Espoo’s Aalto University is one of the leading research institutions in the Nordic region, and this week at Slush scientists were able to showcase some of their most exciting innovations to a global audience.
Twenty-five thousand entrepreneurs, investors and visitors showed up at Messukeskus in Helsinki – and at the dozens of side events taking place in the capital region throughout the week – for the annual Slush expo.
The Aalto University pavilion featured six different projects, some of which are still in the research and development phase, while others have already been spun out into standalone companies.
Using AI to help farmers
“By 2050 we need about 60 or 70% more calories to feed mankind and the problem is at the same time we can’t develop any more land because otherwise we lose too much forests, and we’re using fresh water at the limits of its renewability” explains Jussi Gillberg from Yield Systems.
The three-person company grew out of an Aalto University research project, and aims to provide artificial intelligence solutions to agricultural problems.
The company’s technology will allow farmers to identify the plant varieties that are best suited to each field – while in greenhouses the tech can be used to adjust the conditions inside for optimum growth.
“It’s a hand-held device based on a smart phone, the idea was to combine the lowest low-cost hardware with the best possible algorithms so that we can get the price down” says Gillberg.
“The design has been aiming at making it cost efficient also to be used in south east Asia which is one of these places where the food crisis actually has to be solved” he adds.
The next generation of computing is quantum and an Aalto spin-off company IQM Finland Oy already secured €11.45 million in funding to develop their research into products for the market.
The team has pioneered breakthroughs that influence computer speed and accuracy, in an industry that could reach $5 billion in the next few years.
“IQM is basically developing the first quantum computer and the first quantum computer is the thing that will bring the revolution to the world” says former Aalto student Madia Sadar.
The applications for quantum technology range from engineering to medical science, security systems and environmental uses as well.
In medicine, the power of quantum computers could simulate cancer cells to help scientists study them more closely, hopefully leading to new breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
“Molecules are made up of atoms, and then there are different bonds between the atoms, and different atoms combine together to make strands, and quantum machines will be able to simulate those strands and then it can identify the cells that are actually responsible for some cancers” Sadar explains.
The company is currently working to produce quantum circuits and superconducting devices, and hopes to bring them to market within the next year.
Making medical equipment cheaper
Xfold Imaging is another company that’s grown out of Aalto research.
They’re going to make it cheaper for companies to use medical and scientific hardware.
“We are solving the imaging solutions which has been a problem for imaging scientists for more than a hundred years” teases Nagarajan Subramaniyam, a specialist in nano fabrication and optics.
“I was very curious how we could develop the microscope to the next level. So the microscope’s history is very long, it started from 300 years back and it started with two lenses. Now we have super resolution microscopy, they got the Nobel Prize in 2014, so still you can see something of 15 nanometers with a super resolution microscope.”
Until now if scientists and researchers want to see something very small, they have to buy increasingly expensive microscopes. However with the Xfold Imaging invention of a nano-coated glass slide, researchers could keep the same microscope they already have, and just buy the special slides and be able to see items as small as 3 nanometres.
And just how big is a nanometer? A human hair is 100,000 nanometers in diameter.
“If you want to buy a super resolution microscope you would have to invest €1.1 million” explains Subramaniyam.
The company’s new nano-coated glass slides cost “somewhere in the hundreds” he adds.