Grants News

Discover the finalists of the 2023 Young Researcher Entrepreneur of the Year, focusing on remedies for eye diseases, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and the battle against energy poverty

Laura Koivusalo, Ashish Mohite, and Jussi Vimpari are competing for the title of Young Researcher Entrepreneur of the Year 2023. These finalists are not just entrepreneurs; they are visionaries who are reshaping the world through their research and innovations. The winner will be announced later in the spring of 2024.

Laura Koivusalo’s Stem Sight aims to treat corneal blindness

Laura Koivusalo picks up the phone amidst her office duties. “Today is just an ordinary day as a CEO. I’m crunching numbers in Excel”, she begins.

Koivusalo’s company, StemSight, is pioneering stem cell research aimed at treating corneal blindness. StemSight’s technology enables the limitless production of limbal stem cells.

Their work builds upon Professor Heli Skottman’s extensive research on the use of pluripotent stem cells for blindness treatment. While the initial focus was on retinal degeneration, the company now approaches blindness from a different angle: “You could say we’ve moved from the backseat, that is, the retina, to the forefront—the cornea.”

Reflecting on the founding of the three-year-old company, Koivusalo recalls it with enthusiasm. The decision required courage and determination, but as a researcher-entrepreneur, she was driven by the desire to change the world. “I thought, no one from the university will come knocking on our door for our invention. We have to do it ourselves if we want to make our product available to patients”, she says.

As an entrepreneur, Koivusalo leverages her diverse experience and influences matters close to her heart. She names her patients as her greatest motivator. “Patients are at the heart of my work. Our technology is their only means of restoring their sight. At the same time, we can repay society for the support received in building a welfare state through research”, she explains.

laura koivusalo stem sight kaute foundation
Laura Koivusalo Image: Wille Nyyssönen

Ashish Mohite’s Hyperion Robotics reduces the carbon dioxide footprint with low carbon concrete 3D printing

Ashish Mohite takes the call outdoors. “I’m enjoying the sunshine”, he starts. “The winter was harsh!”

Mohite’s company Hyperion Robotics focuses on reducing the carbon dioxide footprint with low carbon concrete 3D printing. It manufactures optimized structural elements, such as water tanks and foundations, for energy and water infrastructure applications.

“As a climate tech company, Hyperion Robotics helps construction companies cut their carbon dioxide emissions”, Mohite says. “Concrete is the second most used material on the planet and its share of the emissions is 8 %. We can help them and this planet with our technology.”

Hyperion Robotics was founded in 2020, and it’s Mohite’s second company. “Entrepreneurship suits me. I love to solve problems and live life full of challenges”, he says. “In this era I find it important to search for better and faster ways to help our planet.”

Mohite’s company is determined to shape the future of construction but as the CTO of his company he also gives back to his community by using some of his time to coach other companies. ”I remember how encouraging it was to see businesses evolve in Aalto University’s accelerating programs. I love to help others whenever I can”, he ends.

ashish mohite hyperion robotics kaute foundation
Ashish Mohite Image: Iris Mark

Jussi Vimpari’s Apex Heat reduces heating costs and prevents energy poverty

“Apologies for not picking up the phone right away. We were having a really productive sales meeting,” Jussi Vimpari explains. “We had to extend it a bit.”

Vimpari’s company, Apex Heat, has developed a service for assessing building energy consumption and improving energy efficiency. The company aims to reduce emissions cost-effectively. “Building energy consumption is significant. They account for one-third of all energy usage and produce one-third of emissions. This is not a sustainable situation,” says the visiting lecturer at Aalto University.

According to Vimpari, current solutions are not fast enough in a situation where heating bills are burdensome and there’s no money left for energy renovations. “We are facing real energy poverty, to which Apex Heat offers a scalable solution.” Vimpari reminds us that in Europe alone, 100 million buildings need to be renovated quickly.

However, it all started with a simple website. “A colleague and I developed a website offering building-specific information on heat pumps. It became so popular that we started thinking about what kind of business model would work for us,” Vimpari explains.

Although entrepreneurship currently dominates Vimpari’s daily life, academic research still motivates him. “The work at Apex Heat is closely linked to my own research themes. Everyday feels meaningful,” Vimpari concludes.

jussi vimpari apex heat kaute foundation
Jussi Vimpari

The Young Researcher Entrepreneur of the Year is a 5,000 euro recognition award granted annually by the KAUTE Foundation’s Academic Entrepreneurship Fund to a researcher who has established research-based entrepreneurship. The winner of the award will be announced later in the spring of 2024.