Reetta Kivelä: There will be no innovations without science

Innovations never come out of nothing. A technology or solution related to an innovation may come about by accident, it might be there right in front of your eyes, but it never comes out of nothing. Innovations require strata of knowledge and a history of experience. Innovations require big pictures and an understanding of the world. These factors have their origins in science.

An idea does not an innovation make. Ideas comprise the roots and germs, a foundation for innovations to stand on. For ideas to be born, a worldview is needed, as well as the collision of ideas. For their part, big pictures need science.

At their best, innovations engender profitable business, something entirely new and not obvious. They may be technological solutions, something that utilises existing technologies or methods in a new way, or something completely different. Innovations are packed with an enormous amount of work, passion and belief, as well as skills, experimentation and investigation. This is where science and its methods are needed.

Pulled oats was born out of a collision of concern for the world, findings gained through applied science, problem-solving skills provided by postgraduate education, experiences from the industry and a design ideology. The results gained from applied science were, in turn, made possible by combining rules determined in the course of basic research. Concern about the planet is also based on long-term research-based knowledge that can be propagated among laypeople through the work carried out in society by people whose job it is to think, to produce knowledge and to synthesise these.

Thanks to the opportunity to recruit master’s and doctoral graduates for our team, pulled oats is alive and well. We needed and still need productive collaboration between universities and specialists in various fields. Without timely and relevant research, these parties would not exist.

An innovative society is founded on science. If we intend to remain an innovative nation, we must have the courage to allocate resources to thinking. I am anxious as I observe the increasingly fragmented world that further gives rise to the fragmentation of research, requiring perseverance in projects and exhausting competition for their funding. Society must find funding for research groups and scientists who are able to dedicate their entire careers to a specific field and to bear the responsibility for generating big pictures, arguing against such notions and advancing them by scientific methods. If research and the opportunity to think are pulled apart, who do we call in the future when we need interviewees, presenters or sounding boards?

Innovations require multi-layered knowledge and understanding of the big picture, which are both products of science. Profitable innovations are not born without science.

Reetta Kivelä is doctor of food sciences and one of the two inventors of pulled oats. In 2018 the University of Helsinki Alumni Association selected her as the Alumna of the Year of the University.

In the series Science Advocates, people describe the significance of research and research-based teaching for themselves. Read other related articles on the Research Matters campaign page (scroll down).

Why do we need science?

The world and, thus, the needs of people and the environment are changing at an ever-accelerating pace. At the moment, we don’t know what kind of questions will require answers fifty years from now. What we do already know for certain is that solving these future challenges requires long-term research.

This is where science comes in.

For the sake of Finland’s welfare, it is crucial to safeguard our high level of expertise from early childhood education to the highest level of education and research. Our future lies in expertise and skilled specialists, which is why we should increase our investments in education and research.

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