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June 1, 2018

Valio’s principal scientist Päivi Myllärinen receives significant innovation award from Finnish Parliament

Päivi Myllärinen

Päivi Myllärinen, Valio’s principal scientist and Doctor of Food Sciences, has received a significant innovation award for women from the Finnish Parliament. Myllärinen received the award for her pioneering research and development of dairy technology. By combining nature’s own biological processes and process technology, she has created completely new food technology methods and products based on them.

The goal of the Parliament’s innovation award is to highlight the importance of innovations and the significant role women have in the economic growth generated by innovations in the fields of technology and the economy. Speaker of Parliament Paula Risikko presented the award to Päivi Myllärinen on 1 June 2018, the anniversary of universal and equal suffrage in Finland.

“Päivi Myllärinen’s contribution to Valio’s product development and to the Finnish food industry overall has been remarkable. She has been the innovator behind 17 dairy industry-related patents or patent applications, and Valio has generated over 100 million euros of new net sales based on her innovations,” says Tuomas Salusjärvi, Executive Vice President, Product Groups and R&D.

“Valio’s goal is to offer consumers products that not only support health and wellbeing but also have an excellent taste and mouth-feel. We are known for our unique product development expertise, the foundation of which is the research work conducted by Nobel Laureate A.I. Virtanen, who headed Valio’s laboratories for close to 50 years. Päivi is continuing this more than century-long legacy. Thanks to Päivi’s innovations, we can produce products like full-flavoured snacks that are high in protein and low in fat,” Salusjärvi continues.

A curious mind put her on a research path

Myllärinen graduated as Doctor of Food Sciences in 2004. She has worked for 20 years in grain technology and for the last 13 years in dairy technology. Her passionate interest in food ingredients and their properties hasn’t diminished over the 33 years.

“It is extremely intriguing how something as wonderful as rye bread can be created from such simple ingredients like rye flour and water. The same goes with milk: how it can be transformed from a liquid into various forms ranging from yoghurt to cheese,” says Päivi Myllärinen.

“At Valio I’ve been able to do ambitious research work together with the world’s best food industry experts. Innovations are never created at the desk of a single researcher; an innovation always has a team behind it, a team of our own researchers and others – for instance production experts from our plants. It has also been really wonderful to be part of several international research projects that have brought together businesses, universities and research organizations to advance the food industry,” Myllärinen sums up her career.

Myllärinen’s research efforts have focused on how raw materials react when combined with various production methods and other ingredients. The research has resulted in unique products, like Valio PROfeel® protein products, Valio MiFU® milk protein products, and oat-based Valio Oddlygood® snacks and drinks.

More courage for women

Myllärinen is flattered by and proud of the award.

“This is great recognition for the entire sector because it signals that food industry research and product development work is seen as a significant matter also for society,” Myllärinen says.

Women hold a good position in the Finnish scientific world, Myllärinen notes. She hopes her fellow researchers would have more courage to take on bigger challenges and more demanding roles.

“The challenging and interesting nature of research work stems from the fact that, at the outset, you never know what the end result will be. That’s why there will always be challenges and also failures. However, you can’t let them discourage you, you have to just keep moving towards the goal with determination,” Myllärinen encourages.

Award for a scientifically significant innovation

The award is worth EUR 110,000 and it will be granted in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The award is granted to a woman or a group of women for a scientifically significant innovation in the technology or economic sector.

The Technology Academy Finland foundation has arranged the award process in practice. The Chancellery Commission of the Parliament has selected the winner from the group of the best candidates.

Video interview with Päivi Myllärinen