Research Cooperation for Change

April 24, 2012

Universities across Finland are increasingly engaging in research and cooperative action that seeks to address key challenges faced by society today. This type of research plays an essential role in not only increasing understanding on issues of societal significance, but also highlights the important part universities can play in creating change for the better. Undermining this potential for real societal impact, however, is a lack of a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary understanding of the current and past research taking place on these issues.

By Melissa Plath

Universities across Finland are increasingly engaging in research and cooperative action that seeks to address key challenges faced by society today. This type of research plays an essential role in not only increasing understanding on issues of societal significance, but also highlights the important part universities can play in creating change for the better.Undermining this potential for real societal impact, however, is a lack of a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary understanding of the current and past research taking place on these issues.This is true not only at a national level, but also at the university level.

In partial answer to this, Aalto University has launched a new initiative, Aalto Global Impact, to bring its university community together to jointly address global societal challenges.Its aim is to create a virtual and physical community where people get inspired and stimulated to co-create new collaborative projects and initiatives for increased societal impact. Aalto Global Impact is an important evolution in the way Finnish universities approach research. Despite differences in area or subject of study, there is a range of potential synergies, benefits, and possibilities to be derived from the networking of researchers and projects within and between universities. Furthermore, identifying the competencies of universities to meaningfully contribute to research for social change is beneficial for identifying future partners, funding possibilities, and projects. Aalto Global Impact recognizes this fact and serves to do just that within Aalto University.

UniPID (The Finnish University Partnership for International Development) is working with these same questions on a more national level, both within Finnish universities and between Finnish universities. Over the past year, UniPID has held workshops at the University of Jyväskylä, University of Tampere, and University of Helsinki to bring together researchers and projects, in order to precipitate collaborative opportunities and research synergies. The aim is to regularly hold similar workshops at each of the UniPID member universities. UniPID workshops have served to create mutual knowledge on the research taking place within the universities and strengthened the network of researchers within each of the universities. On a larger level, much in the same way as the new Aalto Global Impact, UniPID seeks to provide innovative solutions to address the problem of fragmentation of research. In facilitating cooperation between researchers, departments and institutions, these two initiatives are key for research to truly create change for the better