Cooperation between companies and researchers creates new innovations for a world interested in indoor hygiene

New innovations are created at an accelerating pace. According to Indoor Hygiene Specialist and Senior Researcher Riika Mäkinen, the corona pandemic increased people’s interest and general understanding of hygiene solutions. We interviewed Dr. Riika Mäkinen about the industry’s future prospects and innovations. She has worked in indoor air research since 2012. Mäkinen became interested in indoor air research through the project of Research Center WANDER. WANDER previously focused on household water, but expanded its research to indoor hygiene as a whole (water, air, surfaces).

Exporting the indoor hygiene solutions abroad

Mäkinen has been part of the international Ihmec -project (Indoor Hygiene for Middle East Construction), where overall solutions for indoor hygiene and hygiene construction were taken abroad, specifically to Saudi Arabia. The overall solution involved the products and know-how of several different companies. Indoor hygiene solutions have therefore already been validated outside of Finland. “One of the researchers of the Ihmec project is currently working in Canada and there could be something starting there; we have also had discussions about cooperation in Australia”, explains Mäkinen.

Development of antimicrobial testing methods in full swing

Antimicrobial properties can be tested using methods that evaluate the antimicrobial efficiency of a product or material, i.e. the ability to destroy microbes. Currently, there is no one and the same generally accepted standard for testing materials. However, according to Mäkinen, the development of antimicrobial testing methods is growing: 

“We are involved in European standardization work, where these new standards are being developed. In addition, we are involved in the Horizon Europe project STOP – Surface Transfer of Pathogens, which also aims to develop both new antimicrobial coatings and their standardization.”

Companies play an important role in cooperation

According to Mäkinen, cooperation with companies brings realism to development. Companies make an important contribution to innovation demand and production costs. Conversely, the work done by researchers is worth its weight in gold for companies. 

Mäkinen opens the important dialogue between research and companies as follows: “It is pointless for researchers to develop innovations for which there is no demand, or which are disproportionately expensive to implement. On the other hand, companies often need scientific proof and unbiased evidence that their products work in a certain way.

The amazing new innovations of the future

Mäkinen feels that the future of indoor hygiene looks bright. In particular, the corona pandemic had a lot of influence on how the topic is more important than before. This can be seen, for example, in public new construction, where the hygiene issues have started to be taken into account more. In the previous HygLi project of research center WANDER, RT instructions for indoor hygiene have been created to support the construction. There is also a lot of buzz elsewhere. 

According to Mäkinen, completely new types of antibacterial and -viral coatings are being developed in the already mentioned STOP project, in another project elementary school students are involved in developing a mobile game, which is part of the indoor hygiene training package aimed at school children. “In the ongoing Living Lab studies, the effect of indoor hygiene solutions on the morbidity of the space’s users is monitored. In addition, we also study e.g. the effect of nanobubble water on the yield and taste of strawberries and tomatoes” – explains Mäkinen.