Wilhelmsson: The university’s chain of innovation must be improved

The Rector of the University of Helsinki, Thomas Wilhelmsson, emphasised the need to develop policies that promote innovation and cooperation with industry in his opening speech.

Rector Thomas Wilhelmsson

Universities are the foundation of the innovation chain, but there are gaps in the chain. In today’s opening speech at the start of the new academic year, Thomas Wilhelmsson, Rector of the university, called for the innovation chain to be further developed.

”The results of high calibre basic research have not always been exploited commercially in the best possible way,” says Wilhelmsson.

”The university’s opportunities must be marketed more efficiently and we must provide opportunities for cooperation between the university and those who wish to work with us.”

Competitiveness in society is not generated by innovation alone.

”Universities play a significant role as cradles of civilisation, and emphasising this is not solely a nostalgic defence of the academic ivory tower. On the contrary, the idea is in line with fostering national competitiveness in the global society,” claimed Wilhelmsson.

In his opening speech, Wilhelmsson also mentioned a strong common social identity as a predictor of success in international competition.

”The principle of free tuition for all at all levels of education is one of the building blocks supporting social cohesion and a generally high level of education. It is important to hold on to this principle,” stressed Wilhelmsson.

The rector also emphasised the importance of the university’s autonomy. For effective management, it is important that a significant number of the members of the University Senate be ’outsiders’. However, for the sake of autonomy, it is imperative that the university be allowed to choose those outsiders itself.

On the basis of the University Act proposal and opinions delivered on it, Wilhelmsson believes that it is possible to draw up legislation that allows for genuine opportunities for more effective development.

”The modernising of universities is based on the increasingly widespread understanding that universities are central agents in national development and in the competitiveness of our information society. The financial framework surrounding the reform will, however, determine to a large extent how well it eventually succeeds”, stated Wilhelmsson.

He is happy with the decision concerning the level of liquidity capital, but he also reminded his audience that there are still no pending adjustments for the dropping parity value of the appropriations for expenditures and that the model according to which liquidity capital and appropriations for expenditures are divided among universities is not yet ready.

The opening speeches in their entirety can be found at: http://www.helsinki.fi/lehdisto/index.shtml

Text: Terttu Nurro and Tapani Sainio
Photo: Ari Aalto
2.9.2008
www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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