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Start Me Up 2019 main prize to a microelectronics innovation PillarHall, a spin-off research project of VTT


Organised for the first time by Business Joensuu, the Start Me Up business idea competition inspired a record number of ideas. The business idea competition was organised for the 18th time this spring, and it received 253 new business ideas, compared to 235 of the previous year. Start Me Up business idea competition received a record number of entries – the main award invites a microelectronics innovation to Joensuu.

The main prize, €20,000 and facilities for a year in Joensuu Science Park, was awarded to PillarHall, a spin-off research project of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. PillarHall’s solution for a 3D analysis of silicon chip thin films facilitates the reduction of IT components, thus enhancing the performance and energy efficiency of smart equipment.

– I am delighted with the appreciation given to expertise in advanced technology. For PillarHall, the prize means a probable relocation to Joensuu, and future participation in the region’s strong cooperative network in photonics and nanotechnology, explains Project Manager Mikko Utriainen, DSc.

A wealth of company-oriented ideas

This year, it was particularly satisfying that companies already in operation submitted more ideas than ever before, which is one of the important goals of the Start Me Up competition. The prizes included a separate €10,000 award for a Company-oriented idea , which was given to XHOME, a company specialising in mould destruction.

Ideas came from both companies and individuals, from North Karelia and elsewhere in Finland, and even abroad.

– Each submitted idea has the potential to succeed, which is why every idea is valuable. Business Joensuu aims at being the starting point for a company’s growth story, and the business idea competition has proved to be a great way to bring together our business accelerator’s sparring services and growth-oriented companies, explains Business Coach Timo Ruohio.

Business Joensuu’s biggest entrepreneurship event

Business Joensuu launched its operations at the beginning of the year, and Start Me Up is its biggest annual expression of encouragement for entrepreneurship. The new organisation in its entirety was involved with the competition.

– I would like to thank the entire Business Joensuu team, as well as our partners who enabled the compiling of a record-high prize pool of €100,000. We met and exceeded our goal to be the largest and most visible business idea competition in Finland, says Ruohio.

After the award ceremony, three sparring days will take place at the business accelerator, which are open to all participants in the competition. The sparring days will be attended by the biggest number of participants in the competition history, over 250 people, who will continue to process their ideas further.

Further information:

Timo Ruohio
puh. +358 50 597 4330


Winners of the Start Me Up business idea competition in 2019

Cash prizes

Main prize of €20,000.00 and facilities in Joensuu Science Park for one year “PillarHall” – Mikko Utriainen

Student prize 3 x €3,000.00
Karelia University of Applied Sciences: “Dictate Master” ‒ Elmeri Telimaa
Riveria: “A producer of funeral industry supplies to North Karelia” ‒ Celo NY
University of Eastern Finland UEF: “Easier and faster psychologists’ reports?” ‒ Saila Sutela

Research-based business idea €5,000.00
“ConTender” ‒ VXT Research Oy

Company-oriented business idea €10,000.00
“XHOME” ‒ Jadeca Oy

Future Industry €6,000.00
“Sikkum Precision Drying” ‒ Sikkum Global Oy

Best potential for internationalisation €7,000.00
“Drone mapping for all” ‒ Rami Saarikorpi and Sami Vuomajoki

Expert services prizes

Legal services worth €1,500, sponsored by Asianajotoimisto Surakka Oy (Attorneys at Law Surakka Oy)
“FixU Drink” ‒ Health Hack Labs Oy

Strong patent application worth €4,900, sponsored by Leitzinger Oy
“Sikkum Precision Drying” ‒ Sikkum Global Oy

Prize for the best VR/AR business idea, €5,000 and office space for a year, sponsored by Joensuu VR LAB Project
“Future therapy work in the virtual world” ‒ Gartano Oy

Financial services worth €4,000, sponsored by Nordea Oyj
“Pure TAIKA (Magic) from Finland” ‒ Ääniavara Oy

Internationalisation services worth €1,000, sponsored by TalentHub Joensuu Project
“Drone mapping for all” ‒ Rami Saarikorpi and Sami Vuomajoki

Presentation of the winners

Main prize:

Joensuu is calling the winner of the Start Me Up business idea competition

The main prize, €20,000 and facilities for a year in Joensuu Science Park, was awarded to PillarHall, a spin-off research project of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. The business idea represents such advanced technology, it may not be understood by every smartphone user. However, the innovation will benefit future solutions for telephones and many other microelectronics applications.

– I am delighted with the appreciation given to expertise in advanced technology. Our idea is to measure and quantify thin film conformality through innovative lateral high aspect ratio (LHAR) structures that are micromachined into the silicon chip. Many people may find it difficult to understand the idea because this is a very demanding area of microelectronics manufacturing technology, and very difficult to measure using today’s solutions. However, our business model is simple: we manufacture disposable test chips that the customer can use in thin-film reactors in a microelectronics’ clean room environment, says Project Manager, DSc Mikko Utriainen.

As a result of winning the competition, Utriainen’s previous commute from Riistavesi to Kuopio is going to change: as PillarHall is planning to start operations in Joensuu, he will head east-bound. The relocation to Joensuu is particularly inspired by the strong photonics and nanotechnology expertise of the University of Eastern Finland Joensuu campus.

Promoting the productivity of digital technology and humankind as a whole

Currently, PillarHall collects funding from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to launch and spin-off business, and the Start Me Up prize will form a part of the funding package for this business plan. In addition to the idea’s technical development, the plans include opening sales channels to the USA and East Asia.

– The test chip has already been sold under VTT. Its pricing has been tested, and international trade has been launched. The whole idea is based on top research in atomic layer deposition (ALD) in Finland, and VTT’s expertise in MEMS manufacturing processes. This technology has been developed at VTT since 2014, and efforts have been made to commercialise it since 2016.

