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Young Researcher Entrepreneurs of 2022 salvage metals and nutrients from waste waters

The winners of the Young Researcher Entrepreneur Award by KAUTE foundation are Mikko Hänninen and Elmeri Lahtinen. Their company Weeefiner utilizes a brand new laser 3D printing-based method to capture valuable metals and nutrients from waste waters. 

The shortage of raw materials in Europe requires new means of capturing and reusing existing valuable materials. The rewarded entrepreneurs of Weeefiner separate metals and nutrients that would otherwise be wasted from industry waste waters. Salvaging the metals and nutrients is especially crucial due to the lack of raw materials in Europe. Exporting has been increasingly difficult for example due to the war in Ukraine. Reusing the separated materials saves virgin materials which reduces the need for natural resources and emissions created. 

New method combines chemistry with 3D printing

The operation of the company is based on a brand new method which combines chemical action with mechanical 3D-printing technology. After creating the research base, client business took off in 2020. Weeefiner has completed two funding rounds and is heading towards cooperation with global companies. 

CEO Hänninen and CTO Lahtinen have been part of Weeefiner from the very first steps. For them, The Young Researcher Entrepreneur of the Year Award represents a recognition for a concrete circular economy solution as well as a chance to support their wellbeing.

“It feels great to be rewarded for years’ hard work! The supply of critical materials is more important than ever and I believe that the jury is aware of this, too,” Hänninen says. 

“The award will be utilized to support our wellness and recovery. To turn research into a successful business requires plenty of time, resources and tolerance for stress. We believe that the wellbeing of entrepreneurs creates successful companies, so we need to take care of ourselves,” Lahtinen adds. 

Rewarding a research-based approach

Doctors of Philosophy Hänninen and Lahtinen were chosen among first-class suggestions due to their research-based and circular business model. 

“The operation of the company is strongly based on the expertise of their founders and research conducted in the university. Despite being founded only a couple years ago, the business has proved its market feasibility,” the jury states.

The Young Researcher Entrepreneur of the Year is an annual recognition award of 5000 euros for research-based business. The award is presented by the KAUTE foundation supporting research in economics and technical sciences. The members of this years’ jury were Mikael Pentikäinen, CEO of Suomen Yrittäjät (Finnish Entrepreneurs Association),  Timo Saranpää, Chairman of Akavalaiset Yrittäjät (Entrepreneurs of Akava), Kai Saksela, the CEO of NL Acoustics Oy and the winner of Young Researcher Entrepreneur of 2021 as well as Tuomas Olkku, the Executive Director of the KAUTE Foundation.

Photo: Oona Tynkkynen