Innovations and Commercialization

Impact: Economic impacts

Description of impact

1. Summary of the societal impact
The Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) is the leading unit in innovations and commercialization at Aalto University. The department has the highest number of commercialization project grants received in recent years at Aalto. In addition, there is long-term history of establishing spinoff companies. The department focuses on ensuring further development of its research results into innovative commercial and entrepreneurial activities on a continuous and multidisciplinary basis. Thus, a significant societal impact is pursued. To maintain the impact, the department has developed a culture of supporting research activities and nurturing their innovation potential.

ME (including the Aalto Design Factory) traditionally has a strong profile developing research results into innovations and business. Invention disclosures (134 cases 2013-2017) and patenting (32 applications and 2 awarded 2013-2017) are typical elements and results from many project and other cooperation. At the department level within Aalto, these numbers are high. Patenting and IPR issues are also visibly included in the MSc programme (e.g., with a dedicated course on patents and extensive industrial cooperation in project assignments). In addition to traditional spinoff creation methods, based on the entrepreneurship skills of individual researchers or research teams, the department also effectively exploits specific funding instruments that simultaneously promote the development of an idea and the preparation of its commercialization (e.g., TUTLI projects). Students and graduates are encouraged to establish new business activities in several ways. Many professors and other staff members also have entrepreneurial backgrounds. All research projects carried out in cooperation with industrial companies by default include the evaluation of commercialization potential and IPR negotiations and agreements.
New Business from Research Ideas (TUTLI – Tutkimuksesta Uutta Liiketoimintaa) is a Business Finland (formerly Tekes) competitive funding instrument for research projects that are market-oriented. These are commercialization projects that will create a startup company as an outcome. The projects are co-funded by Business Finland (70%) and Aalto (30%). At Aalto, the average project budget is €450k, and the average duration of a project is about 18 months. Aalto Research and Innovation Services also regularly organises training for Aalto teams applying for funding.
By this writing, the total number of TUTLI projects in ME is 18 (please see list below). This is 34% of the Aalto total (53) and 82% of the School of Engineering (ENG) total (22). The respective cumulative ME budget for the projects is €7.9m. This is 33% of the Aalto total (€24.1m) and 86% of the ENG total (€9.2m). As a result, 7 new startups have been founded, mostly with venture capital (VC) investments, and 5 additional cases are under negotiation. These statistics show exceptionally intensive and well-established involvement in research results commercialization for the department. Four selected project examples are presented below in more detail, two of these have received TUTLI-funding.
At departmental level, TUTLI projects have covered approximately 15% of the total external funding during 2013-2016. Furthermore, as TUTLI projects are based on research results generated in prior research projects, the indirect contribution of the associated projects is significantly larger.

Category of impactEconomic impacts