Meet Mikaela, Our New Project Manager for Ignite Public

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This week we introduce another of our innovation ninjas, Project Manager for Ignite Public, Mikaela Färnqvist. She is working to bring startups and the public sector together to find new innovative solutions. 

“Ignite Public contributes to solving community challenges together with innovative startups. It feels important to help public organizations see the value of collaboration and how using new technologies and business models can solve real societal challenges around topics like the environment, energy, an aging population, circular cycles and integration.”

Mikaela continues that she enjoys finding the unexpected matches. “It’s exciting to create those unexpected meetings where people can’t really see yet why they should be meeting. You get a special energy when their surprise turns into a really productive meeting.”

Before joining Ignite, Mikaela worked at Minc in Malmö where she was responsible for their Startup Labs program for early stage ideas and entrepreneurs. It was there she first saw the impact Ignite could have. 

“As part of my role at Minc, I was responsible for Ignite’s local activities including matchmaking events in Skåne. I was surprised to see large international companies visit Minc as part of their Sweden Discovery Tour (organized by Ignite) and be so impressed by our Swedish startups. It was very rewarding to see that these huge companies with several hundred thousand employees couldn’t solve challenges alone but reached out to us for our perspective. It really highlights the uniqueness of the Swedish innovation system that despite so much expertise, they want to collaborate with us.”

She also worked in a range of other innovation positions in Skåne focusing on inclusiveness and innovation within sport. According to Mikaela, this provided a great entry point to working with the public sector. “Social innovation is a passion of mine and I think ideals of inclusiveness and creating a better world really align with what most of the public sector aims to achieve.”

Now based at Kista Science City, Mikaela says that Ignite Public has become an important tool for networking and innovation. “Kista Science City is one of the initiators of Ignite Public. They saw that the innovation process that Ignite Sweden used with corporates could also be developed and used in the public sector.” 

To public organizations interested in working with startups and innovation, Mikaela says that not only is Ignite Public a great way to gain new solutions but it’s also an opportunity to learn to be a little more agile and increase innovative power. 

“My advice to public organizations is to be brave, don’t be afraid to let go of control a little and ask for what you really need help with. I’ve often had organizations ask what areas we have a lot of startups but it works so much better if they trust the Ignite process so we can find a solution that really addresses their needs.”

“There are some great examples of the breadth of different startups and the public sector collaborating to reach their innovation goals. The Rinkeby-Kista district, for example, has just started a research project with startup Parlametric. Together, they are using AI voice recognition to help raise the level of Swedish in preschool students. 

“With a completely different aim, the project between Uppsala’s Culture Department and startup Altered are installing water efficient nozzles at the art museum. Another startup, Nagoon, has teamed up with Uppsala Municipality to install an AI Covid solution that uses computer vision to lessen the spread of covid indoors at one of their libraries. One thing they have in common is that none of these various innovations would have been possible if they hadn’t met through Ignite.”

Welcome back to Team Ignite, Mikaela!

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