On the front line solving wicked problems

Climate change, Euro-Russian relations, healthcare challenges, strict nationalist movements – academic knowledge is truly in demand at the moment. Universities are frontrunners, and that entails responsibilities, says Rector Jukka Kola.

Universities are frontrunners, and that entails responsibilities, says Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Helsinki, in his leader in the latest Yliopisto magazine published by the University, kicking off the new academic year. 

“The University of Helsinki educates young people to change their homeland and to make the world a better place,” he says. “Our top international research helps solve vexing problems in Finland and around the world, in addition to supporting competitiveness and decision-making. What is crucial is the quality of research.”

For 375 years, the University of Helsinki has played a huge role in Finland’s development. Despite the tougher economic and political climate, the University must remain an agent of change rather than become a target of change. “Universities exist to provide new knowledge and understanding, to serve as the nation’s engine of renewal – also in internationalisation and multiculturalism.”

“Education and research are investments in the wellbeing and success of people. The University of Helsinki seeks to and can turn challenges into opportunities and create new success,” Kola says.

In line with the Government and schools

The University of Helsinki is working on its new strategic plan and is collaborating with its partner universities, companies and the City of Helsinki to hone the new research initiatives included in the plan. The themes are also related to the Finnish Government’s key projects which the ministers elected last spring are now elaborating.

“Digitisation and its impact on people and society is an excellent example of themes that are both important to the Government and perfect for our multidisciplinary university,” Kola muses. “The University of Helsinki focuses especially on digital teaching and learning, and is making Finland a frontrunner in education and modern learning.”

Health Capital Helsinki

"Our campuses focused on medicine and environmental research, in turn, are constructing an increasingly influential and international complex of life sciences within the University," Kola says. Some of the University’s life science sectors will be integrated into Health Capital Helsinki, a major undertaking now being set up in the greater Helsinki area.

"Health Capital Helsinki is a modern research, innovation and business complex that will bring together the high-quality health competence found in the greater Helsinki area,” says Kola, who adds: “In the field of bioeconomy, the University’s research will focus on new raw materials, biomass flows and green energy solutions.”

Crucial climate questions

According to Kola, the significance of international influencing will come to the fore on the eve of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December.

“Top research into climate change and air quality is necessary to inform political decision-making,” Kola notes. “We could propose as an EU initiative a global network of measurement stations for greenhouse gas concentrations. This would raise the quality of open research data and results to that of Finland, where we have the Hyytiälä field station to thank in particular.”

Regarding trends in global politics and economy, researchers in Helsinki have a good reason to turn their eyes to the East.

“Research on Russia and China is of great and increasing interest, and new cooperation networks are emerging in these fields. Both the private and public sectors are seeking new information in these areas."

The Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies has boosted its cooperation with researchers in atmospheric sciences to answer major questions related to energy and the climate.

At the opening ceremony of the academic year at the University of Helsinki next Monday, the future will be discussed by, among others, Rector Jukka Kola, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, and Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation.