Opening the world of science to everyone – Technology Academy Finland

 

About

Technology makes the world a better place - however, not all people realize the possibilities it offers to us. That’s why we created a new branding and stakeholder management concept for Millennium Technology Prize: to help people understand and engage with science, and change the world together.

Client

 

Technology Academy Finland is an independent foundation which awards the Millennium Technology Prize for inventions that make the world a better place. In addition, TAF promotes Finland as a high-technology country through targeting academics, Finnish technology-minded people, and youth.

Challenge

Although the Millennium Technology Prize, the crown jewel of all the TAF’s activities, was first awarded already in 2004, TAF has not been pleased with the progress the prize has made over the more than ten years since its inception. Despite the large sum of money that is given to the outstanding researchers for their impressive research results, the prize still suffers from a lack of international awareness. Additionally, TAF’s goal to promote Finland as a high-technology through this prize has not been achieved, as the connection between the prize and Finland is weak in the eyes of most people. These challenges were the starting point of our client brief, as well as the context of our concept.

Initial brief

Create a concept that would increase the international awareness of the Millennium Technology Prize.

Process

Our project was roughly divided into three main sections:

Research and Analysis
Einstein is rumored to have said that if he had an hour to save the world, he’d spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and only 5 minutes solving it. While not perhaps as extreme, we had a similar mindset about approaching our project; delivering a valuable final outcome was requiring us to get to know the problems and the background of the issue very well. Earlier studies about the Millennium Technology Prize and TAF, relevant academic theories, as well as stakeholder interviews, helped us to get familiar with the current situation and the core underlying issues that had caused it. Thanks to this research we were able to find the key target areas which our concept would then target.

Ideation
Having determined the key target areas with our research, we started to think about how these problems could be solved. We came up with several different concept elements that each targeted individual problems, and by constantly iterating, twisting and testing them, we started to combine these elements together in order to build a holistic solution that would answer all the key issues.

Concept Development
With the draft idea of a concept in our hands, we began to polish it further by first determining the core vision and guidelines it would follow, and based on those started to flesh out the other elements related to it. At the same time we tested the concept with various people, listening to different point of views about it, and gathered valuable feedback which we used to further polish our concept. This constant iteration continued until the very end of our project.

Methods

As with several other industry projects, our project process very much followed the double diamond model in each phase we went through. We first started our research with only the narrow client brief to guide us, before delving deeper into a widespread research about our topic. Out of this research we then again narrowed down our key challenges, which helped us to move to yet again wide-scale ideation. Finally, from that wide pool of ideas, we narrowed it down again to our final concept and continued polishing it until the end of this project. We found this approach very appealing, as it let us have both a holistic overview of the context of our brief as well as helped us find some ‘diamonds’ from the depths of it!

During our research phase, the main source of our knowledge came from the previous research data offered by TAF, as well as from semi-structured interviews that we conducted with various stakeholders of the Millennium Technology Prize. These interviews helped us to both find out different opinions about same issues, as well as let us drift according to the interviewees’ comments to the directions we saw most fitting for our case. These interviews helped us to give concrete evidence and proof to some of the inklings we had developed while researching the data offered by our client. Again, we feel that this method helped us to both get a good overview of the situation, as well as find specific ideas for solving it.

Together with the other TAF project teams we hosted and organized a four-hour long co-creation workshop with TAF and some of their most valuable stakeholders. The purpose of this workshop was to gather these various people together to think together about the issues TAF is currently facing, and also ideate some possible solutions together. We were also able to subtly test some of the ideas we had generated through our ideation period, and measure their validity and quality. We found this workshop to be highly beneficial in the sense that it gave us more confidence that the direction we had started to shift towards with our concept was the right one.

In addtion to the semi-structured interviews we did during our research phase, we also conducted empathy interviews both during our ideation phase as well as during our concept development (and validation, particularly) phases. During our field research trip, we used these empathy interviews in order to try and understand what were the motivations for people to work in certain events, volunteer in organizing them, or being part of certain cultural groups and communities. Through this, we tried to determine how other people feel about different issues, and what kind of things motivate them in choosing various self-expression ways. During our concept refinement phase, we also used the empathy interview method in testing our concept for the Millennium Technology Prize with researchers, to see how they would feel about receiving the prize as our concept outlines it. These interviews helped us to gain a lot of valuable feedback about things that work, things that don’t work, and things that could work, regarding our concept.

Field trip

For our field research trip, we headed to two destinations: Stockholm and Tokyo. Our very brief visit to Stockholm was made to benchmark on the Nobel Foundation practices, and see how the brand of the prize was established and built on throughout the years. This is naturally relevant knowledge for us in developing our new concept for the Millennium Technology Prize.

However, for our main research trip, we flew to Tokyo, Japan, in order to get inspiration for our ideation in a very technologically-developed environment, as well as to already test some hypotheses we had about people and their relationship with technology.  In Tokyo, we visited several science and technology exhibitions and talked with their organizers and curators about how they view technology and how it’s communicated in their exhibitions. It was interesting to see how the technological knowledge is presented to the people, and how eager the people were to absorb it.

We also interviewed people from certain event concept brands such as SLUSH and TEDx. We were volunteering at Slush Asia in Tokyo, which allowed us to discuss various things with other volunteers helping to create the event, as well as with the CEO of Slush Asia himself. It was interesting to hear the reasons why people gravitate towards Slush and what it represents to them, and the cultural shift the brand is trying to overcome to further establish its position in Japan. Our interview with TEDx only further consolidated these findings. These notions were very insightful for us since we wanted to replicate these types of feelings with our concept, as well.

Finally, we had an interview with the organizers of an event series called Nerd Nite, an event format where various complex topics are covered in a casual setting, allowing for a high engagement between the speakers and the audience. It was interesting to hear how scientific topics can be discussed to attract different types of audiences - a finding that we found very important for our concept. This interview also brought our attention to the idea of open science, which ended up becoming an integral part of our final project concept.

Outcome

Our final project concept is a re-branding guide with two major elements: a new brand concept for the Millennium Technology Prize which includes a new strategic vision and brand narrative, as well as changes to the prize itself; and a new network management strategy, including concepts for stakeholder engagement, communication, and partner offerings. The guide-lining principle of our concept is to make science as open as possible, emphasize the connection between the past and future research, and show that our actions will determine what our next millennium will look like. Through this concept, we want to integrate the various stakeholder groups of TAF and showcase that working together will bring the best results for the future.

By re-determining the vision of the prize and strengthening the stakeholder relationships, our concept aims to solve the problems we believe have caused the lack of international awareness of the Millennium Technology Prize: the brand's lack of uniqueness, as well as somewhat weak stakeholder ties. By being unique, and building that uniqueness on the Finnish values, we also aimed to strengthen the connection between the prize and Finland. As our concept is a re-branding guide, it is applicable in many different ways but also allows for individual creativity in implementation.

Ever since we established the main key challenges of our project, we were more or less convinced that our final concept would be a brand guide of some sort. Some of the elements related to it we established already quite soon, but some details of it kept changing all until the end of the project. In general, we feel that ever since we established the direction of our concept, it started to gradually expand and enlarge - we only had to make sure it was growing to the right direction, and prune it accordingly.

Team FanTAFtic

  • Laura Niemi
    BSc International Business / IDBM BIZ
  • Nayoung Lee
    BA Visual Communication Design / IDBM ARTS
  • Gero Klingler
    BSc Industrial Engineering and Management / IDBM SCI