Christopher Mills joined Kiilto as a Summer Trainee over a decade ago. Now Head of Innovation, he is passionate about solving global sustainability challenges through chemistry and co-operation, and bringing a sort of start-up approach to innovation and continuous learning.
“To better the environment, you need to be brave and go where no one has gone before.”
What does your role involve?
"As a chemist and start-up enthusiast, I drive environmental innovation in Kiilto’s construction, and industrial adhesives and fireproofing business areas, as well as support Kiilto Ventures in developing and commercializing new sustainable, data-driven ideas and technologies."
Can you describe your career path at Kiilto?
"I started at Kiilto when I was still a student at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I heard good things about the company through my club sport teammates who had done 6 weeks of work practice there. So I decided to do the same. For both me and my supervisor it seemed like a good fit. And I was invited back for research positions at bachelor and master levels.
Over the last 5 years I’ve chased new projects and bigger challenges, keeping me awake and aware of the changing world around me.
I’ve been here 10 years now. And in Kiilto terms, that’s a junior. We have some colleagues that have been here 30, even 40 years. What they have seen and accomplished during their time, and what I have during mine proves it doesn’t matter where you are today, but where you want to be tomorrow."
Was there a specific turning point?
"I’m a bit biased. But the first Kiilto Up internal competition helped accelerate my understanding of the start-up scene, and the process of pitching an idea and creating a compelling business case.
We got to work on topics and issues outside of our day-to-day scope. This encouraged me to develop myself as not just an employee, but as an entrepreneur who carries courage to our own parts of the organization and who asks more ‘what if’ questions."
How do you feel your work makes a difference?
"Well, our work at Kiilto enables us to create jobs. By hiring like-minded people, we can collect and coordinate different ideas, turning them into something successful that’s a bit better than what’s come before.
On top of that, I constantly remind myself we are looking so far ahead it brings a sort of patience to how we work and where we intend to make a difference. Our vision of operating successfully still in 2080 sounds far away, but it’s quite close, especially if we think about how long it takes for new technologies to change the world.
And, for me, being an environmental leader starts with spreading a positive influence as far and as wide and as soon as possible."
What personal interests inspire your professional work?
"In the summer and autumn seasons, I like to go into the wild for a week and live off the land. For those 7 days or so, I might only see 1 other hiker. This peacefulness is a privilege worth protecting. It’s something unique to our environment. And these untouched places help us see more clearly what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong when it comes to sustainable living.
One lesson I’ve learned from nature is efficiency. Us, humans, can copy the processes of living plants and animals in an industrial setting to solve complex problems. This innovative concept is known as biomimetics and is a helpful in developing solutions that are regenerative by design and have a positive impact on the environment.
Sometimes research and development work can feel like a long hike with ups and downs. There are some false summits and low points, but that doesn’t stop me from taking another step when things get difficult. Because learning is at the edge of your comfort zone."
"The company culture and brand reputation.
Kiilto supports this sandbox mentality. There are some things you must do. But you also have a lot of freedom to follow your own interests and curiosities.
On the other hand, the strong Kiilto brand helps us get into conversations with other companies who can help us make a difference. The more people who know us, the more chances we have to cooperate. And the future of business as a whole is not one company doing everything on its own. It’s networks. It’s platforms. And companies collaborating with each other."