In ten years, Aalto University has created a world-class centre of expertise

Aalto University has brought together science, art, technology and business at the Otaniemi campus and is now one of the world's leading universities in these key areas. Aalto celebrates its 10th anniversary on Wednesday 8 January 2020.
Aalto-yliopiston kampus
The Otaniemi campus has rapidly grown into a world-class collaboration hub. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture moved to Otaniemi in autumn 2018, and the School of Business relocated in early 2019. Photo: Mika Huisman / Aalto University

In 2010, the University of Art and Design Helsinki, Helsinki School of Economics and the Helsinki University of Technology merged to form Aalto University. The new university was given a national mission; To strengthen Finland’s innovation capacity through first-class research, artistic activities and education.

‘Over the past ten years, we have become a forerunner in our key areas. This success is due to the Aalto community’s enthusiastic and determined work and our open way of working together’ says President Ilkka Niemelä.

In field-specific international comparisons, Aalto's key areas are already amongst the best in the world. For example, the art and design field ranks 7th in the QS listing (4th in Europe); telecommunications technology ranked 22nd in field rankings by ShanghaiRanking (4th in Europe); information technology ranked 33rd in the US News (3rd in Europe); business administration at 29th by ShanghaiRanking (4th in Europe); architecture / built environment ranked 42nd in the QS listing (16th in Europe).

Aalto is also one of the world's leading universities under the age of 50 (ranked 9th in the QS) and ranked among the best universities in the world in global comparisons (QS 134th; Times Higher Education 184th).

The Otaniemi campus has created a network hub

The Otaniemi campus has rapidly grown into a world-class collaboration hub. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture moved to Otaniemi in autumn 2018, and the School of Business relocated in early 2019.

The heart of Aalto University's business cooperation is at the A Grid Centre where the Aalto Startup Center can be found, as well as 140 companies and communities, such as the business incubator of the European Space Agency ESA and the United Nations technology laboratory.

‘At Aalto, we are developing solutions to major global challenges. In addition to high-quality research, education and innovation, we have unique strengths that can be utilised for future challenges. A truly multidisciplinary community that creates new perspectives and an inspiring, entrepreneurial culture,’ says Ilkka Niemelä. 

This success is due to the Aalto community’s enthusiastic and determined work and our open way of working together.

President Ilkka Niemelä

Aalto is involved in six European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) networks, which makes Aalto the leading EIT university in Europe. The goal of the networks is to promote cooperation, entrepreneurship and new ideas between businesses and educational and research institutes.

The Aalto community also develops innovations in direct cooperation with their partners such as  the BatCircle consortium of companies and research institutes led by Aalto and Outotec which is responsible for the strategic planning of battery recycling throughout the EU. The goal of the consortium is for the value of the battery market in Finland to reach as high as €5 billion in the near future.

Aalto success stories: From Slush to satellites and the textile revolution

From the beginning, Aalto University has encouraged and supported a student-driven entrepreneurial culture. Aalto students have played a crucial role in developing Slush into one of Europe's leading startup events. A large number of research-driven startups have started at Aalto and among these are Iceye; that build the world's smallest radar satellites, ElFys; which has revolutionised light measurement, and IQM; which createquantum computers. Every year, the Aalto ecosystem generates 70–100 new growth companies. 

Many of the significant breakthroughs would not have been achieved without the combination of science, art, technology and business and one example of these is the Ioncell method, which originated from cooperation between Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. This method produces high-quality textile fibres from wood and recycled textiles without toxic solvents. Aalto is already preparing a full pilot production line which will allow Ioncell to make a big leap towards industrial production.

According to Professor of practice, Pirjo Kääriäinen, who has been involved in the development of Ioncell, collaboration between different fields will bring enormous benefits in long-term materials research.

‘We have the whole textile manufacturing chain at Aalto, from producing the fibres to thread, fabrics and finished products’, Kääriäinen says.

Elisa Mekler
'Aalto University's reputation for research into human-computer interaction is among the best in Europe,' says Elisa Mekler. Photo: Matti Ahlgren / Aalto University

Aalto's high-quality research and teaching attract experts from around the world to Otaniemi, and the share of foreign researchers, teachers and students has doubled at Aalto University during the past ten years.Based on international comparisons, Aalto has become one of the most international universities in continental Europe (ranked 50th in the Times Higher Education comparison).

One of the recent members of Aalto University is Assistant Professor Elisa Mekler from the Department of Computer Science. She moved from Basel in Switzerland to Otaniemi, attracted by high-quality research,

‘Aalto University's reputation for research into human-computer interaction is among the best in Europe. One of my hopes has always been to get to a department with a well-established and strong presence in my field of research,’ Mekler explains.

Choosing the place to study was easy for Joel Himanen, who is studying in Aalto's Bachelor's Degree Programme in Engineering Physics and Mathematics.

'I was interested in mathematics and physics, and the versatility of student life in Otaniemi attracted me. Over the years, I have had the chance to solve all kinds projects and challenges in a really diverse company through my studies as well as through volunteering at the Quild of Physics and at the student union. You can't get that kind of experience anywhere else!'

Contact information:

President Ilkka Niemelä
[email protected]

Aalto's ten years
  • In ten years, more than 17 000 masters and over 2 200 doctors have graduated from Aalto. There are currently over 12 400 full-time students at Aalto.
  • Approximately 20 000 international peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published in ten years.
  • 70-100 growth companies are founded every year in Aalto's ecosystem.
  • Aalto employs around 4 100 full-time personnel. Approximately 400 of them are professors, 500 other research and education personnel, 500 postdoctoral researchers and 1 000 doctoral students. The service staff is close to 1 300.
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