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Heikki Holmberg, School of Electrical Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2023: The semiconductor industry is a sector of the future

The Alumnus of the Year appreciates his institute and has only noticed the value of the know-how acquired during the studies in working life.
Sähkötekniikan korkeakoulun vuoden alumni 2023 Heikki Holmberg kuvattuna Otaniemessä Micronovan tiloissa Okmeticin piikiekko-laatikko käsissään. Holmberg pääsi seuraamaan jo opiskeluaikoina puolijohdealalle merkittävän Micronovan rakentamista. Kuva: Niina Norjamäki / Aalto-yliopisto
Alumnus of the Year 2023 from the School of Electrical Engineering Heikki Holmberg, photographed in the Micronova facilities in Otaniemi, holding the Okmetic silicon disc box. Photo: Niina Norjamäki / Aalto University

Heikki Holmberg, Senior technology development manager at Okmetic, says that he ended up in the semiconductor industry through his own interest, but also by chance. 

'I've always liked physics. When I took the course Basics of Semiconductor Technology, I got hooked into the field. The semiconductor industry is an international and cross-disciplinary field that combines material physics, electrophysics and chemistry,' he says.

Holmberg graduated as a Master of Science (Technology) Department of Electrical Engineering, the predecessor of Aalto University, in 2002. He defended his doctoral dissertation in 2008. 

Semiconductors and nanotechnology were areas in which the university and the state invested a lot in the early 2000s even though Finland did not yet have much industry in the field. At the moment, there is a huge need for labour in the sector in Europe and Finland. The semiconductor sector employs approximately 5,000 people, but the sector's own goal is to employ 20,000 people in 2032. 

For students, Holmberg has a clear message.

'In my own study path, the most valuable thing was at that time the Department of Electrical Engineering had a lot of options and room to find my own path, which is still possible at Aalto University. The teaching was very close to the research work and the basics were taught well. I have never encountered a situation in working life where I would not have understood the contents. In fact, teaching in Otaniemi is among the best in the world, which I've noticed in working life.'

Holmberg emphasises that it is worth focusing on the basic studies, as there is no time for basics in working life.

'In addition, I greatly appreciate the team spirit and active professors from the time of my studies. I have met many of my fellow students later in working life, so it is a good idea to create networks already in Otaniemi,' he continues.

With regard to the highlights of his work, Holmberg mentions the growth of the sector during his career, as a number of new employers and start-ups have emerged over the past ten years.

'During my career, I have been able to manage extensive and challenging product development projects and succeeded in getting a large number of EU projects approved. Working in the field is varying and international, which is something I really like.'

Cooperation with university and companies is important

Heikki Holmberg knows the importance of co-operation between the university, research institutes and companies, and has been actively involved in it for many years through different concepts. Most recently, departments opened summer jobs in six different research groups in the summer of 2023, thanks to donations from companies in the semiconductor sector. Through the Semi-Summer 2023 programme, companies in the sector wanted to strengthen competence in the semiconductor sector and increase its attractiveness. 

'I consider cooperation and bold new ideas in the field to be very important. The students and younger upper secondary school students don’t know well enough how diverse the field is - for example, it requires both practical and theoretical learning. In many companies, product development is carried out with emphasis on shorter-term objectives, but collaboration with the university and research institutes is taking place in a bigger picture, aiming far into the future', he says.

'The sector's biggest growth barriers have been trained workforce, and I am happy to be involved in everything that can be done concretely to promote this. I also consider a versatile work community to be extremely important for competitiveness.'

Heikki Holmberg received the School of Electrical Engineering's Alumnus of the Year Award on Saturday 28 October 2023 at the Aalto Alumni Weekend seminar in Otaniemi.

Dean Jussi Ryynänen explains the choice:
Our staff, alumni’s and students of our community were able to propose the Alumni of the Year during the spring and summer. School of Electrical Engineering management team considered in their discussion Heikki Holmberg's great cooperation with our university in connection with the Semi-Summer 2023 program and in general in bringing the semiconductor industry Alumnito the fore as significant for the selection. I hope that his selection as the Alumnus of the Year will encourage students to choose their own study path and also see the possibilities of the semiconductor industry.

Micronova on Suomen kansallinen mikro- ja nanotekniikan alan tutkimusinfrastruktuuri, joka on VTT:n ja Aalto-yliopiston yhteisomistuksessa.

'It was great to be part of the research team' - The semiconductor industry’s summer job program was a success

Donations from companies in the semiconductor industry enabled students Niko Lindh and Adrián Gutiérrez Cruz to get summer jobs with Aalto University research groups

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