The Weisell Foundation, established three and a half years ago, supports universities and research institutes; to succeed, Finland needs skilled people and innovations developed into high-quality products. In its operations, the Foundation follows the principle of its founder Vilho Väisälä: what has come of science shall be returned to science. The Foundation's basic capital is a bequest from Väisälä’s son-in-law, Hannu Voipio.
‘Although father was a doctor, we made the decision not to support medicine and medical research when establishing the foundation. We felt that medicine already has plenty of support’, says Mikko Voipio, Chairman of the Board.
Hannu Voipio’s will was used word for word when determining what subjects the Foundation would support. In addition to science, the sea has been important for the entire family. The family used to spend summers together in their cottage in the Porvoo archipelago, and activities enjoyed by the entire family also include diving and sailing. The family’s interest in the sea is reflected by the Foundation supporting maritime archaeology research among other projects.
Instead of individual researchers, the Foundation supports universities and other research units. Mikko Voipio feels that it has been a good decision from the perspective of the effectiveness of funding research.
‘We can support research projects with larger amounts of money. There are already foundations that support individuals.’
Providing grants through a foundation makes the amounts larger thanks to tax exemptions for non-profit foundations. In addition, making donations through a foundation enables benefiting society without drawing attention to an individual benefactor.
Promoting Finland's competitiveness and response to global challenges
Among other things, the Weisell Foundation has supported the improvement of sales expertise by donating a share to Aalto University for the purpose of establishing a professorship in sales and management of product-service systems.
‘Finland can’t stay competitive if we don’t know how to sell our products. It’s not true that a good product sells itself’, says Mikko Voipio.
Voipio states that Finland is a small country with high costs. ‘Our export products need to be highly developed. We need to invest in product development and applied research. Of course, basic research is the basis for both of these.’
Regarding university funding, Voipio believes that, in the current situation, external parties fund many things that should be funded by the state. ‘For example, basic research should be funded by society. Of course, I understand that the financial situation limits the state’s financing capabilities.’
Research solves the major challenges of humankind. The best way for Finland to have a global influence on the fight against climate change is by developing various technologies. Another important future research subject is related to the ethics of artificial intelligence, whose role Voipio expects to keep growing.
What is a previous project that stands out for Mikko Voipio? The Foundation's Board of Directors visited Aalto University's Metsähovi Radio Observatory at Kirkkonummi to see the research equipment supported by the Foundation. Since 1974, active galaxies and their supermassive black holes as well as solar activity have been studied in Metsähovi.
‘The Foundation monitors how its money is being spent. We get to visit places we otherwise couldn’t, such as the only Finnish radio astronomical observatory Metsähovi.’
Head of Donor Engagement
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