The University of Turku’s Bastu business accelerator service is designed to support the development of the sixth wave of economic innovation. The sixth-wave economy is closely tied to resource scarcity, circular economy thinking and the anticipation of future needs. These themes will become even more important in the future, not only because of the depletion of virgin natural resources but also because of the growing influence of sustainable development and environmentally conscious thinking. The sixth wave of entrepreneurship requires questioning the existing ways of thinking that people have become accustomed to, and giving consideration to issues such as value creation in the circular economy. In these efforts, it is very important to bring together top players from a wide variety of sectors to discover new types of cooperation and innovations that no single operator might be able to conceive of on their own.

In Bastu, work is done alongside future-oriented workshops and everyday work in the form of dialogue and leads that link actors to each other. About 10 to 30 representatives of businesses and research organisations from the Turku region usually attend the future-oriented workshops, and work together to find solutions to the challenges to be discussed each day and to find people who will take charge of things for development beyond the workshops. The themes that are tackled in Bastu are very wide-ranging, and among the solutions that have been worked on in recent workshops are an eco-urban project, new marine cluster value creation methods, the circular economics of data, and food chains of the future.

Bastu 2.0 – towards real-world results

Bastu was launched in 2015, and has brought individuals and organisations from different fields together to forge a common future. Changes were made to Bastu’s operations in autumn 2018 to make them even more goal-oriented. Bastumaster Keijo Koskinen of the University of Turku’s Finland Futures Research Centre is excited about the changes that Bastu 2.0 will bring.

“The first three years of Bastu were mostly spent on network building, generating ideas and the consolidation of activities. With Bastu 2.0, there is a considerably stronger emphasis on developing concrete solutions and collaborative projects. For this reason, our workshops have to be made more goal-oriented. This in turn requires us to become even better at identifying the potential workshop applicants who are genuinely willing and able to push forward ideas and develop products and services”, Koskinen says.

“Our goal is not to produce new research data or just to throw ideas into the air. Simply put, our goal is to bring about the future. In the future, a particularly important part of Bastu’s activities will be environmentally friendly solutions based on circular economics and digitalisation. The planet simply cannot withstand the current scale and type of consumption, and something has to be done about it. However, in Bastu these threats are not approached negatively but with a positive mindset. Our faith in the future is strong, and new, smarter ways to do things more efficiently from the economic and environmental point of view are being found all the time”, Koskinen says.

The maritime industry: a cornerstone of Bastu

The maritime industry has been a major part of Bastu’s activities since the very beginning. Bastu has organised a series of workshops for the industry to come up with new solutions for ensuring the safety of ferry travel and new, virtual types of entertainment on board.

In addition to the workshop, a pitching workshop on new methods of value creation for the Finnish Maritime Cluster was arranged last spring. Among the growth companies in the Turku region that pitched their products and services to Meyer and Royal Caribbean Cruises at the workshop were specialists in virtual reality, health technologies, gamification, and security systems.

“We invited eight different companies that are at the scale-up stage to participate in the pitching workshop. They showcased innovative applications that could possibly serve the shipbuilding sector in entirely new ways. The workshop was held at just the right time, as the two companies for which the presentations were given, Meyer Turku shipbuilders and the shipping company Royal Caribbean Cruises, were in the process of arranging a deal between them for a new ship. The solutions presented were met with a great deal of interest by the two companies, but the real outcome of the workshop and the resulting cooperation arrangements will only come to light when the completed ship is lowered into the water”, Koskinen says.

Floating hospitals

One idea that is currently being worked on in Bastu, in collaboration with Turku University Hospital and Turku Science Park, is futuristic hospital ships. The needs and possibilities for hospital ships have been explored in Bastu throughout the autumn. The first actual workshop was held at the end of November.

“The idea of hospital ships is not very new, as such ships have been around for a long time. One thing we have discovered, however, is that some modern hospital ships have been built on old cargo ships, for example, and make use of ship technology that is largely obsolete. As units, they often have low manoeuvrability on account of their large size, and place heavy demands on ports and shipping lanes”, Koskinen explains.

In the concept that is being developed in Bastu, the solution would be more of a hospital fleet rather than a single ship. In this vision, the fleet would consist of one large parent vessel from which smaller vessels would navigate to different destinations. In addition to medical care, the ships would include modular innovative elements, such as the capability to purify water, provide food assistance to those in need, and assistance in the improvement of infrastructure and ICT networks.

“A fleet consisting of a mother ship and multiple smaller ships could help people across a large area at the same time. The smaller vessels could reach places that are inaccessible to larger ships, such as mainland locations that are connected by rivers to the sea. In many parts of Africa, for example, the road network is inadequate in many places and rivers are the only possible fairways”, says Koskinen.

In Koskinen’s view, in addition to its economic promise the hospital ship concept has enormous humanitarian potential:

“With this concept it would be possible to reach a huge number of people who may not necessarily have access to the care they need, or to clean water or adequate nutrition”.