Eija Salmi received Fellowship recognition for working for Cumulus

Eija Salmi, Secretary General of Cumulus Network, Head of International Affairs at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, receives the prestigious Fellowship Recognition from the Royal Society for the Encouraging of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).
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Eija Salmi

FRSA is a London-based organization founded in 1754 that is committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges. Cumulus is a strategic partner of Aalto University. It is an international network of universities and colleges representing arts, design and media education and research.

Eija Salmi has been involved in the Cumulus network since its establishment and serves as the network's Secretary General.

You have been working with Cumulus for a long time, what has your career been like?

The lucky stars brought me from the international financial sector to the University of Art and Design Helsinki´s (TaiK) Department of Industrial Design in 1990, when Europe and the world were in the grip of deep economic laws. The Berlin Wall broke in 1989 and Finland plunged into a deep recession.

All this gave the inspiration to start building a network that is important for education and research in design, media and art - which was the mission of the then Rector of TaiK, Yrjö Sotamaa, and Raimo Nikkanen, Professor of Industrial Design. The EU's Erasmus program was launched in 1987 and Finland joined in 1991. At the same time, TaiK set out to build Cumulus together with the renowned Royal College of Art in London.

I jumped into heading the university's international activities in 1991. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration, a training as an art historian from the University of Helsinki and experience in languages ​​and communication, and also already then a strong interest in building a European network.

What does the recognition mean to you?

No one can get that alone. The recognition is thanks to Finland, Aalto University, Cumulus' membership and partners, as well as more than a million students, academics and staff members for their faith and actions over the years. Cooperation in our fields is a force. I have for my part certainly dared to break the boundaries, had faith in humans and tomorrow, as well as built bridges durable of hard traffic. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. And being part of a tough RSA club also sets us obligations.

Cumulus bends to many things that members or partners need. It is a platform where it is easy for the individual to build new partnerships."

Secretary General of Cumulus Network, Eija Salmi

What should everyone know about Cumulus?

Cumulus bends to many things that members or partners need. It is a platform where it is easy for the individual to build new partnerships, individual or institutional: to agree on things, to share and obtain information, and to enter into discussions in wider circles. Cumulus conferences serve both research and large-scale knowledge sharing by breaking silos. There is strength in cooperation: applications for funding, i.e. projects, are successful and effective. Cumulus also builds and maintains student exchanges, passes on international recruitment, student marketing and communications, and affects ranking results.

Cumulus has expanded into a network covering a total of 340 universities in 61 countries, and also other networks have been absorbed to Cumulus over the years. Universities are thinking more and more strategically and operatively, which means that the number of Cumulus members is growing. International partnerships strengthen the effectiveness of education and research in our fields. Cumulus currently has more than 50 major international partners, and the number is growing. Cumulus is also recognized by UNESCO. Through the network, we have the opportunity to reach more than a million students and hundreds of thousands of academics and other professionals in the field.

What's current in Cumulus at the moment?

The first annual conference and general meeting of Design Cultures will be held in Rome in June. We will also celebrated the 30th anniversary together with some group of participants on site and in any case via zoom. The following conference will take place in Ecuador in October.

Also, worth noting is the Cumulus Connects platform that was launched last year for members and partners for collaboration and impact, there’s going to be all sorts of interesting things. The Design Declaration is a joint declaration of international organizations under which we organize the World Design Summit. There are several projects going on, the most important of which is the goal of opening up design education, i.e. what it is and what it should be. This is being done in collaboration with, among others, the German iF industry association.

In addition, there are competitions such as with the BeOpen Foundation, the Beirut Identity Competition, the Cumulus Green 2022 competition, and collaborations with the UN Food Summit and Innovaspace, among others. The PRE Practice-Education-Research collaboration with the International Association of Interaction Design Professionals IxDA provides a platform to challenge professionals, researchers, teachers, business, industry and organizations, and institutions to engage in dialogue and work together to extend the significance of our fields to a wider audiences. In addition, in collaboration with the EU, the “The New Bauhaus” led by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is an interesting new opening.

What is on your table right now?

I’m working closely with the above mentioned projects, and AWD Ahmedabad ​​Design Week in India is also coming. India’s global importance is also growing with the help of Cumulus. My everyday life will also include updating Cumulus websites and a lot more. At the beginning of the day you don’t always know what’s coming up, but it’s always a lot of interesting stuff!

Cumulus is an international association of art and design and media colleges and universities. It is the only global association serving art and design education and research. It is a forum for partnership and for transferring knowledge and best practices. Cumulus currently has 340 members in 61 countries.

More information:


Royal Society of Arts FRSA

Eija Salmi

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