Global and local impact support one another
Our university is becoming increasingly international on many fronts. In research, we place emphasis on high-quality international publications. In research funding, on the other hand, increasing the share of direct international funding constitutes one our key near-future goals.
Furthermore, the number of our international students, staff and faculty has taken an upward turn, thanks to our increasingly diverse provision of programmes taught in English.
Each of the above forms of internationalisation are supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. They also play an increasingly important role in the model by which Finnish universities obtain government funding.
While embracing international cooperation, Finnish universities are also encouraged to be increasingly strong regional actors. It is no longer enough to train a workforce for regional needs; instead, universities are expected to collaborate with companies, science parks, development companies, and so on. The ideal is for universities to commercialise research findings in a manner which brings competitive advantage to local businesses and generates new academic spin-off companies.
Scientific excellence and relevance do not necessarily go hand in hand. Even the largest regional companies may lack in absorption capacity when it comes to scientific research. Furthermore, internationally recognised research and education do not necessarily have any relevance to the everyday life of an entrepreneur, citizen or municipal decision-maker living in eastern Finland.
However, I am a firm believer in a fruitful coexistence of global and regional impact, and the promotion of this synergy requires a determined strategy. Let me give you an example: We are increasingly refocusing our research to take a multidisciplinary approach to the great challenges facing mankind. This makes it possible for basic research and practical applications to interact on a very concrete level. For instance, research addressing the sustainable use of natural resources can be linked not only to the development of new biofuels but also to their climate and health effects, as well as to energy policy and energy law. All of these combined produce information to support political decision-making and decisions made by companies. Multidisciplinarity can also lead to the emergence of new degree programmes aimed at solving specific challenges.
The great challenges the University of Eastern Finland is focusing on have relevance to our region. As examples, I'd like to pick ageing and common chronic diseases, cross-border mobility, and the mining industry's social licence to operate.
In recent years, collaboration at the regional level has helped us to identify themes in which our strong fields of research meet the region's evolving production clusters. In fact, I think we have come a long way in what in today's EU jargon is termed "smart specialisation".