Behind the award

A hundred years ago, a young engineer who loved the outdoors graduated from the Helsinki University of Technology. Three years later, two other young hopefuls from the Mechanical Engineering Department, one of whom had originally wanted to be a farmer, graduated with the same degree. The other spent all his free time at the helm of a sailboat in the Finnish Archipelago Sea.

The three young engineers each pursued a career in industry and technology, while driving a new development in their homeland typical for that time. They also shared a deep appreciation for nature.

At the time, our country faced very different challenges than it does today. But the challenges were still great. The current environmental crisis is the most difficult challenge in human history and one that the three engineers would most certainly have wanted to solve.

Today, each of their life’s work is honoured by a foundation or fund that supports environmental research and the solutions that emerge from it. Now the three foundations are joining forces to reward the builders of the sustainable future in turn.

The three future builders highlight people who are builders of hope and a more sustainable future

Photo: Novafoto / SLS, Henrik Höijer’s archive.

Henrik Höijer (1892–1984) graduated from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1921. He carved out a career as technical director of the Labor cooperative, the Swedish equivalent of Hankkija. Höijer was a keen scout and nature enthusiast. One of the largest funds of the Svenska Litteratursällskapet is the Ingrid, Margit and Henrik Höijer Fund II, which aims, among other things, to support individuals or organisations researching environmental protection and technology.

Heikki H. Herlin (1901–1989) graduated as a Master of Science in engineering from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1924. Herlin, who had the honorary title of Vuorineuvos, made his life’s work leading the Kone Ltd. The family farm in Thorsvik, Kirkkonummi, was then and still is used for farming. The Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation is a charitable foundation that focuses its resources in 2020–2025 on solutions to the global environmental crisis, in particular the rapid reduction of emissions.

Tor Nessling (1901–1971) graduated as a Master of Science in engineering from the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Helsinki University of Technology in 1924, the same year as Heikki Herlin. Nessling, who also had the honorary title of Vuorineuvos, spent his working life in the car industry, but spent his free time with his wife Maj Nessling at the Finnish Archipelago Sea, in the woods or birdwatching. The Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation seeks systemic solutions for an ecologically sustainable future by providing support for research, possibilities for encounters and scientific knowledge for the use of society.