MAKEathon in Iceland during a Pandemic

From the 10th to the 18th of September, Matís (Iceland) organised not one, but two MAKEathon events all around Iceland: MAKEathon Westfjords – a physical event and MAKEathon Reykjavík, Akureyri and Neskaupstaður – a hybrid online event.

Organising a MAKEathon during a pandemic comes with its own challenge: how can we plan physical interaction without putting individuals at risks? Strong partnership, last minute decisions and the help of the „Þetta reddast“ Icelandic saying helped us to overcome this challenge by making it not only feasible, but also successful!

MAKEathon in Iceland is part of a European project called MAKE-it! funded by EIT FOOD and gathering 11 partners all around Europe that will host their own MAKEathon in the next month focusing on their own food value chain.

A MAKEathon is an innovation competition focusing on making and creating something with your hands to answer a challenge. MAKEathon in Iceland tackled the sustainability challenge of the seafood industry regarding their leftover raw material: how can we add value to them?

In total, 46 participants building up 10 teams with different background and nationalities took on the challenge for a better future of our food system. The initiative was supported by 19 partners across the country from industrial to academic and entrepreneurial sector.

Over the course of 3 days, 25 of them were able to meet physically in the Westfjords, in Bolungarvík, thanks to our collaboration with the University Centre of the Westfjords lead by Peter Weiss. The students were previously COVID tested for going to school and they already lived in the same building together. The risks were accordingly really low and well contained.

Teams in Bolungarvík, were presented with salmon muscle from the back bones as raw material. They had access to an industrial kitchen for their prototyping in Djúpið where the event was hosted. Gunnar Þórðarsson (Matís) and Gunnar Ólafsson (Djúpið) worked hands in hands to make the event happen! Strong actors from the region came along to support the initative, such as Artic fish, Eðalfiskur and Vestfjörðastofa, to name a few. Þórarinn B.B Gunnarsson from Fablab Ísafjörður supported the teams and helped them in their prototyping. The jury composed of Jón Páll Hreinsson, mayor of Bolungarvík, Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir and Þórkatla Soffía Ólafsdóttir from Vestfjarðastofa overviewed 5 different and really good teams presenting their edible ideas. The team so called SOS – Salmon on Seaweed won with their alternative salmon snack to well know product containing beef or pork such as salami or pepperoni.

On the other hand, for MAKEathon Reykjavík, Akureyri and Neskaupstaður, 21 participants met online and interacted together for over a week through Zoom meeting and a Slack channel. Unlike Bolungarvík, participants were presented with different raw materials from the seafood industry like cod bones, blue within otoliths and lumpfish skin in different shapes and textures (i.e. whole bones or powdered) that were studied and processed by our student Sylvía Lind Birkiland (LHÍ) thanks to the Student Innovation fund of Iceland (Rannis). Participants were also provided with a box containing all kinds of tools, crafty objects, papers, glue along with the raw materials to prototype their ideas.

They had the opportunity to go at the Fablab Reykjavík or Akureyri over the weekend to learn more about prototyping and gain access to the incredibly experienced staff there and all their tools.

Last Friday 18th, after a week of MAKEathon, Matís closed MAKEathon in Iceland in company of Kristján Skarphéðinsson, permanent secretary of the ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. Kristján Skarphéðinsson reminded us on the limitation of the natural resources and the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in the seafood sector. He then announced the winner of the hybrid MAKEathon that has been selected after a long debate by the jury composed of Sunna Halla Einarsdóttir (Icelandic Startups) Rannveig Björnsdóttir (University of Akureyri) and Benedikt Stefánsson (Egersund).

Otoseed new paper was the winner! The Otoseed members form a diverse and dynamic team that just met for the event and presented a solution not only reusing raw material from the seafood industry but also left over of coffee and others. The happy team shared their solution on their website: for everyone to see.

Organising a MAKEathon during a pandemic is a definite challenge but it is not impossible! Good relationship with your partners, flexibility and technology are the keys to succeed! We, at Matís, believe that our partners all around Europe from the MAKE-it! project, can do it and we are wishing them good luck for the next coming month!

We hope to reiterate this event in the future and are welcoming any potential partner interested in hosting a MAKEathon!

Contact us, and let‘s do it!