Project Researcher, Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC)
M Soc Sc


+358 40 702 9691
Korkeavuorenkatu 25 A 2

Areas of expertise

energy transition
Global South
pioneer analysis
sustainable development


Joni Karjalainen is a project researcher and a doctoral candidate in the Finland Futures Research Centre. His research entails three themes: learning from crises, energy transition, and off-grid solar energy entrepreneurship.

Currently, his research learns from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a view to unexpected events, discontinuities, and how crises affect urban environments. Crises may be previously recognized, unexpected or even unimaginable. Another research theme concerns the energy transition toward a decentralized, digital, emission-free world. Karjalainen is a co-author to “Electrification in Peer-to-Peer Society. A New Narrative for Sustainable Futures”, a science-book, available in three languages: Finnish, English and Spanish.

He is also interested in the uptake of renewable energy technologies in sub-Saharan Africa and the strategies to attain Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In his doctoral research, he studies novel business models and innovation patterns in solar energy in the East Africa. Understanding such dynamics may help in exploring and shaping preferred futures.

He is an author of over 10 academic peer-reviewed articles and over 15 scientific research reports. In recent years, Karjalainen has been based in Accra, Ghana, in the Institute for Futures Research (IFR) in South Africa as a visiting researcher as well as acted as a Visiting Fellow in the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) in the United Kingdom. He also holds previous experience in international development and innovation collaboration.

Karjalainen has worked in the centre since 2013. Karjalainen has a political science degree (M Soc Sc) from the University of Helsinki.


Karjalainen performs master's thesis supervision, and is also interested in how capacities to think about futures can be strengthened around the world.


Currently, Karjalainen is mainly focused on learning from crises, the global energy transition and off-grid solar energy startups.

Crises are a pertinent feature of societies in many sectors: economy, society and the environment. As a case in point, the coronavirus pandemic emerged as a global shock, causing a state of uncertainty. Responses to the COVID-19 crisis concerned debates of a “New Normal”. Multiple sectors and different parts of society were provoked to think what might emerge in the wake of the crisis. The pandemic provoked societies to imagine how to survive any types of crises in the future. Futures dialogues help learn from crises, explore latent expectations, and post-crisis futures.

Secondly, solar energy is increasingly expected to power Africa’s future. Despite a hope of its growing uptake, the penetration of solar products (solar lighting, solar home systems and micro- and mini-grids) and services in African countries has been slow. In the 2010s, the global energy landscape witnessed unexpected changes, as the cost of solar photovoltaics has fallen dramatically. These trends and future trajectories of solar PV for African countries, however, have received limited attention. The uptake of solar energy coincides with a growing fascination for promoting innovation in developing countries. In pioneering markets, such as Kenya and Tanzania, innovative business models, incorporating ICT-based innovations such as mobile banking, machine-to-machine communications and artificial intelligence (AI) have emerged. There has been little analysis of what enabled these pioneering ventures to emerge, the role of global innovation networks, and expectations locally in harnessing these technologies.


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