Gazelle jumps and games as therapy – the latest from Aalto Startup Center and Innovation Services

Good research ideas turn into a great business in Aalto's incubators and accelerators – two of the five growth companies that raised the most funding in 2020 were spin-outs from the Aalto ecosystem. With the help of Aalto Startup Center and Innovation Services, the community provides a wide range of support services for researchers interested in exploring the commercial potential of their results.


Remarkable personnel growth among Aalto Startup Center's Alumni companies – "Pandemic won't change the fact that two out of three companies will stay running"

According to an annual Aalto Startup Center study, companies that have undergone the business accelerator's program have nearly tripled their personnel during 2010–2019. 

"This has been partly due to the halt in the reduction of Rovio's personnel. In 2014, Rovio employed about 730 people, and in less than two years, the number was cut to half, to its current level. For this reason, the growth of other companies stood out precisely from 2016 onwards", says Marika Paakkala, Head of Aalto Startup Center.

"When turnover has grown more than the number of jobs, which these growth figures refer to, it can be assumed that business productivity has increased," she says. 

In 2019, Aalto Startup Center's most employing alumni companies were Futurice Oy, which develops network and mobile software Rovio Entertainment Oyj, a game development company, and Efima Oy, which develops business and financial processes. During the most recent four-year sampling period, the company that grew the most – a whopping 1,425 percent – was the logistics company HUB Logistics 3PL Oy. 

Pandemic won't change the fact that two out of three companies will stay running 

Currently, there are a total of 603 Aalto Startup Center alumni companies, of whom 386 are still in operation – with a survival rate of 64. For comparison, according to Statistics Finland, every second Finnish enterprise will cease their operations before the age of seven.

"Nearly a quarter of our 603 alumni companies work in the software design and manufacturing industry, and about 16 percent in management consulting. The next most represented industries are computer hardware and software consulting, advertising agency work and industrial design."

"These are the industries where companies are well-positioned to survive a pandemic without major business damage. In 2019, there were 340 alumni companies from which at least one financial report during 2003–2019 was received, and their turnover was altogether almost EUR 570 million", Paakkala says. 

Comprehensive growth is a matter of learning 

Currently, Startup Center alumni companies maintaining their gazelle growth are Drop Design Pool, Duunitori, business coaching company Hintsa Performance and software development and consulting company Gapps Oy.

"We need to strive to provide the companies with content and practical tools enabling sustainable growth – the up-to-date kind and of high quality. Coaching, business advice and working with client companies provide good tools and operating models that remain in use in companies and are hugely useful in the context of strong growth and scalability," Paakkala says.  

"Companies learn the principles of profitable growth in our Business Generator program and can apply the lessons to the challenges of their business life cycle even after the program. It is worthwhile for the company to use the best doctrines and tools from the very beginning so that the business can be built on a strong foundation." 

Read more here.

Development of the number of alumni companies personnel, 2010-2019

Innovation Services welcomes a new batch of Research-to-Business projects

Aalto Innovation Services manages commercialization of inventions, intellectual property and technology transfer at Aalto University. Their work ensures that every research invention with transformational capabilities and potential for wider societal influence will find its way out of our ecosystem to the marketplace and broader society. 

The commercialization projects run by Innovation Services take anything between 18 to 24 months. During this time, teams will work to define their concept, context, and relevance: what they are doing, what difference it makes, and the broader context of their research work. These actions will often lead to disruptive entrepreneurial activity and solutions capable of changing the way markets function. 

A great example of a company spin-out from Innovation Services is the quantum computing company IQM. Being among the five most-funded startups in Finland in 2020, the company is currently building Finland's first quantum computer. 


Immunotherapy is considered the most effective cancer treatment, as it can significantly improve cancer prognosis. However, for solid-tumor-forming cancers, immunotherapies treat only a small number of patients. 

Immunate offers a solution that enables finding those patients who benefit specifically from immunotherapy. This personalized solution will be IP-protected and is currently being tested in clinically relevant proof-of-concept studies.

In the future, the customers' measurement data can be uploaded into a cloud to analyze the complex data enabling them to find the patients best suited for immunotherapy. Immunate will also aim to sell analytical services while also launching their products on both software and hardware. 


