, we need arenas where research becomes seen and heard. At best, pitching allows the researcher to see the value of her/his research, inspires investors to find real value for their money and ignites hope in the minds of the audience.
This year’s Skolar Award finalists are great examples bold research initiatives.
Or what do you say about exploring opportunities to 3D-print coral reefs, creating a whole new material for renewable energy production or turning wood into food? The eight finalists are tackling the wicked problems of our time. This includes trying to transform plastic garbage into protein, exploring new treatments for cancer and looking for ways to ensure fresh water with cryo-desalination.
One idea focuses on understanding how AI technologies are constructed and shaped, another is digging into the identity building process of young people and trying to find out why youngsters are so lost. All of these ideas could contribute to making this world a more sustainable place to live and prosper.
Here’s what to expect from the Science Track at Slush this year.
Research Pitching Competition: postdoctoral researchers present their research ideas on stage in the search of funding for their wild and ambition ideas. The winner will receive €100,000 for the research.
Deeptech Showcase highlights the most promising startups from the tech scene who are working on the state-of-the-art technology covering medtech, mobility, foodtech and crypto. The featured companies are Nightingale Technologies, Lilium, Solar Foods and Celo.
Founders of science-based companies take the stage:
Slush Research Pitching Competition Skolar Award is organized by Kaskas Media and Slush and funded by Foundation for Economic Education, Helsingin Sanomat Foundation, The Magnus Ehrnrooth Foundation, The Paulo Foundation, The Runar Bäckström Foundation, Saastamoinen Foundation and Walter Ahlström Foundation. You can read more about the competition here.
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