Juha Siivola encourages researchers to innovate and think of ways to commercialise their work
When Juha Siivola began work at Aalto University after a long career in industry, his objective was clear. He wanted to help develop ideas, technological solutions, products and companies from academic research. These will advance the Finnish society and help maintain Finland’s competitiveness, and Aalto is an ideal environment for such activities.
Siivola, who graduated as Master of Science in Technology in the late 1990s, worked in the industrial business a couple of decades before moving to his current task as an innovation advisor at Aalto University School of Science. He gained experience in, for example, international software and product development at Nokia, Symbian and Digia, along with several smaller companies and startup-typed projects.
Siivola started working as an innovation advisor at Aalto University School of Science in June 2019 and believes his experience will prove useful when the ideas stemming from the work of Aalto’s researchers is commercialised.
The academic world often focuses on the academic merits of the research alone. Siivola wants to encourage researchers to innovate and consider the commercial possibilities related to their work. These should be considered monthly. ‘In addition to having a long-term academic goal, it would be good to think about possible short-term results,’ Siivola says.
It is also useful to look into the types of research being carried out at other departments and institutes of higher education. Several successful innovations and inventions are based on cross-disciplinary collaboration, and opportunities for collaborating at Aalto are good.
‘When considering, for instance, the field of information technology, it is good to keep in mind that software are always tied to e.g. equipment solutions and the manufacturing of material. Considering the technical impact of, say, algorithms when they are applied to a different branch of industry, is beneficial.’
Aalto provides a safe environment for experimenting with commercialisation
Siivola and his colleagues are in charge of the School of Science’s IPR, i.e. intellectual property rights and transferring them. Practically, this deals with patents and control over them. A research and innovation service team helps supporters in refining invention ideas and applying for patents. The application process is a long one, lasting even three to five years.
An innovation a day keeps the moss away
‘This involves a lot of analyses and commentaries on patent texts and reacting to interlocutory decisions. It also involves strategic decisions on e.g. which technology sector and geographical area the patent should be directed at.’ Siivola is also involved in technology transfers – AI solutions will be increasingly seen in all industrial sectors in the future.
The team of research and innovation services focuses on commercialisation as well. Once research projects produce something with commercial potential, Siivola and his colleagues consult the researchers and help develop business ideas and business logic.
The goal is to help create a solid foundation for a company starting its journey at Aalto. ‘We want to provide the best tools we can and be involved during the entire development project. One successful tool is the Research to Business funding (formerly TUTLI) offered by Business Finland. This makes the commercialisation and research project last from one to two years.’
Siivola hopes to be able to help researchers find ideas and a basis for commercialisation. He encourages contacting research and innovation services on a very light basis. Ideas about invention or business ideas can be sent through the innovation team website. It does not have to be a fully refined idea, and all kinds of initiatives are welcome. ‘An innovation a day keeps the moss away,’ Siivola states.
The university is a good environment to start advancing your own invention or innovation. In the corporate world, the invention always belongs to the employer’s, but at the university, the practice is beneficial for inventors. An invention made at the Open University, for example, belongs to person who makes it. ‘Aalto offers a safe environment for experimenting with commercialisation and business thinking,’ Siivola says.
English translation by Annika Rautakoura