Tero Joronen wins Tampere University’s 2020 Inventor of the Year Award
In the past year, Tero Joronen has either invented or co-invented ten inventions that improve the efficiency of energy production. Tampere University’s Innovation Services granted Joronen the 2020 Inventor of the Year Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the development of innovations and inventions. The award was now given out for the first time.
“The sheer number of invention disclosures submitted by Tero Joronen and the precision with which he described his inventions secured him the Inventor of the Year Award. We also wanted to give out the award to highlight the achievements of our inventors and raise awareness of the invention disclosure across the Tampere Universities community”, says Innovation Specialist Jan Kolkkinen.
“I am honoured to receive this award and see it as important recognition to all inventors within our university community. I hope this award inspires innovation among all our staff and students, as it certainly does with me,” Joronen says.
Confidentiality obligations prevent Joronen from describing his inventions in too much detail.
“My inventions fall into a variety of categories ranging from biomass purification and the steam explosion process to the utilisation and recovery of carbon dioxide and energy storage solutions. The energy storage idea is based on seasonal energy storage solutions with a high capacity and outlet temperature. The method also combines the collection of solar thermal energy to effectively store heat collected during the warm summer months to be used during the winter,” Joronen explains.
Creativity, imagination and an analytical mindset
For Tero Joronen, both scientific discoveries and small everyday inventions are a passion, a career and a hobby. Ideas come to him during quiet moments of solitary reflection or while engaging in witty banter with colleagues.
“I am constantly pondering how to improve different processes. Among other things, I have made two inventions involving mobile phones for Nokia. I usually start by building an in-depth understanding of the topic at hand and then focus on resolving a critical problem. Creating an invention also takes a touch of whimsy and playfulness,” Joronen says.
An inventor must be able to look at things from a fresh perspective and see how they could be done differently or combined with other solutions or elements to create something unique. What is also needed is a pinch of imagination.
“Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to come up with my own solutions. For example, I designed my own paper airplanes as a boy. My hobbies also include acting, playwriting, music and reading – they fuel my imagination. Although I tend to approach problems from an analytical angle, I am not particularly systematic or methodical. We should nurture the gift of inventiveness and creativity that so many of us, not just a few, are born with. At its best, the student culture can foster unbridled creativity and joy.”
“Anyone can be an inventor. We all have innovative potential. There is nothing stopping us from creating inventions at home every day to make, for example, cleaning or cooking easier. I once suggested we use a cup with a scale for measuring, for instance, eight scoops of coffee grounds when making coffee at work – it saves time. The world is never ready, so let’s make it better one step at a time. Every day is an opportunity to invent something new.”
Scientific knowledge plays a key role
Tero Joronen emphasises that although creativity and imagination are important qualities for an inventor, scientific knowledge is an important tool. Ideally, science and innovation come together to help address our society’s challenges, whether big or small.
“I am currently looking to develop solutions that mitigate climate change and especially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I am fortunate that both Tampere University and Valmet, which funds my professorship, are happy to support these activities. Collaboration between industry and academia promotes innovation. Particularly start-ups thrive on innovation, but we should not forget existing companies that have established processes for productization, marketing, sales, manufacturing and delivery,” Joronen notes.
Having one foot in academia and the other in industry is an excellent place to be for an inventor, according to Joronen.
“I am perfectly poised between order and chaos on both sides of my position, so my industry professorship stimulates innovation and creativity. Research can benefit society by helping to pave the way for new business, develop more effective processes and improve health and well-being. We need to support the structures that promote fruitful collaboration and interaction between our society and the University. Besides peer-reviewed publications, we should also be able to assess, for example, patents, new business ventures, societal impact – such as cost reductions in the public sector and improvements in self-perceived and measured well-being – as scientific outputs. Could we calculate the revenue generated by inventions? Or the impact that a new sociological theory delivers for society?” Joronen asks.
Text: Sanna Kähkönen
Photo: Jonne Renvall