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The Warehouse of Ideas

Up north, near the land of Santa Claus, there is a warehouse where new ideas are made. We are in the Helsinki suburb of Espoo, where Aalto University attracts a huge community of entrepreneurs from across northern Europe.

The Aalto Venture Garage is a working space for hackers and start-ups from all across the Nordics and Baltics. It has 700 square metres of open space where anyone – even those who aren’t Finnish or aren’t a student at Aalto University – can work on entrepreneurial projects.

This Garage was founded two years ago, after a group of students at Aalto University visited MIT for a class trip. They were attracted by the culture of start-ups at the university and thought of importing it to Finland. Now, this space is one of the largest student groups in Europe, with partnerships with Stanford and cities across Russia and the Baltics.

One of the initiatives which takes place at the Garage is Startup Sauna, a non-profit seed accelerator programme funded by the University, which helps promising young teams in northern Europe to develop their ideas for a new company. 15 to 20 teams are selected to take part in an intensive six-week training programme at the Garage. After this period, the top three teams are offered seed money of 5,000 euros, office space for six months and even given the opportunity to fly to Silicon Valley, or anywhere else in the United States, to forge connections out there.

For example, one of the programme’s success stories is Campalyst, currently based in New York, which has developed a proprietary algorithm for working out if social media is actually delivering a profitable return on investment for a company.

By | December 21st, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Fair Trade

Christmas is approaching, and it’s time to think about Christmas presents for your family and friends. Why not have a look in a Fair Trade shop? Buying Fair Trade goods is a way of helping producers in developing countries to grow their business by paying a fair price for their products.

The Fair Trade movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. Fair Trade labelling is a certification system designed to allow consumers to identify goods which meet agreed standards. Overseen by a standard-setting body, called FLO International and FLO-CERT, a certification body, the system involves independent auditing of producers and traders to ensure that the agreed standards are met.

Fair Trade certification aims not only at fair prices, but also at the respect of the principles of ethical purchasing, which include ILO agreements, such as those banning child and slave labour. Fair trade principles also include guaranteeing a safe workplace and the right to unionise; adherence to the United Nations charter of human rights; and a fair price that covers the cost of production, facilitates social development and respects the environment.

By | December 21st, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Deep Heat

Deep Heat is a video created by Per Byhring and Arnfinn Christensen for ScienceNordic, a website that covers science news from Nordic countries in English.

It explores sources of geothermal energy, from volcanic heat just under the surface of the Earth to radioactive heat five kilometres below. Hot springs are used to generate electricity and heat buildings in Iceland and Tuscany, where one-tenth of the world’s geothermal energy is produced. Harvesting deep geothermal energy is more complex, however. The video illustrates how Norway’s thermal power plants work and how they hope to use technology developed for offshore oil drilling to overcome some of the challenges of extracting deep thermal energy.

The Earth’s geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from the radioactive decay of minerals (80%). Extremely high temperature and pressure cause some rock to melt, forming magma which, being lighter than the solid rock, convects upward. This magma heats rock and water in the crust, sometimes up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically increased its applications, such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation to help mitigate global warming.

By | December 21st, 2011|Blog|0 Comments
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