WSA 2019 – Social Impact through Digital Innovation

IlkkaKurkela WSA 2019

Photo credit Philipp Benedict

As I am in the airport of Lisbon waiting for my flight back to Helsinki, it is a fruitful moment to reflect a bit upon the previous few days. The inspiring UN based World Summit Awards (WSA) 2019 Global Congress was a great experience. I was honored to be part of the event as the National Expert of Finland a member of the global jury.


Intensive discussions. The jury evaluates the pitches at WSA – Photo credit Philipp Benedict

The event presented an exceptional mix of 45 award-winning innovations from tech-startups from around the globe – innovations that solve real problems and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was excited to evaluate as a juror, learn, engage in discussions and now it is my pleasure to share some of my key takeaways.

Finnish Chaos Architects selected as the best innovation of the world


Team Finland – Paloma and Natalia from Chaos and Ilkka from Laurea

First off, I must start by saying I am extremely happy: Chaos Architects, a Finnish tech-startup won the global category “Government & Citizen Engagement”. Congratulations Natalia Rincon and Paloma Bautista Sánchez for their amazing performance at the WSA Global Congress. All the best to the Chaos team in Finland as well – you people rock the world and make a difference. I am very proud of you all!

NataliaRinconPichingChaosAI-PhotoCredit philipp Benedikt

Natalia Rincon pitching Chaos AI at WSA 2019 Global Congress – Photo credit Philipp Benedict

Chaos Liveability AI dashboard combines, refines and analyses big data on housing, sustainability and mobility with data on citizen engagement and demographics. The platform is a central data hub bringing together planners, managers, stakeholders and citizens to produce sustainable urban solutions.

I am also very happy to say that the students and teachers at Laurea UAS spotted Chaos as a potential startup from Finland. With the input from our students, we were able to first take contact with the Chaos team. Thanks to the students & teachers of Laurea UAS, especially Jouni Hoppania, Ville Talonen, Asko Mononen and Anna Ikonen and many others. The impact of your WSA study-project was enormous and it helped Finland to climb to the top of the world. (ps. Students – if you are interested to take part in this project let me know!)

Raaji is a chatbot that advances health and education for rural women

In addition to the Finnish success, I was in awe to hear some of the recent innovations around the globe. I was particularly interested in the Learning & Education category. Learning is my deep passion, as you readers most likely know…

One of the most interesting educational innovations was Raaji from Pakistan, a chatbot app infuced with both Artificial Intelligence and human expertise. Raaji helps women in rural areas by answering relevant questions connected with health, hygiene and safety among others. Human experts, psychologist, lawyers and doctors are alerted the moment AI detects an emergency allowing them to take over the conversation. The combination between AI and human interaction was highly interesting, and naturally the impact of the solution is enormous.

VR and AR for learning – Complete Anatomy

Another interesting innovation was Complete Anatomy from Ireland. It is a 3D human atlas, facilitating the exploration of human anatomy otherwise difficult to visualize without hands-on training. They use VR and AR to help medical students to learn the body anatomy in a completely new way. Using augmented reality, the platform brings to life more than 13,000 body structures.

Discover Complete Anatomy 2019 from 3D4Medical on Vimeo.

The learning perspective – what does the future like?

Based on my experiences at WSA Congress I can sense that the use of Data, Chatbots, AI, VR and AR in learning are finally seeing the daylight in practical solutions. There is an increasing need for individually tailored learning paths, for the benefit of the diverse students. We are experiencing a shift from hype to reality. Raaji, Complete Anatomy, QuickSpeech, among others are good examples of using these features. Naturally, we must not forget the traditional face2face learning methods, but I honestly believe that with digital technologies we can enhance the learning experience and effectiveness of learning. The innovative solutions at WSA 2019 work as a great benchmark for the whole learning and education industry.


Ilkka is testing a VR solution for education – with the cool LaureaES hoodie on – naturally!


One of the highlights – was a great pleasure to high-five with my friend, a fantastic alumni from Laurea UAS, Carita Savin who is the founder of Huoleti Ltd. that was a shortlisted WSA product 2019 – Boom!

Finally, many thanks again to the organizers of the event. I would like to mention especially Manuela Wagner and Nora Wolloch, and of course the WSA Chair Prof. Dr. Peter A. Bruck. I also want to say greetings to the whole community of WSA people – you all make a difference, let us keep up the good spirit to make the world a better place day by day!


The WSA people 2019 – Photo credit Philipp Benedict

The Finnish Winners for the UN based WSA 2018 announced

The World Summit Awards is a UN based international competition which aims to select and promote the world’s best startup companies in digital content and innovative applications. It is my great pleasure to announce this year’s winners from Finland to compete at the UN based World Summit Awards, the global Digital Startup competition.

The national competition took place between 1st June – 31st August 2018. We were honored to receive many high quality applications for the national competition. After a careful selection process with Finnish Jury members we nominated the winners for each of the 8 categories for the global competition. Thanks to all the applications and congratulations to the winners!


Congratulations again and good luck for the Global contest.

I would like to thank Laurea UAS‘s students and staff members who have been integrated in developing WSA in Finland and the Finnish Digital Startups. Currently we have started yet another student project regarding WSA and we are excited to continue the development with students & working life.

– 7.9.2018, Ilkka Kurkela, National Expert, Member of the Global Jury at UN WSA, Development Manager at Laurea UAS


Work, Family, Sports, Books, Music – ingredients for a success

Hi everyone! Time to look back and reflect a bit about the first half of 2018. What a great time it has been from many perspectives. Work, Family, Sports, Books, Music.

Ilkka Kurkela 2018 - Laurea

It is easy to smile when you are surrounded with amazing colleagues!

