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President Ilkka Niemelä to alumni: Together we are a force for change

Aalto Alumni Weekend brought together over 700 alumni to learn and discuss solutions for a sustainable future.
Ihmisiä Aalto Alumni Weekend 2023 -tapahtumassa
Photos in the article by Pinja Valja and Katri Heinämäki.

Aalto’s biggest alumni event of the year attracted over 700 alumni from the fields of technology, business and art and design to the university's campus on Saturday 28 October.

At Aalto Alumni Weekend, more than 50 experts presented solutions for a sustainable future in seven programme tracks. The different tracks gave everyone a chance to identify and discuss their own way to make a difference for a sustainable future.   

Like many other alumni, Padma Srivari came to the event to network and make new acquaintances. ‘This was a welcome opportunity for me to connect with other alumni. I came here to meet people, listen to interesting speakers and learn about the companies they represent.’  

Business alumni Hanna Suoranta and Sirpa Alhava, who followed the cybersecurity and artificial intelligence track, praised the excellent presentations. ‘Great speakers! The concepts were so well explained that even those without expertise in the field could grasp them easily. It made me feel included and capable’, said Suoranta.

More than 100 000 alumni 

There are already over 100,000 Aalto alumni in more than 100 countries. In his opening speech, president Ilkka Niemelä said that Aalto's greatest impact on society comes from the people educated by the university.  

‘Alumni are important influencers in Finnish society, business and other organisations. Through your choices and decisions, you can influence the sustainable future of Finland and the world – every day. What a force for change we can create together.’

Education and research leading the way  

Minister of Science and Culture and business alum Sari Multala championed a future built on education and research.  

‘Finland's success and international competitiveness are based on science and expertise. The vast majority of today's and tomorrow's problems can ultimately be solved through science and expertise. Aalto University and the entire Otaniemi campus area, with its companies and actors, are global leaders in solving many of these problems.’ 

Multala also encouraged companies to invest in research and product development to achieve the government's goal of increasing R&D funding to four percent of Finland's GDP. ‘During the whole government term, public R&D funding will increase by €1 billion. However, public funding alone will not help us reach this target. Private investment will have to increase significantly.’ 

Multala thanked Aalto for its close cooperation with business. ‘Aalto is one of the best in Finland in terms of cooperation not only across disciplines but also between the university and the business world.’

Stressing the importance of education, Multala highlighted the need for doctoral graduates in the labour market. ‘We also need more and more people with a PhD in their own field. The demand for PhDs in the labour market is growing, and the R&D policies we are putting in place will further increase it. It pays to use the skills of PhDs in an open-minded way.’ 

Kemian tekniikan alumnit Eeva Viinikka ja Outi Virtanen

Refreshing insights

Chemical engineering alumni Eeva Viinikka and Outi Virtanen described the event as energising and impressive. They liked, for example, the speech by Saara Kujala, CEO of Ren-Gas, on the ‘Green transition’ track. ‘People often talk about the global perspective, so getting a local perspective and solution was really refreshing and gratifying,’ said Viinikka.

Long-term cooperation  

Petri Lehmus, Vice President of Research and Development at Neste, offered the perspective of a company that has made great strides on the road to sustainable development. He is a third-generation chemical engineering Aalto alum. 

‘Humankind has succeeded in developing solutions to global challenges before, so I believe we can continue to do so. The transition to green energy is progressing, but it takes time and has a price tag. There are no silver bullets, but many different types of solutions are needed, and for investments to happen they have to be profitable,’ said Lehmus.   

Neste has a long history of research cooperation with Aalto. The latest fruit of this collaboration is the Digifuels project, which has created the world's most advanced virtual tool to better understand how fuel components from future feedstocks affect octane levels.   

Neste is also a major employer of Aalto alumni. Today, more than 600 of Neste's employees are Aalto alumni.

Technology, humanity and radical creativity 

Member of Parliament Atte Harjanne approached the day’s theme from two perspectives: we need both technological solutions and a human perspective on how to keep everyone on the path to sustainability.  

‘On the one hand, it’s important to create a sense of urgency, and on the other hand people need to feel that this is fair for everyone. We also need radical creativity to scale up technological solutions on a global scale. That’s why Aalto is the place to be. Otaniemi has the knowledge, the thinking and the creativity to deliver solutions for the best of the world.’ 

The importance of radical creativity was also discussed by Emilia Hernesniemi, who directed the film Radical Creatives for Aalto, and Milla Kokko, the film's producer. They believe that radical creativity is about challenging our current systems and changing the paradigm altogether. ‘A sustainable future requires solutions that not only enhance what already exists but also reshape what we think is possible’, said Kokko.  

Hernesniemi added that there is creativity in all of us and that it is a key competence in shaping a sustainable future.

Alumni of the Year

The alumni of the year from Aalto's six schools and Aalto University Executive Education were presented at Alumni Weekend.

Meet the Alumni of the Year
Red-haired woman standing outside of Aalto University Töölö building in Helsinki, surrounded by trees and grass. A bus and tram on the background.

For alumni

As an alum, you are part of Aalto community. Let's stay connected and develop together!

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