Espoo, a pioneer!

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2019-12-16 Leena Sarvaranta,Head of EU Affairs, VTT.

A European ’hot spot’ in Otaniemi in Espoo.

In Otaniemi in Espoo, the one and very same campus area is home to numerous start-ups, the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, in addition to Aalto University. In Espoo, nearly 1,500 professionals work at VTT alone, performing interesting and meaningful tasks. The VTT Centre for Metrology (MIKES) is also located in Otaniemi. Keilaniemi and Tapiola are only a short walking distance – or one metro stop – away. In the European context, Espoo forms a unique competence hub that each resident of Espoo can be proud of.

VTT headquarters are located in Espoo, but VTT operates throughout the EU

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has highlighted global challenges and solutions to them as its key priorities. Responsibility permeates everything we do, and how we do it. The most significant effort made by VTT is to develop sustainable solutions for customers and society at large. Because our research results are quite widely utilised, the impact of VTT in promoting sustainable development is quite substantial.

Our national task under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment creates an excellent basis for our international cooperation, which will also provide our Finnish cooperation partners with access to international expertise and knowledge. If you fly to Brussels, you are very likely to see a VTT employee on the plane. Cooperation and networks come naturally to VTT employees, and we promise to challenge ourselves and our partners in keeping to our brand promise.

VTT also has an international work community. More than 10 % of VTT employees in Espoo were born outside Finland. If even one person who does not speak Finnish is participating in an internal meeting, everyone turns into English. We adopted English as one of our official work languages roughly ten years ago. The fact that VTT is involved in more than 400 international research projects each year, most of which are funded by the EU, is indicative of the international impact and scale of international cooperation at VTT. In 2014–2019, we have received nearly 180 million euros of funding from the biggest research and innovation funding programme in the world, the EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. Our share accounts for approximately 18 % of all Horizon funding to Finland. We contribute in ways as well: we monitor several segments of EU policies, promote comprehensive and responsible innovation actions and participate in the experimental development of new research and innovation structures and mechanisms.  

Finnish cooperation creates a strong basis

VTT employees engage in active cooperation in Finland with companies, universities, other research institutions, research funding agencies, as well as different administrative branches. Our goal is to promote regular information sharing and the formation of a shared view of issues that are important to Finland.

VTT’s input to competence hubs and the development of innovation ecosystems throughout Finland are evident in the Centres of Excellence and the flagships of the Finnish Flagships Programme of the Academy of Finland. A significant part of Finnish national innovation infrastructure is based on VTT’s research infrastructure and open development environments that enable development chains from basic research to pilots and even small scale production. They also engage in strategic cooperation with other European centres of excellence. What Espoo should be especially proud of is Bioruukki in Kivenlahti and the micro- and nanotechnology cleanroom Micronova, the VTT Centre for Metrology (MIKES) and the VTT Centre for Nuclear Safety in Otaniemi. The expansion of the Bioruukki pilot centre, i.e. the biomass centre and textile fibre spinning pilot, were completed in spring 2018. The construction of the third phase of Bioruukki, ‘Green Chemistry Centre’, is scheduled for completion in summer 2020.

Look to the future – cooperation networks between cities must be built now

Climate-neutral Smart Cities is going to be a core theme in the next Horizon Europe Framework Programme (2021–2027). This aligns perfectly with the strategy of the City of Espoo. We must look to the future and we must, quite apparently, learn to change our modus operandi. Clear drivers for this change are climate change, limited resources, accelerating global polarization and the challenges they all bring. We must look for solutions right now. Without research and innovation operations, without comprehensive cooperation and without sizable investments, we will not be able to move forward. In order for Finns to be able to truly participate in creating solutions on a larger scale, urban development in Finland must be expanded to city networks and regional levels. Finns should also be heavily involved in cooperation between European cities. In its EU projects, VTT has systematically built cooperation networks with Finnish and other European cities. The cities of Tampere, Helsinki, Kerava – and Espoo of course – are already involved! We are in great company, as we move forward with these forward-thinking partners.

Leena Sarvaranta. The author is Head of EU Affairs at VTT, a member of Uudenmaan maakunnan yhteistyöryhmä MYR (Uusimaa regional cooperation group) – and a proud resident of Espoo.