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Junction – one weekend to solve global challenges

The Junction hackathon brought together approximately 1,200 like-minded tech enthusiasts, students, and professionals alike to Dipoli in Espoo last November.

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Junction has been organised since 2015, and in the autumn of 2022, it returned as a live event after two years of being remote.

– Our goal was to offer a diverse group of innovative creators the chance to showcase their talent and create solutions in a short time. Emphasis on diversity – this year we were able to attract participants from 87 countries to Finland in the dark of November, says Akseli Aho, CEO of Junction. 

Partners of the event provide the participants with challenges, and the participants form teams and choose one of the challenges to solve using technology. The best solutions are awarded. 

In all its simplicity, hackathon as a concept can be any, even small-scale, problem-solving competition. However, Junction wants to create, in their own words, an epic environment and experience that gathers participants for one intense weekend to build even crazy projects. Creativity and experimenting are particularly encouraged.

Akseli Aho at the Junction 2022 hackathon event. Image: Henrik Asklöf

Exploring entrepreneurship

For many participants, Junction is the first opportunity where they can put their skills to the test and at the same time, learn of all the things that are possible to achieve through modern-day technology.  

For the big audience, Junction wants to help provoke those first thoughts: Even I could start a world-class business that solves global challenges. Although the participant might not start a start-up as a direct result of participating in Junction, the inspiration and attitude raised by the event go a long way. 

Moreover, for the event last autumn, Junction wanted to increase its focus on the impact and continuity of the solutions. For the first time, it organised an accelerator for those participants who wanted to continue developing their ideas after the event.

– We reflected more on the impact of the solutions than we might have before. In the Kiuas accelerator, those teams who wished to continue developing their concepts received support and for example, mentoring right after the main event to drive the idea forward and in the best case, even start a business, Aho says.

The teams solve real challenges 

The global situation and current issues are reflected also at Junction. For example, two of the challenges provided by partners were related to energy solutions.

The winning team BitterSweet created a diary app that utilises artificial intelligence and visualises diary entries. Writing a diary improves mental health. Image: Khoa Vu

The winner of the whole hackathon, on the other hand, solved a challenge related to mental health; their starting point was that writing a diary is scientifically proven to improve mental health, but only a few have the energy to keep it up or remember to do so. The team created a solution where AI technology visualises the diary entry into a cartoon, motivating the writer.

– The challenges brought by partners are not some made-up problems, but instead, real challenges that we see in the world right now, Aho says.

A flood of creativity 

In addition to the overall winner of the hackathon, individual challenge providers also award winners for their respective challenges. Some of the challenge providers might first and foremost be looking for new ideas and perspectives, rather than implementing the solutions as such.  

Others continue collaboration with participants after the event. For example, the Foundation for Finnish Inventions says that they will continue with the teams who placed first and second in their challenge.

The team AI-powered Idea Refinery Platform won the challenge provided by the Foundation for Finnish Inventions (Keksintösäätiö). Image: Casimir Kuusela

The Foundation will be implementing an idea refinery as a digital platform. The idea refinery would bring together a network of experts, information material, and other tools. In their challenge for Junction, participants had the opportunity to ideate the creation of the actual platform. 

– It took a lot of work to define the challenge. Thankfully, we received great advice and help from the Junction organisers, who were able to formulate the challenge text so that it attracted participants, says Juhani Talvela, chair of the board at the Foundation. 

21 teams participated in their challenge. The team to eventually win their challenge developed an artificial intelligence-based solution, that can connect the user with the content most relevant to them. 

– We were surprised to learn how quickly it’s possible to create an AI solution. They only had time over the weekend, says Timo Nyberg, Member of the board at the Foundation.

Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council was one of the official partners of the Junction hackathon as part of its European Entrepreneurial Region theme year 2022.

Featured image: Henrik Asklöf

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Junction is a non-profit hackathon and tech community that organises hackathons, workshops, and other tech events – around the year and around the world.