Tampere University’s Alumna of the Year Suvi Haimi: Saving the planet from plastic waste

Tampere University announced the winner of its first Alumnus/a of the Year Award at the opening of the academic year. The two universities that were merged to create Tampere University named Suvi Haimi, who holds a PhD in Biomedical Materials, as the 2019 Alumna of the Year. Haimi received the award in recognition for her important and ground-breaking work and for her contributions to promoting the University's positive impact on society.

Suvi Haimi launched Sulapac Ltd in 2016 with Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo. Suvi and Laura met at Tampere University where Laura wrote her doctoral dissertation under Suvi’s supervision. The two immediately got along, had the idea to use biomaterials to save the planet from drowning in plastic, and eventually left academia to start their own business.  

“Writing a dissertation and pursuing an academic career are excellent stepping-stones to entrepreneurship. Especially at the post doc phase, grant writing begins to take up a great deal of time and it becomes necessary to learn to tolerate uncertainty and failure before finding the right direction for one’s research. I am using the skills and abilities I acquired at university every day in my current work,” Suvi says.   

Sulapac, which has grown to now employ 26 people, develops microplastic-free and fully biodegradable packaging materials, for example, for the food and cosmetics industries. The wood-based materials are fully compatible with existing production lines without costly modifications. The innovative material developed by Sulapac to replace plastic has attracted millions of euros from investors and received numerous awards and accolades.  
“The new knowledge and expertise generated by universities is effectively transferred through their alumni to benefit the broader society. The work of our first Alumna of the Year perfectly embodies our University’s commitment to bring together world-class research, applications and innovations to address some of the greatest challenges facing humanity,” President Mari Walls says.

  • Suvi Haimi, PhD in Medical Biomaterials, 2008. Haimi wrote her doctoral dissertation under the joint supervision of a professor from Tampere University and a professor from Tampere University of Technology. Her dissertation was the first one completed under the Flexible Study Right (JOO) system. 
  • The word alumnus/a comes from Latin and means a graduate. If you have studied or worked at Tampere University or its predecessors, you are part of our alumni community. The Alumnus/a of the Year is an ambassador for Tampere University.