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Ushering in a new era of innovation

Aalto University
The Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) was Finland’s oldest and largest university of technology and architecture for 100 years. Today, TKK is the Aalto University School of Science and Technology, the innovative technology heart of Finland’s new Aalto University, dedicated to building a new generation of industrial and economic competitiveness.

The roots of the Aalto University School of Science and Technology stretch back to 1849, when the Technical School of Helsinki began the systematic teaching of technology in Finland as part of efforts to increase the competitiveness of local industry. After receiving university status as in 1908, doctoral and master’s degrees were awarded in technology and architecture and the university became Finland’s leading institute of higher education in science, technology, and architecture, with a solid international reputation.

While 102 new students were admitted in 1908, the number totalled more than 1,000 in 2009. From 20 first degrees in 1908, today’s School of Science and Technology awards over a thousand annually, and more than 40,000 first degrees and more than 2,500 doctorates have been awarded over the years.

A strong hub of expertise

The Aalto University School of Science and Technology is structured around four faculties, 25 departments, and nine separate institutes, which offer 19 degree programmes to around 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students – and is home to 250 professors.

Seven units at the School currently hold Centre of Excellence status within the national network coordinated by the Academy of Finland. In addition, the School is also a member of three joint Centres of Excellence with other universities.

Together with the Aalto University School of Economics (formerly the Helsinki School of Economics) and the Aalto University School of Art and Design (formerly the University of Art and Design Helsinki), the School of Science and Technology makes up Finland’s new ‘university of innovation’. Created with strong support from the state and Finnish industry, Aalto University has been given the mission of encouraging new types of knowledge creation and innovation.

The School is a partner of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which is going to locate one of its information and communication technologies research units in Finland.

The School of Science and Technology’s close links with business are reflected in the more than 1,000 R&D projects that are carried out annually in partnership with Nokia and other ICT companies and businesses in forest products, mechanical engineering, chemicals, and nanotechnology, as well as the Finnish Defence Forces and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Industry is a partner in one project in two; and more than a third of projects are international, with the main emphasis on European cooperation in research, training, and innovation.

An international research assessment of what is now Aalto University completed in 2009 highlighted the university’s impact on society as outstanding by international standards. The quality of research at Otaniemi at the Departments of Applied Physics, Information and Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Computational Science, and at the Low Temperature Laboratory and the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, was ranked of world-class status.

Concentrated high-tech

Otaniemi, where the School is based, is home to a wide range of scientific and technological activities, and has been the most important centre of high technology in northern Europe for some years.

The School and other institutions such as VTT, together with hundreds of high-tech companies, form a unique and innovative community, and one that has been named the EU’s ‘Most Innovative Region’ twice. The Helsinki Metropolitan Region, for its part, has been ranked as the EU’s most competitive region in the European Competitiveness Index twice.

Otaniemi is an excellent example of the close collaboration between public research organisations and industry that is so characteristic of the Finnish innovation system.

Aalto University launched a new era in Finnish innovation, university-level education, and research in 2010.

Centres of Excellence

Seven units at the Aalto University School of Science and Technology hold Centre of Excellence status within the national network coordinated by the Academy of Finland:

  • Adaptive Informatics Research
  • Computational Complex Systems Research
  • Computational Nanoscience (COMP)
  • Generic Intelligent Machines Research
  • Low-Temperature Quantum Phenomena and Devices
  • Smart Radios and Wireless Research (SMARAD), and
  • Systems Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Research.

The School is also a partner in three joint Centres of Excellence:

  • Algorithmic Data Analysis Research (with the University of Helsinki)
  • Systems of Neuroscience and Neuroimaging (with the University of Helsinki), and
  • Inverse Problems (with the Universities of Helsinki, Kuopio, and Oulu, and the Lappeenranta University of Technology).

International innovation

The Otaniemi International Innovation CentreĀ® (OIIC) has played an important part in innovative activities in Otaniemi since it was founded 11 years ago. OIIC offers a wide range of professional services – from funding liaison on R&D projects to managing the School of Science and Technology’s IPR portfolio to assistance for start-ups and licensing.

The OIIC is also responsible for managing the School’s research funding contracts, international marketing and commercialisation of inventions, assisting students with their careers, and promotion of alumni relations.

The OIIC acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for R&D services in promoting the development and use of competencies, skills, and new technologies – and contributes to innovation activities across the entire Otaniemi campus and the Helsinki Metropolitan Region.

> Veijo Ilmavirta
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)