“If the best you can do is copy others, you will always be playing catch-up, following and not leading. World-class research teams play a critical role in generating genuinely new knowledge and training new graduates. Innovations are created by those who understand the problems and challenges facing society and the potential of their expertise to solve these problems,” said Teeri at the official opening held on the university’s Arabia campus on 2 September.
In today’s globally competitive world, the success of universities needs to be assessed globally, she continued.
“If we want to succeed as a nation, we need excellent researchers, the best anywhere in fact. It is of primary importance that the universities that Finland wants to maintain are international leaders in their areas of strength. It is also essential that university professors have good links to the business world and the rest of society. In this respect, Finland and Aalto University are already world-leading.”
Tuula Teeri also underlined the importance of a long-term perspective in making investments in the university sector.
“A lack of consistent direction in university funding will always have a negative effect. Developing cutting-edge expertise is expensive, but trying to live without it is even more expensive.”
Universities as drivers of development
The Chairperson of the Aalto Student Union Board, Lauri Lehtoruusu, also highlighted the importance of successful universities in today’s internationally competitive world.
“Finland’s strength and future will be based on freedom and responsibility, and these are the qualities that will foster our future experts and their individuality and ability to survive in global competition and generate added value for society during their studies and after. The university of the future must not be a factory for degrees or publications, but a driver for developing society and one that serves society at the same time.”
Matti Vanhanen, the Managing Director of the Finnish Family Firms Association, addressed the event on behalf of the business community. As Prime Minister, he played a central role in the creation of Aalto University and recalled those times:
“The additional funding that my government allocated as capital and for operational expenses was not granted as automatic extra funding for the university sector. The sector only received this funding because of the university reform process then under way, and a major part of this additional funding was provided because we believed in the concept behind Aalto University. This money was not taken away from other universities, it was simply extra money.”
The Aalto Talk was given by Assistant Professor, Micro and Nanoelectronics Hele Savin, who outlined some of the new research under way in her field of solar energy and the significance of corporate collaboration in her research work. Professor Savin heads up the Electron Physics Group at the School of Electrical Engineering; and in 2013 received the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Young Scientist Award, an annual honour given to the world's most respected young scientific pioneers.
The Aalto Act of the Year Award was also presented at the event, to Professor, Textile Art and Design Pirjo Kääriäinen of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, and Professor, Wood Chemistry Tapani Vuorinen of the School of Chemical Technology, in recognition of their contribution to the launch of the cross-disciplinary CHEMARTS initiative. Student-led CHEMARTS projects have brainstormed and developed textiles that change their colour, luxury products produced from Finnish pulp, and products made from recycled fibre using 3D printing technology.