Ethical principles of business collaboration at the University of Helsinki

Research of international significance is conducted at the University of Helsinki, which helps us contribute to tackling global challenges. Collaboration with businesses and other partners is important for the University of Helsinki.
Legislation and norms guide business collaboration

We wish to make research results and the expertise of University graduates available to society as effectively as possible. Diverse collaboration conducted with businesses and other partners supports the University in carrying out its core duties: research, teaching and public engagement.

In these principles, business collaboration denotes contractual research, teaching and other collaboration that involves agreements and/or other contractual counter-performance. Business collaboration is being continuously developed through interaction with partners in accordance with the ethical principles of business collaboration at the University of Helsinki.

The operations of the University of Helsinki are always founded on the University’s values of truth, freedom, Bildung and inclusivity; the regulations of the University and its Funds and their strategic plans, guidelines and ethical principles; and valid legislation. In business collaboration, the University also complies with generally accepted principles of research ethics as well as, for example, the Dual-use Regulation of the EU as well as the guidelines and provisions based on it. The University has undertaken to comply with the ‘Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland’ guidelines issued by the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity.

Compliance with the ethical principles of business collaboration at the University of Helsinki is required in all business collaboration activities of the University, and all employees and elected officials of the University and the University of Helsinki Funds must act in accordance with the principles. The guidelines also apply to circumstances where members of the University community act as private individuals, who however act as representatives on the basis of their status at the University. The University honours in its operations its partners and their representatives, as well as the principles of integrity, responsibility, trust and respect for all parties.

Contractual business collaboration promotes shared key goals

The University’s business collaboration is based on the implementation of the University’s strategic plan and the promotion of its values in collaboration with the University's partners. In addition to legislation, values and norms, University operations are guided by the goal of sustainability and responsibility. The University investigates the potential for reconciling partner operations with the premise of University operations on a case-by-case basis, using the information available at the time.

Agreements pertaining to collaboration and any funding terms set by external funders define the content of collaboration conducted with businesses in accordance with legislation and the generally accepted principles of research ethics indicated above. In the case of market-priced commissioned research or consultation associated with a counter-performance, the commissioning party defines the goals of research together with the University and receives ownership or other specifically determined rights to the research results. Since the University is not permitted to allocate government funding or other public funds to supporting businesses, businesses cannot obtain exclusive rights to the results of research carried out collaboratively or even partially with public funds: in the case of such research, the results are published and utilised in accordance with the funding terms and the principles of the University. The University and/or University researchers and other staff are also involved in a range of larger research and other collaboration consortia whose operations are governed by consortium-specific agreements. Other examples of various contractual forms of business collaboration include collaborative research where the University obtains data from the business collaboration partner; collaborative research where the costs are covered by the business and the University, resulting in the co-ownership of the results; as well as sponsorship associated with conferences, goods or services. Also carried out with businesses are various collaboration projects based on co-creation, for which practices are agreed together, a range of challenge- and project-based courses and other teaching collaboration, as well as thesis collaboration related to different stages of studies.

The University describes its business collaboration in its communications as well as in its accounting and reporting on operations and finances in a manner agreed with its business collaboration partners. For the sake of the openness of University operations, it is important for the University to be able to communicate on various forms of business collaboration and partnerships as agreed with the relevant partners.

Autonomy, sustainability and responsibility guide the University’s business collaboration

The University of Helsinki collaborates diversely with its partners. Consequently, such collaboration can also affect research, teaching or publications in a manner agreed with business collaboration partners within the framework of the University’s strategic plan, values and other ethics guidelines. However, the University always independently makes decisions related to business collaboration that pertains to the conduct of research or studies, personnel choices related to studying, research or employment, grades, or other academic performance. Business collaboration partnerships do not confer to partners any bargaining or other advantages in relation to University operations, and the University observes its anti-corruption policy in its operations.

Legislation, values as well as sustainability and responsibility, as described in the strategic plan of the University, and respect for the value of humans and nature as a whole guide all University operations. In the case of business collaboration, this means, among other things, that the University does not collaborate with businesses whose operations are based on any known illegal activity; the University does not conduct collaboration whose purpose endangers the University’s autonomy, independence or reputation, or whose purpose conflicts with the University's values; and the University does not conduct collaboration whose purpose can endanger the ethical, ecological, financial or social sustainability of University operations on the basis of an overall review carried out in accordance with the principle of due diligence.

To put its ethics principles into practice, the University assesses the potential and initiation of business collaboration on a case-by-case basis to ensure, among other things, its independence and the establishment of business partnerships where its values as well as responsibility and sustainability are taken into consideration. The University investigates the background of its business collaboration partners thoroughly and sufficiently comprehensively in relation to the collaboration, complying with the principle of due diligence. The University can also conduct business collaboration with parties for which the University carries out a collaboration assessment in accordance with the principle of due diligence. Examples of situations to be assessed:

  • The partner has a connection to activities that the University considers important to assess in relation to the University’s values or the University’s reputation and/or the University’s vision for socially, financially or environmentally sustainable and responsible activities;
  • The business or a representative of the business is a customer and/or service provider of the University of Helsinki (e.g., procurement or outsourced services), or the business or its representative is otherwise affiliated with the University of Helsinki and/or a University unit. Examples of such affiliations include employment or study at the University. While the University encourages its staff and students to promote research also through business activities, it considers it important to pay attention to combining different roles in an open manner where matters related to disqualification are taken into account.
  • The financial value of the business collaboration partnership is extremely high, or covering the costs is associated with complex financial arrangements or an exchange rate risk.
  • Assessment can also be carried out in situations where the University learns additional information that is fundamentally different from the information obtained at the time of initiating the business collaboration.
The University is a reliable partner

In all of its business collaboration activities, the University complies with legislation, regulations and provisions pertaining to data protection and confidentiality. Any personal data related to business collaboration are processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU. Also in the case of data on study subjects participating in research projects, collaboration is conducted in compliance with the GDPR, other relevant legislation and consent given by the study subjects.