In addition to Utriainen, PillarHall’s core team includes Feng Gao in Espoo, where the PillarHall test chip is also manufactured. The ‘mother’ of the idea is Riikka Puurunen. She currently works a Professor at Aalto University, and is also involved in the development work.

The scope of this idea is not a modest one: it covers a wide range of microelectronics applications worldwide. In practice, the pioneering PillarHall test chip contributes to the 3D shrinking of IT components, which promotes their performance and energy efficiency – and in a global scale, the productivity of digital technology and humankind as a whole, in the form of a variety of intelligent devices, sensors or higher-performance batteries. We will definitely hear more about this in the future!

Further information:

Mikko Utriainen
tel. +358 50 305 7415

A company-oriented idea:

Combatting mould with new technology

Awarded for the first time, the prize for a company-oriented idea was given to XHOME, a company based in Liperi. XHOME brings effective mould destruction services to public spaces and households. In Finland and elsewhere in the world, there is a need for destruction equipment based on a new type of hydrogen peroxide gas to combat the growing problems caused by various viruses, microbes, bacteria and moulds.

– It was a tremendous joy to win this prize: it really means a lot to our small team. We truly believe – and have already proven – that our equipment will help destroy mould problems more effectively than ever before, and the award will help spread awareness about this further, says Managing Director Mika Nykyri with a smile.

The XHOME mould destruction gassing allows for mould spores to be destroyed from all types of buildings and furniture in a non-toxic manner, as the device converts 50% liquid hydrogen peroxide into gaseous form. The hydrogen peroxide gas eventually decomposes into water and oxygen without any residual toxicity. Naturally, the method does not replace the need for repairs in sites with mould damage: the damaged parts have to be replaced, and the gassing will kill spores that cannot be removed by conventional cleaning methods.

– Mould is a permanently hot topic that also affects children and young people a great deal. Children and young people are the future. However, what will the future be like for people who have already been exposed to indoor air problems in their youth, followed by life-long illnesses? This idea has continuously pushed our team further with the development work, Nykyri says.

One of the method’s applications is to give buildings so-called ‘artificial respiration’, which means that, while a school or daycare centre is treated, people can work safely in the premises until the renovation is finished, thus avoiding the high costs of temporary facilities.

For indoor air problems in Finland and elsewhere in the world

The gassing equipment used in mould destruction has been developed by XHOME’s neighbour company Cleamix Oy, which is also based in North Karelia. Cooperation in the development and testing of this equipment started in 2015, for instance, with VTT for the needs of defence forces and hospitals, to destroy the worst bacteria in the world, including SARS, MERS and anthrax. The question arose: why wouldn’t it also kill mould, and why wouldn’t this service be launched for everyone who needs it?

And so, less than a year ago, XHOME started to turn into a mould control service concept. The first permanent gassing line of movable property has been opened in Ylämylly, and two mobile teams have been trained.

– Our aim is to expand this concept and create a national XHOME entrepreneur network. The first entrepreneur agreements are already in the signing phase. Our plan is to grow our network by 15–20 entrepreneurs across Finland over the next two years, after which we will target other countries in Scandinavia and Europe. The international market is large, as unfortunately Finland is not the only country struggling with indoor air problems.

Further information:

Mika Nykyri
+358 50 305 576 285

Best potential for internationalisation:

Drones harnessed for new jobs

The award for best internationalisation potential, €7,000, was awarded to the “Skymedia” idea of long-line North Karelian photographers, Rami Saarikorpi and Sami Vuomajoki.

– We are developing an easy-to-use, map-based ordering system and a comprehensive network of filming done by unmanned aircrafts, or so-called drones. Winning this prize feels very good, and it strengthens our trust in aiming directly towards the international market, says Saarikorpi.

In practice, the idea can be used in various inspection and research tasks in the forest industry. Saarikorpi and Vuomajoki noticed a concrete gap for a new kind of service when doing filming for the needs of companies: when a forest company wishes to obtain accurate documentation of its forest areas in places such as Lapland and Central Finland, it has not previously been able to receive this service from one place.

– There are various drone photographers in Finland, and the aim is to bring the operators around the country into the same system of photographers, so that they can serve customers quickly and in an agile manner.

Drones can be used in a wide variety of tasks, but one of the most important features of Skymedia is map imaging, which can be used to achieve a significantly more accurate resolution than Google Maps’ satellite images. This makes it possible to produce an accurate image of a particular forest area, place it within map coordinates, and complement it with, for example, a 360-degree panoramic image, video, or 3D models of buildings, as required.

Becoming international through cooperation

Cooperation intensified between Rami Saarikorpi and his own 360 Panorama company, and Sami Vuomajoki and his company FlyFoto Oy, while the two men shared an office in Kari Kola’s Vaski facilities. They noticed they had a wealth of similar expertise and, on various occasions, they had exchanged ideas on how to improve things. This also kicked off Skymedia, which was later joined by Legal Advisor Jyrki Piiparinen and Professor of Photonics Pasi Vahimaa from the University of Eastern Finland.

Originally, the plan was to pilot the idea in Finland, but negotiations with investors suggested that the idea had potential to become international right away. And now, the goal to find a suitable European partner to start the process of internationalisation.

Currently, the two men are looking for a suitable partner to implement the system itself, after which the closed beta version will be tested, and a wider search of photographers will begin.

– We also have ideas for further development, but at this stage we focus on implementing a basic operational model. The prize allows us to focus slightly more on developing the idea further, Saarikorpi says gratefully.

Further information:

Rami Saarikorpi
+358 500 44 783 0066

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