6.2. 2015 Kuukauden kasvo

Anne Marjamäki searches for research innovations

The commercial utilisation of the research data generated in the University of Turku is promoted by the Innovation Services unit. The goal is to find annually one hundred new innovative proposals for evaluation, and the unit has come quite close to its goal in two years.

A lot of research is carried out in the University of Turku, and part of it could be utilised commercially. The researchers are, however, often so deeply immersed in their research that they don’t come to think of the possibility of business. Instead, they want to publish the new scientific findings. That is where Anne Marjamäki, Business Development Manager of Innovation Services aims to intervene.

”If it is possible to protect the innovation, the protection process has to be initiated before publishing the information. That’s why we should prompt the researchers to think about it in time. An innovation can be made in any discipline. We try to identify innovative proposals and have created a systematic process to promote them. We also co-operate with Åbo Akademi University and Turku University of Applied Sciences as well as Turku Science Park and the local business incubators, and aim to create an uninterrupted chain for promoting innovation”, Anne Marjamäki explains.

Encouragement to researchers

The 7-person organisation of the Innovation Services helps the researchers with practical matters, such as preliminary studies on commercialisation, market analyses, mapping of patenting potential, determining the freedom of action, drawing up of funding applications (Tekes funding for New knowledge and business from research ideas, or TUTL), and contractual law. One option for promoting an innovation is to found a start-up company. If a company is founded, it can proceed, for example, through business development unit or business incubators.

“All in all the outlook is positive, and during the first two years we have managed to dig up 80–90 innovation ideas per year. Ten applications for Tekes TUTL funding have been approved so far, and one is currently pending. The thing that requires most work is promoting the proactive work of the researchers, that’s why I often spend my days walking around the university and telling about our services. I want to encourage people to contact us with all matters regarding innovations”, Dr Marjamäki says.

In addition, the Innovation Service unit aims to network and promote co-operation with other research partners.

No academic discipline has taken a definite lead in the number of innovations, but they stem from very different areas. An innovation can be linked to medicine as well as psychology or pedagogy. One project under development is a quick test based on biomarkers for diagnosing ovarian cancer.

The most advanced TUTL project is the KiVA school anti-bullying concept which is being introduced abroad. Last spring, the University’s unit specialising in clinical drug research was incorporated into CRST Oy (Clinical Research Services Turku). The business of education export proposals is enhanced through a new joint company of three universities (Turku, Tampere, and East Finland) called Finland University Oy, and Nordic Institute of Dental Education Oy will focus especially on exporting education related to dental science.

Responsibility for the University’s IPR portfolio

”There is huge business potential in education, and we are planning, for example, Master’s degree programmes in English. 98 percent of the market is, however, education aiming at a degree, so due to the legislation we can only compete for the markets of the remaining two per cent, which means mainly further training. In education exports we co-operate with the Universities of Tampere and East Finland in order to reach economics of scale”, Dr Marjamäki explains.

Apart from promoting innovations, the Innovation Services unit manages the University’s IPR portfolio which contains many protected innovations in the fields of natural sciences, medicine and diagnostics. The portfolio can be utilised commercially by selling or licensing rights of use. There are many similarities with Anne Marjamäki’s previous jobs, as she studied originally biochemistry, did later a doctoral dissertation in pharmacology, and worked in drug development both in the university and in a company called Biotie Therapies.

”It has helped in my current job, as I’m familiar with agreement texts, and it’s easy to see the perspectives of both the researcher and business operations in the development of innovations.”

The working days of the innovation business developer are hectic. The days are filled with meetings, and she should also find the time for long-term planning of her own work. A good counterbalance for Dr Marjamäki’s work is her family and their common hobby basketball which helps to forget about work. In Dr Marjamäki’s childhood family everyone was involved in basketball, either as a player, coach or active volunteer in the club.

”It seems like my own children also carry the basketball gene, as both of my sons play basketball, though they have also tried many other sports”, she chuckles.

Leisure at service staff of basketball players

As a mother Dr Marjamäki has been recruited in the service staff and is currently the team leader in her younger son’s B juniors team in Ura Basket club in Kaarina. The team plays in the Finnish championship league.

”In a way I’m one year behind, and I’m still with B juniors although my elder son has already moved on to A juniors. We drive from our home in Littoinen to the training at Hovirinta school and the home games at the multi-purpose hall. Every other weekend we take a coach to away games which are sometimes played as far as Kotka. Most of the trips are luckily made to the Helsinki region.”

Looking after athlete boys calls for efficiency at home, too; plenty of laundry and cooking. On the other hand, it also means lots of fun activities with the boys and the other mothers.

”Innovations abound among 17 young men. They are really inventive! And it’s nice to follow their development. With the other mothers I go to aqua jogging and sometimes to aqua gym. My only hobby is badminton on Friday evenings. I always look forward to it”, Anna Marjamäki says.

The drive from home to the university takes 11 minutes if the traffic lights are favourable. She also gives her elder son a ride to Kerttuli upper secondary school which specialises in sports.


Text and photos: Anne Kortela


Anne Marjamäki

  • Born in Forssa in 1964
  • Lives with her family in Littoinen, Kaarina
  • Business Development Manager, University of Turku 1 November 2012–

Education:

1989 M.Sc., University of Turku, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Biochemistry
1994 Ph.D., University of Turku, Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology
2002 Docent, University of Turku, Molecular Pharmacology

Career:

2012– University of Turku, Business Development Manager of Innovation Services
2000–2012 Biotie Therapies Corporation, supervisory and management tasks in research
2000 Juvantia Pharma, supervisor of molecular pharmacology
1999–2000 CRST, medical writer
1996–2000 University of Turku, special researcher (pharmacology and clinical pharmacology)
1995–1996 Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA, post doc researcher
1992–1995 University of Turku, various researcher posts
Expert positions and positions of trust in management and steering groups of a number of research and education development organisations