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President Ilkka Niemelä

Ilkka Niemelä, rehtori

Dear Aalto University alumni,

Twenty-seventeen has been a prosperous year for Aalto University. I am very proud of the work our staff and students have done, thanks to which our academic results as well as our standing in international assessments have risen dramatically.

In the QS Top 50, a list of new universities under 50 years old, Aalto was ranked the number one university in Europe, and the seventh best in the world overall. Aalto also reached the select Times Higher Education group of 55 universities that are up-and-comers for technology, international outlook and especially for novel collaboration with industry. The Financial Times Executive Education Ranking for 2017 chose Aalto Executive Education as among the world’s top 50 business management trainers, while Aalto’s degree programme in Fashion continues from strength to strength, currently judged to be the 5th best in the world.

In autumn 2014, the Finnish government decided to provide universities with a maximum of 150 million euros in funds to match those received through private donation by the end of June 2017. Our ‘Future is Made Today’ campaign exceeded its goal of 20 million euros, and Aalto is therefore receiving another 24.3 million in matching funds from the state. I am grateful to our alumni for their donations, which for their part have thus helped to ensure and expand our funding base.

Our operating environment has made positive strides recently also. We have seen economic growth, and next year’s state budget is offering interesting new opportunities for Aalto University’s flagship projects and profiling.

In addition to the traditional tasks of the university – performing basic research and providing higher education – there is a third mission: societal interaction, in which we also promote the impact of our academic work and findings on the broader society. Aalto takes this task seriously. We want to produce truly groundbreaking knowledge and skills in order to find solutions for the grand challenges facing society. We also wish to strengthen mutually beneficial work with commercial and economic actors, as the broad collaboration of Aalto graduates with business, industry and art puts us in an excellent position to accomplish our third mission as a university.

The initiative and superb work of Aalto students and alumni can also be credited with the formation of a globally unique entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystem around Aalto, which has already led to hundreds of new businesses and thousands of young changemakers who dare to embrace the new and take on challenges with an enterprising can-do attitude. This has produced world-class events such as Slush, held in late November, or Junction, which was held the weekend before and is Europe’s largest hackathon event.

Opening soon on campus is A Grid, a centre for growth companies and a good example of the kind of large-scale projects that radiate out into the surrounding society. Robust research and innovation clusters attract new businesses, creative disciplines and international players. A Grid will host among other things the first UN technology and innovation laboratory (UNTIL), and the European Space Agency ESA’s business accelerator for space technologies.

Along with A Grid, our campus is rapidly developing in other ways as well. The new metro is at last bringing a fast and convenient connection straight to the heart of campus, where the construction of facilities is in progress to accommodate the School of Arts, Design and Architecture next year and the School of Business the following year. We can’t wait for the schools to get here, though a significant share of their operations already take place at Otaniemi. Next year, we will also see the addition of a new shopping centre with a wide array of services.

Dipoli, a building full of memories and important to many alumni, has been fully renovated as a showcase for the university, an easy-threshold meeting place, and a main building for the whole community. Dipoli includes work offices, auditoriums and exhibition space as well as a coffee shop and five restaurants that are open to everyone. It was decided that Dipoli should also feature art, and exceptionally interesting art. A collection of over 30 artworks was acquired especially for the site. The artists represent a wide range of fields and all hail Aalto as their alma mater. I heartily welcome every alumnus who has not yet done so to come visit the refurbished Dipoli – why not drop in from the new metro!

Dear friends,as we celebrate Finland’s centennial, we are above all celebrating those who have been a part of building Finnish society. You, too, have played a large part in this, honoured alumni. Our students today will over the next 100 years also contribute a meaningful share to Finland’s success.

What better way to mark this than the gathering of students past and present who met at a restored Dipoli to celebrate Finland’s 100 year journey of independence! I want to extend my warmest appreciation to all who took part and organised this intergenerational alumni gathering of nearly 2000 participants, demonstrating once again the vibrancy of the Aalto community.

I wish all of our alumni a very merry yuletide and the best of beginnings for 2018!

Ilkka Niemelä

President and alumnus of Aalto University