Another newcomer, Aldel, develops cost-efficient laser devices for silicon photonics with an atomic layer deposition method beyond the current state-of-the-art.                        

Over the past decades, silicon photonics has emerged as one of the most studied and developed fields in photonics and optoelectronics. One of the major reasons for this is to improve the well-developed microelectronic, data-communication and telecommunication technologies by integrating optical functionalities on the integrated circuit chips.

However, some essential on-chip components, such as amplifiers and lasers, have not yet been realized in silicon photonics with cost-effective methods. Aldel is aiming to do just that.


HydroCel is a project built around utilizing H-Cel, a process technology capable of producing cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) with a gaseous reagent in a very high consistency (>95%). This way, several problems involved with CNC production can be circumvented. The project is hoping to revolutionize CNC production with a more cost-efficient and sustainable process, increasing the industrial appeal of CNCs to a new level.  

Nanocellulose has been branded as a trailblazing material for more environmentally friendly forest industry. At the moment, however, the problem is the high price. For example, the production of biodegradable composites replacing plastic with nanocellulose is far too expensive. H-Cel focuses explicitly on the decisive calculation of nanocellulose production costs.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental health problems worldwide. The primary treatments for MDD are antidepressants and therapy – however, both have limited efficacy, poor availability, and a very high cost. Above all, current therapies do not alleviate the cognitive symptoms of depression.

Digital Therapeutics (DTx) is a new form of healthcare technology offering an affordable, highly scalable and widely available solution to global healthcare challenges such as depression. DTx methods based on cognitive psychotherapy already exist for treating depression.
Meliora has developed an action computer game that offers a new DTx treatment for depression. Their game innovation seeks to strengthen cognitive performance and thus correct cognitive deficits associated with depression. Preliminary research suggests that as early as 8 to 12 weeks of gaming intervention may lead to clinically significant treatment response.

Their team will soon start clinical trials for the game to determine its effectiveness and safety. The clinical data thus collected will form the basis for the subsequent commercialization of research results and advance national opportunities to play a leading role in the new business field of digital therapies.

Read more about Meliora here.


Forests are multi-use resources with high economic and societal value, and the Forestry Software market itself is an eight-billion market industry. 

AIFORE is a quantum leap in the digitalization of forest planning. It combines the latest research in Machine Learning and Forest Sciences into the world's first highly scalable AI forestry optimization tool.

Target customers are forest owners, insurance companies, and banks requiring new forest management plans and solutions. AIFORE helps both B2B and B2C clients (like ordinary families, who make 60 % of Finnish forest owners) to utilize their forest more efficiently while also taking climate change into account by finding the best strategies for reducing CO2 emissions and preserving biodiversity.


New bio-based material could soon replace substances such as Styrofoam and bubble wrap, and artificial intelligence is currently being used to develop the material. 

Wood conducts heat well in one direction and is very durable in another. By mimicking the wood's cellular structure in foams, Foamwood investigates the commercialization conditions for a method for producing woody bio foams on an industrial scale. Such foams could replace plastic-based materials in various applications, such as the packaging and construction industries. And the best part? It is edible.

Read more about Foamwood here.


Together, Aalto Startup Center and Innovation Services turn research ideas to tangible societal impact. This blog series keeps you up-to-date with their projects, startups and everything in between. 

Read more about Aalto Startup Center

Read more about Innovation Services

  • Published:
  • Updated:
URL copied!

Show other posts from this blog

Urban Tech Helsinki

Urban Tech Helsinki is an unmissable opportunity for startups working with sustainable urban solutions

Urban Tech Helsinki is a business incubator on a lookout for clean and sustainable solutions for cities.
Leigh Ewin

A glimpse of A Grid with Leigh Ewin

Leigh Ewin, jack-of-all-trades at A Grid, tells the story of the recently established startup community.

Introvert's guide to networking

Networking is a concept that gets a bad rap, and for a good reason.

Space-proof protein, pocket rockets, and other stories from ESA BIC Finland

ESA BIC Finland incubates some ten new space startups each year.