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From office spaces in the nature to underwater drones and Baltic-grown edible seaweed,  DEEP – Water Well-being Challenge gathered together people from various areas of expertise, all over the world. This time DEEP focused on accelerating new ideas that would make our waters more accessible as well as an essential part in creating more wellbeing.

New ideas and innovations are in need when water-based wellbeing and accessibility are discussed. While the Nordics are known for their water resources, those seem to be left unused. Our waters could foster both communality amongst the locals, tourism, health, education – you name it. This was the setting for the interdisciplinary DEEP – Water Well-being Challenge, held in 16–18 November at Tiedekulma in Helsinki by Natural Resources Institute Finland, Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, and Helsinki Think Company.

The eight finalist teams participated in two different tracks: Blue Access and Blue Services, with the first one focusing on creating better accessibility and policies and the latter on business ideas that could foster water as a source of wellbeing. Participants consisted of students, researchers and professionals from very different spheres: from education and economics to cultural studies and biology.

The weekend started with a warm-up challenge: how to build a tower as high as possible with spaghetti and a marshmallow. Kristiina Karttunen and Viola Hakkarainen from team Navigators showing their construction skills. Photo: Julia Wright.

During the intensive weekend our participants had the chance to develop their existing ideas and brainstorm new ones together with the valuable help of mentors. The competition was on, as the winners of the Blue Services track would be granted with prizes of 1,500, 1,000 and 500 euros. The Blue Access track participants had the opportunity to get their freshly created and polished solutions published in Water and Well-being: Streams in Research and Practices.

And the winners are…

The weekend challenge culminated on the Final on Sunday 18th as the eight teams pitched their solutions to the judges. From the Blue Services track, Baltic Sea Weed, a business project of Elisa Paljakka and Anna Hukka, took the first prize of 1,500 euros with their idea of growing seaweed in our own sea shores. In addition to the ways that the seaweed can be used as a produce or a supplement, there might be possibilities in nordic-grown seaweed for example to bio energy or feed for livestock. The jury was impressed with the idea and especially praised the solution’s potential impact.

Team Baltic Sea Weed Elisa Paljakka and Anna Hukka listening to the jury’s comments after successful pitch. Photo: Fida Kettunen.

The second prize of 1,000 euros went to Sanna Korkonen, Niko Nappu, Linda Mattson, José Manuel Cano Arias and Josefiina Ruponen’s Suuri Sininen, an interactive and inspiring educational platform for all ages and backgrounds. Their site had gathered information on our waters and the creatures living in them, as well as educational games and quizzes. Lastly, the team FreeWater.fi took the third prize of 500 euros with the solution that combined effective advertising with free access to drinkable water. In their water stations, Eric Cole, Tiago Campaio and Milda Dapkeviciute are both bringing captivating advertisements closer to consumers as well as encourage people to leave the plastic water bottles at the store and use a durable bottle instead.

FreeWater.fi were a truly international team: Eric Cole, Milda Dapkeviciute and Tiago Campaio. Photo: Fida Kettunen.

“Amazing concept!” the Blue Access track impressed the jury

From the Blue Access track, none of the teams had pre-made ideas before the DEEP weekend. The participants applied as individuals and were built into teams for the weekend challenge. In the short period of time, all the teams created impactful ideas and solutions from education, social inclusion and work.

Blue Camps, the team of Stuart Stokeld, Polina Kuranova and Tiina Mäkelä-Korhonen, created solutions in the theme of education. “Urban people don’t have a connection to nature and the water environments which stems already from education. This leads to unsustainable use of water resources, lack of wellness from water environments and lost business opportunities”, the team said. To tackle the challenge, they created an idea of a sustainability themed camp, where 13–15 year old children interact and learn more of the water environment and build respect towards nature.

Building respect towards nature, was also an sub-theme in the solution created by Kristiina Karttunen, Valeria Medoza and Viola Hakkarainen’s Navigators. With the slogan “Everybody on board”, the Navigators wanted to improve disadvantaged children’s access to sailing by getting boat owners involved pro bono. Their idea got the admiration from the jury, and jury member Laura Höijer from Baltic Sea Action Group was convinced, that many boat owners would love to participate to such voluntary work.

Lastly, the jury was blown away by the concept of Anna Lehti and Suresh Gurung’s Green Office. They wanted to bring office spaces close to the sea shores and nature, and with that improve people’s working environments by taking them into a place of serenity and fresh air. In their idea, they would use shipping containers as offices, because they are portable as well as inexpensive.

DEEP – Water Well-being Challenge was mainly funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers through Luke-coordinated BlueNordic project.

Text: Emmi Linnankivi

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