UniPID and FinCEAL Research and Innovation Cooperation with Africa, Asia and LAC regions – "Future Prospects for Science and Policy Seminar" – at Think Corner, University of Helsinki, on 11th of October

October 29, 2018

UniPID and FinCEAL Plus organized the “Research and Innovation Cooperation with Africa, Asia and LAC regions – Future Prospects for Science and Policy” -seminar in Think Corner, Helsinki on 11th of October. More than 80 participants joined the event on-site and another 80 through the live Internet streams. The event provided a platform for discussing the outlook and driving factors on for the current and future cooperation with the target regions.

UniPID and FinCEAL Plus organized the "Research and Innovation Cooperation with Africa, Asia and LAC regions – Future Prospects for Science and Policy” –seminar in Think Corner, Helsinki on 11th of October. More than 80 participants joined the event on-site and another 80 through the live Internet streams. The event provided a platform for discussing the outlook and driving factors for the current and future cooperation with the target regions. Dr. Minna Aslama-Horowitz, Assistant Professor in International Communication at St. John’s University, New York, moderated the seminar and panel sessions.

After the welcome words from Project Manager Melissa Plath and UniPID Coordinator Johanna Kivimäki, Dr. Leo Pekkala from Osaile Company gave a keynote speech on the findings of the external assessment of the FinCEAL Initiative. In his speech, Dr. Pekkala gave background information on the FinCEAL Initiative (FC) and his own evaluation of the different aspects of FC, including grants the Initiative has awarded; the events organized; the Infobank, a database of researchers and projects; FC as a policy contact point; the impact of the above on internationalization; and FC funding model related aspects. According to Dr. Pekkala, the activities carried out by FC have been well targeted, relevant and effective and the Initiative has achieved amazing results especially as the project has had a small number of staff implementing the activities. However, Dr. Pekkala also had some things to criticize: The full cost model used by FC includes the risk that the funding is used to fund expenses that the state has already funding by means of core funding, and that the multiple grants awarded tend to in some cases go to the same grant receiver. In addition, related to the Infobank, as the government has multitude of databases that all are funded by the government Dr. Pekkala was wondering why these databases, including the Infobank, are not integrated. He also suggested that FC should be made sustainable instead of having constant 2-year project cycles to provide more long-lasting benefits for the Finnish research community. He added that higher education institutes need to invest into FC if they want to benefit, and that this kind of support FC has provided does not exist elsewhere.

The full version of Leo Pekkala’s "FinCEAL Initiative 2013-2018 External Assessment” can be downloaded here.

The keynote was followed by the first panel discussion of the seminar "Perspectives to the FinCEAL Assessment and prospects for research cooperation”. At the beginning of panel short opening statements by panelists were made.

Dr. Calkin Suero Montero, Senior Researcher from the University of Eastern Finland expressed her appreciation for the FinCEAL projects and discussed how the FinCEAL funding has helped her to create research consortia and competitive research proposals, understand research policies, and travel to meet the partners and to network with them.

Dr. Elias Pekkola, University Lecturer from the University of Tampere and the Vice Chair of UniPID agreed that the FinCEAL Initiative has indeed facilitated the university-level processes and supported researchers, especially young researchers. He also discussed how useful the Infobank research database has been and that there is a need to make the FinCEAL activities sustainable, which is very important for UniPID but also within the network, bridging individuals and creating links not dependent on funding or institutions but between individuals.

Dr. Leena Wahlfors, Executive Director of Universities Finland (UNIFI) said that FinCEAL has found its locker and niche between different organizations and that the Initiative is very unique, providing a type of funding to organizations and entities that other funding sources do not provide. Dr. Wahlfors also raised the question of how to make FinCEAL activities sustainable.

The fourth panelist Tiina Vihma-Purovaara from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland talked about their internationalization strategies and vision work, which supports the enhancement of internationalization. She also added that if we want to encourage Finnish collaboration with regions, we need to be there where the discussions takes place. In addition, we need to know the people who write the text for the work programmes. She argued that this is FinCEAL’s role in the scientific community and that its activities need be made sustainable. Vihma-Purovaara also introduced the Team Finland Knowledge Network (TFK) Counsellors of Education and Science going to go to Buenos Aires, Beijing and Singapore.

The panel then continued discussing how to make FC and the support for science, innovation and research dialogue with the regions sustainable: It was suggested that the TFK and FC activities could be combined and FC activities funded jointly with the TFK and the universities should be jointly involved on FC funding. In the panel it was also discussed that the universities should discuss more about the funding of activities targeting the regions. Further topics discussed included education export, the importance of global (and regional) collaboration and sustainability, the role of alumni in financial sustainability, and the role of the Academy of Finland in funding the research to the regions and related databases. During the panel discussions the seminar audience actively participated by commenting and asking questions from the panelists.

