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Finnish innovations among World Changing Ideas

Neste converts the cooking oil left over from making fries, burgers and pizza into renewable diesel, which then fuels fire trucks, street cleaners and generators.


The shortlist and winners of Fast Company’s annual World Changing Ideas Awards have been announced, with a handful of Finnish innovations featuring among them.

The World Changing Ideas Awards tip their hat to the businesses and organisations driving change in the world. This year, a record 3 000 entries from around the globe were submitted for consideration.

Neste was the best performing Finnish entrant, winning the Enduring Impact (15+ years in business) award for its work with the City of Oakland, California. The company converts used cooking oils and animal fats collected from restaurant fryers around the city into renewable diesel at its refineries in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Neste is also refining oil used at 250 McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands. Image: Neste

The renewable diesel is then returned to Oakland, where it fuels the city’s diesel-powered buses, trucks and equipment.

“This is not a one-off. This is really something that you can copy to other areas,” said Jeremy Baines, president of Neste US.

Case in point: Neste has embarked on a similar project in the Netherlands, where it collects oil from 250 McDonald’s restaurants, refines it in Rotterdam and uses the renewable fuel to power the trucks that transport the materials from the refinery.

The handle prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus and other infectious diseases by allowing people to open doors with their arm. Image: Fortum

This year, the World Changing Ideas Awards also highlighted innovations in the context of pandemic response.

The Fortum Handle, a hands-free handle developed by Fortum and TBWA, received an honourable mention in the category. Made from a recycled material produced from consumer plastic waste, the handle enables users to open doors with their forearms when accessing items at grocery stores. The innovation is shown to clearly reduce hand contact with surfaces.

Oura Health has developed a dashboard with which workplaces can remain safe during the pandemic. Image: Oura

Oura Health was also the recipient of an honourable mention in the category for Oura Health Risk Management, a solution that enables organisations to realise a safe workplace in the midst of the pandemic.

Here, data gathered by the company’s famed monitoring devices, Oura Rings, is transferred to a dashboard that communicates when people show signs of data anomalies that may correlate with illness. Oura Health’s global profile has grown significantly over the past year, as it expanded beyond its initial focus of sleep tracking and into measuring other vital signs. Collaboration with the NBA, WNBA, Nascar and UFC have culminated in the company’s announcement of a fresh 100 million-US dollar funding round.

The colourful innovation from Aalto University doctoral students Noora Yau (left) and Konrad Klockars has been used to coat metal, plastic, wood and fabric. Image: Jaakko Kahilaniemi

Finland was also represented in Art and Design and Experimental categories – for the same innovation. A pair of Aalto University doctoral students, Noora Yau and Konrad Klockars, have successfully made structural colour out of nanocellulose. Their method of processing this non-toxic, environment-friendly and renewable substance has been used to coat metal, plastic, wood and fabric, and has featured at Slush and at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven.

By: James O’Sullivan