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More than 10 years of interdisciplinary innovation

The Agora Center is an internationally recognised, networked research centre for interdisciplinary innovation, with an emphasis on technological applications that integrate into society on a collective and individual level.

In today’s knowledge society, where a company’s reputation and the markets it serves can be global, success depends to a very large extent on innovation and collaboration.

The models and frameworks underpinning innovation activities have changed radically over the last decade. Corporate business models have shifted from traditional product-centred thinking to new, service-based concepts. The open innovation paradigm emphasises the nature of knowledge as a public commodity, a common good, which should serve all of society.

A significant proportion of future innovation activities are likely to take place within networks in which companies represent just one group of players. The focus will increasingly be on innovation that is primarily cooperatively driven, with customers, users, partners, and personnel all making a contribution.

This church boat race held on Lake Jyväsjärvi every year symbolises the importance of collaboration and pulling together, whether in developing new nanotechnology, new smart products, or new forms of ICT-leveraged services.

Building bridges

These developments mean that the university world will have to change as well, as governments and societies expect scholarly research to drive domestic innovation.

The Agora Human Technology Center was launched at the University of Jyväskylä in 2000 to serve as a bridge between the academic community and the business world. During its more than 10-year existence, the Center has built an innovative, collaborative research environment for high-quality interdisciplinary research groups; and its collaborators today include Finnish and international organisations, principally other universities, businesses, and public and third-sector organisations.

Innovation and collaboration are central to the Agora Center’s emphasis on research outcomes, both in approach and process, and its vision of developing tomorrow’s knowledge society from a human-centred point of view. By creatively combining cutting-edge research in a range of scientific disciplines with the expertise of its diverse partner network, the Center’s operating model differs significantly from that of a traditional university.

Tackling the challenges of sustainable innovation

Inspired by the work carried out at Agora and across the Jyväskylä region, Antti Hautamäki, a well-known researcher of the Finnish national innovation system and the networked knowledge economy, joined the local innovation ecosystem in 2009 as a research professor at Agora. Currently acting as the Center’s Director, he concentrates on innovation processes, particularly service innovation.

Hautamäki believes that universities have a major role to play in the innovation system. The long-term research work they carry out provides a solid foundation for innovation activities, even though most innovations are actually made in the business world.

Agora offers new, challenging, and innovative environments for collaborative research and study. Interdisciplinarity and external collaboration are central to the Center’s philosophy, says the Dean of the Information Technology Faculty at Jyväskylä, Professor Pekka Neittaanmäki.

Understanding the human connection

The steady stream of development in the information and communication technology (ICT) field touches nearly every aspect of contemporary life and is closely intertwined with how society is developing. Human-technology interaction and the human role in different technologies call for constant, interdisciplinary investigation.

Human Technology, published by the Agora Center, is a scholarly, multi‑disciplinary journal dedicated to promoting research and scientific discussion in this area. Human Technology presents innovative, peer-reviewed articles that explore the issues and challenges surrounding the human role in all areas of modern society.

An online, open-access publication, Human Technology can be read free of charge, underscoring the philosophy that good research should be available to all. The journal draws its authors, reviewers, and readers from around the world; and has nearly 2,000 subscribers and thousands of readers, around half of which are from companies while the other half are researchers.

Human Technology also offers its research partners the opportunity to publish special issues focused on particular topics and edited by qualified international experts, with content sourced from a project’s own researchers and/or other contributors.

See www.humantechnology.jyu.fi for more.

Dynamic IT research and study

The Faculty of Information Technology, located at the Agora Human Technology Center, is the first and largest of its kind in Finland.

Information Systems Science has been taught at the University of Jyväskylä since 1967, and there are currently more than 1,500 Bachelor’s and Master’s students and 150 postgraduates studying at the Faculty. The Faculty has long-standing international partnerships with 35 universities all over the world, and almost 40% of its Ph.D. graduates come from outside Finland.

The Faculty has become well-known for the quality of its programming teaching, students’ IT development projects for external organisations, its research on scientific computing, and its dynamic Master’s and postgraduate programmes.

Mathematical Information Technology, Computer Science, Cognitive Science, and Information Systems Science are all strongly represented.

“ The long-term research work carried out by universities 
provides a solid foundation for innovation.”

> Päivi Fadjukoff
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)