Workwise, I started to work as a Development Manager in Laurea University of Applied Sciences in January with great enthusiasm. Being the team-leader of 25 amazing people in Business Management & Business Information Technology teams has been an incredible experience. I am soooooo grateful to have such magnificent colleagues around me – these people really energize me. Together, we are connecting the students and work life. Meaningful.

My personal journey at Laurea has already been filled with many inspiring moments both in Finland and internationally. Some personal Laurea highlights of 2018:

  • We are happy to be part in the Trans-European Bachelor Programme. This cooperation with partner-universities took myself to unforgettable business trips to Belgium in February and France in May. The first international students will begin their studies in August – welcome!
  • The UN World Summit Awards at Vienna in March was an extraordinary experience. We are currently deepening the cooperation with UN by involving Laurea’s students & lecturers to seek the best digital startups in Finland. Looking great so far!
  • I am excited to develop Laurea’s forthcoming Online Degree in Business Information Technology with my team at Laurea. The brand new degree will start in Autumn 2019 and the students will have the possibility to study anywhere from the world, completely online. This is a massive project with lots of opportunities. Excited!
  • The development of Laurea’s Business Management studies. We have more than 3000 students and over 100 colleagues working in this field. Big numbers, big responsibilities. Our vision is to maximize students’ satisfaction and learning outcomes, integrate students with  worklife and offer global perspectives for our students.
  • + tons of inspiring discussions, meetings, workshops with colleagues, partners, students…

Familywise things are excellent. Being especially proud of our 5-year-old daughter who has shown great interest and training attitude in figure skating. All my family-members are healthy and doing good. Gotta be grateful of that!

Sportwise I am extremely satisfied with the first half of the year. I am doing my very best to perform at the Finnish Pullup Championships in November later this year. My trainings so far have included quite a lot of running – total 600 km in 6 months. Now my plan is to switch the balance a bit more to the gym side. I have an excellent feeling. Doing lots of sports and eating healthy food has given me loads of energy for work as well. Balance is everything.

Bookwise I did some reading that I wish to share:

  • Sinä Pystyt (Jaakko Alasaarela) was an awesome reading. No words can describe it – a must read for anyone. Believe in your dreams, work hard, and never give up. Thanks Jaakko!
  • Another recommendation is Alex (Alexander Stubb), and interesting reading. It encouraged me to do my best in everything – and inspired towards more active sportslife.
  • Also, I have to thank my colleague Tuija Partio for these great experiences: Elämänilon Salaisuus ja onnellisuuden tiede (Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche) and Esimies ja Coaching (Maria Carlsson / Christina Forssell). These books have inspired me to become more positive and inspiring person around people I spend time with.
  • Additionally, did listen to lots of audiobooks, what a great way to learn.

Musicwise one of my dreams came true as our collaboration track “Soul Toucher” was released in a British DnB label MedSchool with my co-producer Juha “Esc” Riipinen.

Finally, just digged my old harddrive and found this breakbeat mix I recorded back in 2005. Just uploaded it to my soundcloud. Hope you enjoy it and the summer vibes!

I hope your first half of 2018 has also been a successful one. My biggest thanks to all colleagues and friends. Now it’s time to head off to summer vacation. I wish the best to you all, thanks for being around! 🙂

Ilkka Kurkela - summer 2018 finland

Kiitos HY+, pian nähdään Laurea!

Elämän taitekohtia.

Reppu täynnä uusia oppeja, ystäviä, ja huikeita seikkailuja. Matka HY+:n liiketoimintajohtajana on ollut ainutkertainen. Uskon, että teimme työkavereiden kanssa merkittävää työtä kehittäen yksilöitä, organisaatioita ja yhteiskuntaakin. Mahtavia työkavereita sekä kohtaamiani upeita ihmisiä tulee ikävä – onneksi varmasti tapaamme vielä ❤️

Omalta osalta on aika siirtyä eteenpäin. Aloitan Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulussa vuoden vaihteessa uusissa inspiroivissa tehtävissä. Siirryn vetämään n. 25 hengen liiketalous- ja ICT-lehtoreiden huippujengiä. Huippua palata Laureaan ja innolla uutta odottaen! ??

Yhdessä tulemme Laureassa kannustamaan, sparraamaan ja auttamaan nuoria kohti työelämää ja omia unelmiaan! Työn merkitys kohdillaan ??

Kiitos HY+ ? ja pian nähdään Laurea ?

kiitos hyplus

Honored to become the Finnish World Summit Awards representative


Life is amazing. Super excited to announce that I was nominated as the Finnish National Expert for the World Summit Awards (WSA). This is a unique opportunity to promote innovative Finnish digital startups in a global framework.

Also, I am honored to be part of a Global Online Jury that will evaluate all the WSA contest entries from nearly 180 countries. The selected finalists will compete at the WSA Global Congress, taking place 20-22 March 2018 in Vienna!

Personally, what an inspiring way to get a state-of-the-art overview about the digital innovations globally. Workwise, what a remarkable opportunity to link University of Helsinki & global innovative digital startup scene in our trainings at HY+. Total Crazinessss! 🙂

What is the World Summit Awards?

World Summit Awards (WSA) is a United Nations based awards system that selects and promotes local digital innovation with high impact on improving society. WSA is a combination of ongoing series of international events and activities with a global network of start-ups, social entrepreneurs, mentors, jurors, speakers, experts, government leaders, academia and civil society, WSA is an international platform for cutting edge examples on how ICTs can have an impact on society.

How to get involved?

If you are interested to hear more, please let me know! Especially if you are a digital startup in Finland and wish to know more, I would love to help you. Please check the contest categories from the picture below or read more about WSA.

WSA categories

WSA categories