A more strategic perspective on research

The Board of the University has decided on three strategic research areas for the years 2017–2020: life sciences, the human mind in a changing world as well as the structure of matter and materials science.

Through these strategic research areas, the University of Helsinki seeks to focus its research profile and to guide research in a more multidisciplinary, solution-focused direction.

 “Scientific research is characterised by independence. At the University level, competence also generates broader strategic units which enable significant multidisciplinary investments in social challenges," states Keijo Hämäläinen, vice-rector in charge of research and education.

Of these research areas, life sciences are strongly linked to the upcoming Helsinki Life Science Centre which will combine biological and environmental sciences into an internationally appealing cluster. The human mind in a changing world area focuses on how individuals and communities are meeting the problems and opportunities in our increasingly global, digital and rapidly ageing society.

The structure of matter and materials science covers top-tier research from fields in which the University has significant research infrastructures. This strategic research area will be defined more closely in the autumn.

The emphases on the selected areas will be apparent, for example, in the Academy of Finland’s application rounds for funding to strengthen universities’ research profiles. On the first round, funding was applied for the life sciences.

Strong multidisciplinary approach

According to Vice-Rector Hämäläinen, the strategic research areas share a strong multidisciplinary approach.

“Criterion for choosing these fields was a high quality of the academic research, measured for example by the number of centres of excellence and Academy professors. In addition, we selected areas with sufficient offspring, i.e., junior researchers,” Hämäläinen explains.

Besides these extensive, cross-disciplinary strategic research areas, the University has recognised two points of spearhead research: the atmosphere and climate as well as mathematics.

“These areas are on the highest global level, at the very top. They are coherent units, nearly brands in themselves. For example, everyone has heard of Markku Kulmala,” Hämäläinen says.

More spearhead research points may be identified when the research areas are thematically defined.