The University respects business secrets and confidentiality in all discussions and other communication. Data are processed in reliable and secure information systems. The University or its staff disclose confidential data that they have obtained to third parties only for statutory purposes.

In commissioned research, any confidential data of the commissioning party are kept confidential in accordance with the agreement concluded between the University and the commissioning party. The publication of research results is agreed so that the industrial property rights associated with the results can be protected and the confidentiality of information is not compromised.

The University addresses questions that require ethics assessment

Each member of the University community is responsible for complying with these principles in their work. The implementation of the principles is managed as part of the University’s normal operations management system, and staff activities in business collaboration can also be investigated through internal auditing, when necessary.

The University always reports to the relevant authorities suspicions of criminal or otherwise illegal activity related to partnerships or contractual collaboration. The handling of such cases as well as unclear cases pertaining to the anti-corruption policy and related allegations of misconduct is supervised by the director of administration, while the handling of allegations of research misconduct is supervised by the chancellor.

The University carries out assessments related to business collaboration in accordance with its obligations of due diligence. In situations where the University considers that conflicts may arise between the University’s and its partner’s strategic plans, values or other practices related to, for example, sustainability and responsibility, the matter will be discussed, when necessary, by the University’s Ethics Advisory Council. The council’s views will be utilised in assessing the possibilities of reconciling the strategic plans, values and other operations of the business collaboration partner and the University.

Further information about the principles

The following paragraphs describe the texts in the footnotes of the principles approved by the Board of Directors of the University of Helsinki (24 November 2021, in Finnish) as a separate whole, so that the entire file is in an accessible format and thus available to all readers interested in the principles

  • Further information: Introduction

  • The principles of business collaboration at the University of Helsinki can also be applied to collaboration based on agreements concluded by the University of Helsinki with, for example, associations, foundations and public organisations in circumstances where the nature of the collaboration is in line with these principles. The forms of collaboration referred to herein can include various forms of research collaboration, commissioned research, consultation or sponsorship, co-creation or, for example, research and other collaboration in larger research consortia. Procurements and donations are considered separate from the business collaboration referred to herein, and they are regulated by the relevant principles, legislation and norms. The University accepts financial or other benefits to wield its influence on third parties only for the purpose of carrying out its core duties of research, teaching and public engagement. These principles are intended for the entire University community, its partners and those interested in the University’s operations, including the media and authorities.

Further information: Legislation and norms guide business collaboration

  • In all operations, University employees avoid personal and professional misconduct, nor do they seek personal benefit through their actions by taking advantage of their status or assets, knowledge or business opportunities that belong to the University. University employees must announce actual or potential conflicts of interest or affiliations relevant to, for example, collaboration or the transfer of knowledge and technology between businesses owned by University staff as well as negotiations on facility use or procurement decisions with parties to whom they have financial ties.

Further information: Contractual business collaboration promotes shared key goals

  • The University investigates the potential for such reconciliation on the basis of the information sources available to it and the information provided to it by its partners.
  • In project-based courses, students retain the intellectual property rights to their output, but the University acts as the organiser of such courses and a contracting party in relation to business partners. Master’s theses, doctoral theses and other theses written by students are public. Separate guidelines have been issued on the use of the name and logo of the University of Helsinki, setting the related terms and conditions.
  • The University discloses data it has obtained to external parties for statutory purposes, or when such disclosure has been agreed with the partner, with the provisions of the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (612/1999) or communications agreed with a partner as examples.

Further information: Autonomy, sustainability and responsibility guide the University’s business collaboration

  • For example, the research ethics guidelines of the University of Helsinki, the ethical principles of business collaboration presented in this document and the research data policy of the University of Helsinki currently under preparation, as well as the guidelines by the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity. University of Helsinki ethical guidelines are found here.
  • Assessment is carried out utilising methods in accordance with a rector's decision, for example, as part of the work of the Ethics Advisory Council. In addition, business collaboration is assessed as part of the University’s management and accounting practices as well as internal audit processes.
  • Examples include the partner's background in a fragile, unstable or undemocratic state, the partner’s connection to parties subject to international sanctions, or the partner’s activities in an industrial sector that makes the University consider it important to assess the relation of the partner and collaboration to the University’s values, as well as sustainability and responsibility. When necessary, the University can assess opportunities in business collaboration on a case-by-case basis, for example, as part of the work of the University’s Ethics Advisory Council.
  • Other examples include business partner representatives who serve on University bodies, employment or study at the University of Helsinki and/or the unit involved in the collaboration in the case of people closely linked to the business partner, or partner representatives or people close to them who have applied for a student place or job at the unit in question.