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Part of a new era of innovation

As Finland’s oldest and largest university of technology and architecture, with over a century in the field, the Helsinki University of Technology has played a prominent role in building Finland’s industrial and economic competitiveness. This tradition will continue when the university becomes part of Finland’s new Aalto University in 2010.
Aalto University

The roots of the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) stretch back to 1849, when the Technical School of Helsinki began the systematic teaching of technology in Finland, as part of efforts to increase the competitiveness of local industry. After being given university status in 1908, TKK has awarded doctoral and master’s degrees in technology and architecture and has become the leading Finnish university in science, technology, and architecture, with a solid international reputation.

While 102 new students were admitted in 1908, the number totalled more than 1,000 in 2008. From 20 first degrees in 1908, today’s TKK awards over a thousand annually, and has awarded more than 35,000 first degrees and more than 2,200 doctorates over the years.

Part of Aalto University

Today’s TKK is structured around four faculties, 25 departments, and nine separate institutes, which offer 19 degree programmes to around 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Eight units at the university currently hold Centre of Excellence status within the national network coordinated by the Academy of Finland. In addition, TKK is also a member of three joint Centres of Excellence.

The Helsinki University of Technology celebrated 100 years of university-level education and research in technology in 2008.

Looking ahead, TKK will be one of the partners – along with the Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design Helsinki – in Aalto University, Finland’s new ‘university of innovation’. Scheduled to become operational in 2010 and strongly supported by both the Finnish state and Finnish industry, Aalto University is being created to encourage new types of knowledge creation and innovation.

TKK’s close relations with the business world are reflected in the more than 1,000 R&D projects that the university takes part in annually in partnership with companies such as Nokia and other ICT companies, and businesses in the forest products, mechanical engineering, chemicals, and nanotechnology, as well as the Finnish Defence Forces.

Industry is a partner in one project in two; and more than a third of projects are international, with the main emphasis on European cooperation in research and training.

Concentrated high-tech

Otaniemi, where TKK is based, is home to a wide range of scientific and technological activities, and has been the most important centre of high technology in northern Europe for some years.

TKK and several other institutes such as VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, together with hundreds of high-tech companies, form a unique and innovative community, and one that has been named the EU’s ‘Most Innovative Region’ a total of three times.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Region, for its part, has been ranked as the EU’s most competitive region in the European Competitiveness Index twice.

Otaniemi is an excellent example of the close collaboration between public research organisations and industry that is so characteristic of the Finnish innovation system.

Centres of excellence

Eight units at the Helsinki University of Technology hold Centre of Excellence status within the national network coordinated by the Academy of Finland:

  • Adaptive Informatics Research
  • Bio- and Nanopolymers Research Group
  • Computational Complex Systems Research
  • Computational Nanoscience Group (COMP)
  • Generic Intelligent Machines Research
  • Low-Temperature Quantum Phenomena and Devices
  • Smart and Novel Radio Research Unit (SMARAD), and
  • Systems Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Research.

TKK is also a partner in three joint Centres of Excellence:

  • Algorithmic Data Analysis Research (with the University of Helsinki)
  • Helsinki Brain Research Centre (HBRC) (with the University of Helsinki and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa), and
  • Inverse Problems (with the Universities of Helsinki, Kuopio, and Oulu, and the Lappeenranta University of Technology).

International innovation

The Otaniemi International Innovation Centre (OIIC) has played an important part in the university’s activities since it was founded 10 years ago, and offers a wide range of professional services – from liaison on R&D projects and managing TKK’s IPR portfolio to assistance for start-ups.

The OIIC is also responsible for managing TKK’s research contracts, commercialising inventions, assisting students with their careers, and alumni relations.

The OIIC acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for R&D services in promoting the development and use of competencies, skills, and new technologies; and contributes to innovation activities across the university’s campus at Otaniemi and the Helsinki Metropolitan Region.

> Veijo Ilmavirta
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)