The future is being created today

Fortum is one of the few Finnish corporations with own accelerator program for entirely new business operations. 

Case Solita and Fortum: The future is being created today

Fortum has established a business accelerator for its employees to generate more ideas and internal start-ups. Solita has designed and implemented an intensive Boot Camp training programme for first-timers. Open to all employees, the programme culminates in pitches for financing from Fortum’s management.

An annual accelerator for all employees

Fortum strongly believes in innovation. To facilitate finding new ideas and converting them into business operations, the company has replaced its research and product development unit with an accelerator and incubator department. The new department has around 20 employees, who focus on promoting innovation and generating internal start-ups.

The annual Boot Camp programme is an important part of this work, as it enables all of Fortum’s employees to contribute to the creation and implementation of new ideas. The programme collects ideas to compete for funding for the pilot phase. Fortum wanted to ramp up its innovation process by including Solita’s coaching team in the process.

Day-to-day work in organisations is about continuous renewal. Most of this is related to further developing the foundation for existing business operations. But space, permission and time for finding new, forward-looking business operations are also needed. There is no change without innovation, and there is no innovation without the necessary structures and resources.

Mikko Väätäinen Design Lead, Business Designer, Solita

Learning by doing

Fortum’s Boot Camp programme is special in the sense that all employees can participate, regardless of their job, educational background or physical location. A diverse group of participants generates creative ideas, bringing together experts in various fields. The day-to-day work of most participants is not related to the development of new products and services, which poses challenges for the coaching.

Solita designed and implemented a seven-week Boot Camp training programme, which brought the participants together once a week. As limited time was available and there was much to do, we wanted to avoid theory and focus on learning by doing. The methods needed to be simple, clear and effective.

Each week had a theme, with exercises related to the theme, and new methods that supported the work were introduced. The purpose was to provide the participants with a structured approach to navigating the chaos of innovation and to put ideas quickly into practice and prove their value through experiments.

The participants were coached using lean, start-up and service design tools, without them needing to learn copious amounts of background information about the methods or tools. They were provided with weekly coaching and feedback to promote their ideas. The coaching introduced them to the hectic world of innovation, where they were quickly able to crystallise their ideas, carry out experiments with real customers and undertake market potential and competition analyses.

Mikko kept saying that we should just trust the process because it has worked before. And it really worked! The templates enabled us to rapidly take various perspectives into account and select a few for further development. – A participant on the final day of the Boot Camp training programme

This was fun. I learned that I have the ability to develop an idea, even a mediocre one, into a functional concept. And over a short period of time, if necessary. – A participant on the final day of the Boot Camp training programme

“Acquiring a skill requires repetition, but many of the participants in the Boot Camp training programme only do this once. Solita’s excellent tools and methods enable even first-timers to automatically focus on what is essential and to eliminate what is unnecessary – without any need for lengthy explanations”, says Marianne Tikkanen, Manager of innovations and patents, Fortum

We are very pleased with Solita’s work. Our cooperation has been enjoyable, and Solita has the agility and the ability to respond rapidly which are qualities required in situations of this type. Solita also has very strong expertise in methods, and an excellent ability to read how the participants feel.

Marianne Tikkanen Manager of Innovations and Patents, Fortum

Effective, high-quality pitches

The seven-week Boot Camp training programme brings together Fortum employees from nine countries. During the programme, the participants seek to develop their ideas into profitable business concepts, build teams around their concepts, initially introduce their concepts to future users, pitch their ideas to a jury and ask for pilot funding. The best idea wins a budget to implement the concept or part of it and test it in its future users’ environment.

Fortum was looking for a more agile way to test ideas and develop them into products. In the final phase of the programme, the most promising teams spent three days in Barcelona working intensively with coaches and experts.

“The quality of the pitches is particularly important: you must be able to crystallise the work carried out during the innovation phase in a way that includes all the key aspects and enables decision-makers to see why the idea should be further developed”, says Marianne Tikkanen.

They improved the quality of their pitches, as funding will not be provided, even to good ideas, if the team lacks the ability to sell their idea within the organisation. For decision-makers, key considerations include market potential, the competition situation and the revenue model. In the early stages, teams tend to only pay attention to the technical solution and its functionality. Good coaching and methods force the teams to pay attention to the end customers, technologies and revenue model as well.

“Even the best ideas have zero value. Value is not created until an idea has been tested through various experiments and documented learning has taken place. Even then, however, we are still far from a new business operation. This programme enabled the participants to significantly improve their innovation capabilities and their ability to rapidly convert early-stage ideas into practical concepts for the financing stage”, says Mikko Väätäinen.


  • Accelerators are not about theoretical exercises. Instead, the participants work on their ideas and carry out experiments with real customers. Seven weeks is not a very long time, but the participants gain experience of excelling themselves. These experiences have far-reaching effects, including the potential for entirely new careers for people. After completing the programme, the participants are familiar with numerous proven methods and tools.
  • The coaching involved 50 people and 50 ideas. The participants did not know each other beforehand. Nine ideas were selected for the pitching phase, and four were provided with pilot funding. A year later, one of these ideas has become a development project for one of Fortum’s divisions, and another one has developed into an internal start-up for a new customer target group.
  • In addition, the 50 participants from various parts of Fortum serve as ambassadors of innovation culture and methods in their organisations, accelerating and improving innovation in internal development projects. Solita compiled the methods used during the programme, with short introductions, in The Innovator’s Manual, which was published to be used across the company.
  • A Boot Camp alumni meeting attracted dozens of former participants to network and share experiences.

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