Heidi Helkamo, RDI Manager
Heidi Helkamo has worked at Tikkurila for 26 years. She is currently the RDI manager of the international interior products in Vantaa, Finland. She started as a researcher immediately after graduating from Otaniemi University of Technology with a master's degree in chemistry.
“At first, I was a researcher in various product teams. I started in the exterior products, and for a couple of years I worked in the metal industry team. As a research manager, I first led the Finnish interior products team and, from 2015, the international interior products team,” says Heidi.
In her work, she is particularly interested in the diversity of work and the themes related to sustainability.
“Sustainability has been the main driving force from the very beginning. All product development projects start with setting a goal. Throughout the years, paint products have evolved to be more protective and environmentally friendly. Sustainability is present in all of the phases of the product development process, which is why it may take several years for a product to advance from product development to being sold to consumers,” Heidi explains.
Evolving legislation, stricter environmental criteria and the development of product features in line with life cycle thinking guide the work of the product developer. Tikkurila's sustainability program A Colourful Tomorrow also makes a strong contribution. "According to the program, we want to be the most desirable paint producer in green building, among other things."
Heidi gives a couple of examples of the versatility of work. Tikkurila is at the forefront of bio-based binders and functional solutions.
In bio-based products some of their fossil-based binders are replaced with bio-based binders. Instead of crude oil, bio-based binder is made from environmentally friendly raw materials, such as plants, seeds and various materials of agriculture. Fossil-based binders are not yet fully replaced, but the development continues.
“Another interesting challenge for product developers is the development of new functional product. One example is chalkboard paint, which is not only paint, but serves as a chalkboard as well. Or white ‘cool roof paint’, which at best allows 80% of the sun’s radiation to be reflected back into space. This saves energy for cooling and reduces CO2 emissions,” says Heidi.