Science meets practice: When universities meet startups

Adventurous, unstable, risky and “out of the box” are descriptions often used to define startups. Universities, on the other hand, are well established and stable institutions that are sometimes condemned as being too bureaucratic and conservative to deliver practical applications and true innovation. Due to its empirical nature, science progresses slowly, while startups are designed for fast growth and immediate impact. At first glance, startups and universities may seem to be the opposite of each other.

Many startup founders may have an academic background, but they were often too restless to concentrate only on science. They wanted to get out there and get their hands dirty. And do it fast. In some fields, science, however, becomes the fundamental part of developing new innovation. And nutrition is definitely one of those fields.

Even though everybody eats food, it takes a lot more than just “Google” to understand the science behind health and nutrition. So as a startup, to properly understand science, where else would you go than to those who study it? Especially if you’re looking for creative young minds that are full of fresh ideas and excitement. In addition to understanding science, these young minds also understand the trends and technology of today.

Many companies already collaborate with universities, but the rather extensive research projects are often assigned as thesis subjects for those working on their master’s or doctoral degree. We want to involve the students well before they are about to wrap up their studies or become a postgraduate student.

At the moment, The Mealplanner is partnering with the department of nutrition at the University of Helsinki. Thanks to their open minded faculty and staff, we have been integrated with their curriculum. In the current project the students are helping us to localize our Foodtodo platform to Finland by harmonizing it with Finnish nutrition recommendations and food culture.

As a startup we provide students an interesting project that is part of their university course. Instead of theoretical studies, the students get a chance to gain credits by solving real-life problems where science meets practice. By helping real companies the students are also able to bring themselves one step closer to what lies ahead after graduation.

Besides merely providing selected nutrition students an insight into our solutions, we want to give free access to our platform to all nutrition students who are out there. So if you’re a student and interested in getting a free student subscription to our Foodtodo-platform please contact

In addition to providing nutrition students course credits and access to Foodtodo, we also want to invite students from other disciplines to participate.

Food is not just about fueling our bodies. Following a healthy diet is much more than consuming the right amount of calories and nutrients. As psychological traits, together with physical and social environments, are such a big part of food consumption, seeking answers from the field of nutrition science alone is not enough to improve people’s dietary habits and health. Instead of focusing only on healthy diet, we should be exploring ways of executing healthy food behaviour and life-styles.

We see that helping people to change their food behavior and stick to their new habits takes more than just a nutritionist. That’s why we are calling for students from all food related fields to be part of solving this puzzle. Our Food for Habits - Innovation Challenge will take place in Helsinki during the 13th and 14th of April. This challenge is targeted for students not only in nutrition, but also in behavioural sciences, psychology, social psychology, food economics, consumer economics and consumer marketing.

With the help of mobile devices and digital media, we want to challenge people to change their eating habits and behaviour for a better health. For this, we want to challenge university students to collaborate and compete for a 500 Euro prize. If you’re interested in participating, you can find more information about the event here.



 Published on March 29, 2018