Collaborative Innovation for Climate Action: Insights from the ILCA Workshop in Kuopio

ILCA consortium members from Finland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, and Ukraine recently gathered at an international workshop in Kuopio, Finland, to explore innovative solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. The focus was not only on sharing knowledge but also on fostering collaborations between different countries and industries. Partners were discussing their experience on developing Innovation Labs on Climate Action and shared their key insights for the moment.  

Finland’s Natural Resources Institute (Luke), particularly the Maaninga research station, is actively contributing to the ILCA project by researching solutions to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, enhance nutrient cycling, and promote carbon sequestration. According to Mikko Järvinen, Luke’s leading expert, solutions based on science are needed to curb global warming, but the solutions are only effective if they are applied in practice. “The interstate cooperation and information exchange of the ILCA project has provided new information on issues related to climate change. Multidisciplinary cooperation has enormous potential,“ he emphasizes.

Diana Lukmine, a senior researcher from the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, highlighted the importance of networking and new efficient ways of cooperation. She emphasized the need for new research to better understand the global processes related to climate change. Rolandas Vitkūnas, director of Vilnius College of Technologies and Design, emphasized the importance of innovation in education. In order to promote innovation, the educational institution has mapped the knowledge gaps of the staff and is doing a new type of cooperation with the agricultural research center. “Staff and students are currently completing the micro-degrees we have developed. We have a joint Innovation Laboratory with the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, which has proven to be very promising. We strive to develop it into a vibrant and solid forum that brings different actors together and gives room for discussions,“ he emphasizes.

Ukraine, facing extreme weather conditions impacting agriculture, recognizes the urgency of responding to challenges. Anton Tkachenko, Head of Department at the National Scientific Center Institute Of Agriculture NAAS, emphasized that the ILCA project provides a platform to enhance capabilities, tackle climate change, and promote resilience in the agricultural community amid geopolitical challenges. Dean Ruslan Biloskurskyi from Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University in Ukraine expressed gratitude for the international experience gained through the ILCA project. He highlighted the collaboration with Finland, one of the world’s most innovative countries. “We have launched an education and science laboratory that organizes student incubator programs. We support the development of business ideas and offer advisory support to companies that intend to become entrepreneurs and already operating companies,“ he says.

Carmen Nastase, the project coordinator from Stefan cel Mare University of Suceava (Romania), especially praises the ILCA’s project emphasis on problem solving and innovation. “As universities, we have to guarantee that our education programs are not too academic, but respond to climate change problems and society’s needs. This requires the development of curricula that provide students with practical skills to combat climate change.“ Nastase highlights Bucovina’s wooden and clay houses, which are a model example of sustainable construction and a strong connection to the region’s history. The houses use locally sourced natural materials and also show a deep understanding of environmentally friendly building practices.

The international collaboration showcased at the Kuopio workshop reflects a shared commitment to finding innovative solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. As an example of successful ecosystem collaboration is the story of Finnish company WonderBee, founded by Vijay Burman and Arezoo Rahman. WonderBee has developed a groundbreaking probiotic pollen substitute that addresses food shortages for bees caused by clim ate change. Rahman emphasized the significance of collaboration in her company’s development. WonderBee has actively engaged international students from Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) in its projects. Tanian Memarian, an international business student at Savonia, spoke about the valuable lessons learned during the collaboration, including the importance of teamwork, sustainable development, and the crucial role of bees in maintaining biodiversity. As part of their efforts, the international students proposed the establishment of an international virtual community to increase product awareness and connect potential customers and financiers. The company is currently seeking funding and plans to expand globally once they secure a patent for their innovative product. The international students who helped WonderBee are involved in the international ILCA project.

By fostering partnerships and sharing expertise, the experts and entrepreneurs from Finland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine are working together to create a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

Inspired by the original article “Mehiläiset apuna tuotekehitystyössä – WonderBee on mehiläisten superruokaa“ published in newspaper Savon Sanomat

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