After the coffee break, FinCEAL coordinators Eva Kagiri, Kajsa Ekroos and Dr. Jarkko Mutanen presented the Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Southeast Asia Policy Briefs. Kagiri and Ekroos presented the premise of the Briefs – there is a need to review the Finnish STI policy landscape and analyze the current cooperation landscape from the research community’s perspective. Moreover, there have been substantial changes in the policy and funding frameworks since the beginning of FinCEAL in 2013, so the Briefs attempt to summarize the lessons learned through the various activities implemented and the interactions with both policy makers and the research community. After the joint introduction, each coordinator presented the key messages from their regional Policy Briefs.

The full versions of Africa, LAC and Southeast Asia policy briefs can be downloaded from here.

The launch of regional policy briefs was followed by the second panel discussion: "Perspectives to the Finnish STI policies in regard to Africa, Asia and LAC”. At the beginning of panel Dr. Minna Aslama-Horowitz raised a question on whether clear strategies for universities, development, innovation and higher education policies is needed and on the nexus between all of these different policies and the regions.

According to Eero Silvennoinen, Director of International Network from Business Finland, research and business need to work together and improve synergies between them and strategies related to them (including related innovation policies). He continued that the Business Finland "Business with Impact-BEAM Program" is interested in the question of how to combine these policies and how to get business involved. In addition, Business Finland is providing a global market for SMEs and related to this it is important to solve societal problems in target countries by taking into an account the United Nation’s goals in collaboration between society, business and academia. According to Silvennoinen, the BEAM program is one way of combining these aspects and explore the nexus.

Samu Seitsalo, Director of International Services from Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI), said that they are not dealing with funding innovations, but higher education cooperation and running the education Finland program. He questioned the need for new strategies, but suggested there is a need for better implementing the current ones in these regions. He continued that the word "strategy” has undergone inflation as there are over 300 national strategies.

Johanna Hakala, Manager of International Affairs at the Academy of Finland (AKA), said that internationalization is largely built into higher education and academia. AKA funds a lot of demand-driven, good quality research and the research is quite Europe-centered and evaluated within Europe. She also added that AKA deals with Asia, but not much with ASEAN countries and they hope that researchers find each other and make individual relationships in conferences and consider their role being not that big in the networking process.

Tiina Vihma-Purovaara thanked the FinCEAL team for their work and said that FinCEAL has greatly supported her work. Referencing the arguments made in the Policy Briefs the Finnish Ministries and science policy actors "work in silos”, she argued that they are no longer working in silos when talking about collaboration between ministries. According to her there has been a change that has taken place recently, and that they are working together closely with the actors from other ministries. She added that the Team Finland Knowledge Network is a very concrete example of this and we need bottom-up and top-down interventions in collaboration. She concluded that we have to look forward and that we need the long-term perspective.

The fifth panelist Ari Mäki, Director of the Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, agreed that the LAC Policy Brief is very valuable for everyone and it really draws together things in a major way. He added that the collaboration with LAC is very important for business and innovation. He argued that Finland has a long history of development cooperation with Latin America countries and that these connections still exist, even though development cooperation has stopped. He also emphasized the importance of the EU-CELAC-network, work of Team Finland Knowledge Network Counsellor, the Madrid Institute, the roles of embassies and the Foreign Ministry for connecting people together.

The panel discussion then continued with topics such as how to make Finnish cooperation more cohesive and comprehensive; how to better utilize human resources; the leap from development cooperation to business in Africa, including education export (and research collaboration); the role of the "diaspora” in research collaboration with their regions; and how to ensure an innovative Finland in 2025.

Melissa Plath and Johanna Kivimäki gave final closing words and summarized the event under two main topics:

Support for science

  • Sustainability of FinCEAL and activities: There is still need for the type of activities supporting the research community:"The seeds have been planted and let's continue watering these seeds and see what grows".
  • The development of the TFK Network is very important and these Education and Science Counsellors in the regions will be extremely important for the Finnish research community who are interested in cooperation, but they cannot do it alone. The support activities FinCEAL has provided are complementary to what the TFK Counsellors will do.
  • There is a need to continue to support the link between Finnish researchers and research in the region with science policy processes to create an enabling environment for science cooperation.
  • The TFK Network is an important step to furthering science and education collaboration with the regions, but the research community must also push for the continuation of support and stress the importance of internationalization of research.

Policy aspects

  • Bring the policy brief recommendations to the Internationalization Forum, or the "KV-Foorumi", of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
  • Global Responsibility: a genuinely global perspective on internationalization is needed, including low- and middle-income countries, which are not prioritized by higher education institutions.
  • Further network and capacity building for partnerships is needed, which can be done with initiatives such as FinCEAL.
  • The role of education export and business is becoming more and more important, but these do not exist in isolation so joint research cooperation activities to support the business goals are needed.
  • Support for research increases the status of Finland and the awareness of Finland and Finland’s expertise in the regions, as well as the contacts to facilitate the future cooperation.
  • Emphasize increasing the policy coherence and cooperation between different ministries.

FinCEAL Plus thanks the speakers, panelists and participants for the active and inspiring seminar.

The online seminar stream is available for viewing here.
The seminar program is available here.

Picture credit: Heikki Eriksson