National and global research co-operation
VTT maintains active research links with other European countries and with the United States and Japan in particular. VTT is part of extensive international networks that are aimed at promoting sustainable development through innovation. VTT is strongly equipped to work with its clients as a partner at the forefront of innovations.
The European Research Area is VTT’s most important and extensive international forum for R&D&I co-operation. With the help of EU projects, VTT is developing cutting-edge technology, international impact, networks and innovation partnerships. The co-operation networks constantly generate research results that form the basis for our clients’ innovations. VTT is strongly committed to furthering the EU 2020 goals.
In 2010, 414 (2009: 348) international public research projects were under way at VTT – 70% of them within the framework of European Union programmes. In 2010, VTT was among the four most active Research and Technology Organisations of the EU’s 7th framework programme, and the largest actor in Finland. VTT won a quarter of all framework programme funding in Finland. A considerable proportion of VTT’s Tekes funding was also linked to European research area activities, such as Eureka and ERA-NET programmes. VTT’s projects are particularly focused on information and communications technologies, nanoscience, materials and new production methods, energy and biotechnology.
VTT is involved in significant European strategic alliances: EERA, NULIFE and ETSON (energy), HTA (micro- and nanoelectronics), EIT ICT Labs (ICT), JIIP (innovation policy), and AERTOs (horizontal partnerships between research institutes). VTT’s strong position in these alliances has afforded it an active role in shaping European research and innovation policy. Moreover, VTT’s participation in the European High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies has given it the opportunity to present the perspective of Research and Technology Organisations at the level of European competition and industrial policy.
In 2010, 78 VTT
research scientists (4.3% of research staff) spent at least one
month working abroad (2009: 74). The most important target country
was once again the
VTT’s offices promote international networking
VTT maintained a total of six offices abroad in 2010. Most of these form part of the joint FinNode network of Finnish innovation actors, the task of which is to internationalise Finnish R&I activity. VTT’s key areas of technology and expertise emphasis are industrial biotechnology, renewable forest industry, energy, and ICT/electronics. In the FinNode network VTT is joined by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Tekes, Finpro, Sitra, and the Academy of Finland.
VTT’s contact point in Silicon Valley marketed ICT expertise to major companies in the field, and promoted co-operative ventures with world-class universities in California. There was also co-operation in Silicon Valley in the biotechnology sector. In Japan the emphasis was especially on co-operation in the ICT sector with local research institutes and universities. In Shanghai, China, the main focuses were the manufacturing industry and the energy sector. The St Petersburg office supported local project preparations, in which Finnish public sector actors are represented to a considerable degree. One special focus in St Petersburg has been the transport and logistics sector. The Korean office has carried out ICT-sector co-operation with the ETRI research institute and Konkuk University in the areas of printed intelligence and electronics. The Brussels office, in connection with EARTO, is supporting the EU’s project activity and participating in developing the European Research Area together with other leading research organisations.
VTT International Ltd spent 2010 laying the foundations for the VTT research centre that will begin operating in Brazil in 2011. The research centre will focus research on the possibilities of exploiting local biomass.
VTT as a driver of renewal in Finnish R&D&I activity
All six Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOK) set up to renew Finnish innovation activity have got off to a solid start. SalWe Ltd in the health and well-being sector, and RYM Ltd, which focuses on built environments, have most recently launched their own research programmes. The operations model of SHOKs has proved very suitable for VTT. VTT has been very active in preparing and launching these clusters, and is a shareholder, board member, author of strategic research agendas and researcher in all of them. VTT is involved in all of the programmes currently being run by different SHOKs. Several of the programmes are led by a VTT programme director. In addition to the SHOK programmes, VTT is involved in more than 30 technology programmes, of which Tekes’ technology programmes make up the bulk.
VTT has established several research alliances together with both industry and scientific partners. Such alliances include the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies and the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM, as well as Oulu’s PrintoCent innovation centre programme in the area of printed electronics and optical measurement technology. The Center of Water Efficiency Excellence (SWEET), recently established by Kemira Oyj and VTT to bring together current Finnish water expertise, is the latest alliance to get off the ground. Creating new and unique water expertise in Finland, the centre will develop new technologies and solutions for water-intensive industries as well as for the global water shortage. Water technology is the fastest growing industry worldwide.
VTT has a comprehensive network of strategic co-operation with Finnish universities, and significant and internationally unique joint research infrastructures. VTT’s and Aalto University’s joint centre for the design, development and fabrication of micro- and nanosystems, Micronova, based in Otaniemi, has also been awarded official status as national research infrastructure. Similarly, VTT’s and Aalto University’s MilliLab in Otaniemi particularly supports research by the European Space Agency (ESA). ROViR, a centre of expertise that specialises in remote operations and virtual technologies and is run by VTT and the Tampere University of Technology, is home to a research environment forged through tough international competition, and whose research is aimed at developing remote monitoring systems for the ITER fusion reactor – the world’s most challenging energy project.
VTT’s research teams are involved in three of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence programmes: the Centre of Excellence in Translational Genome-Scale Biology (2006–2011), the Centre of Excellence in Low Temperature Quantum Phenomena and Devices (2006– 2011), and the VTT-led Centre of Excellence in White Biotechnology – Green Chemistry Research (2008–2013).
VTT is accelerating regional innovation activity
VTT’s regional activities are focused on active participation in regional partnerships and project-based development. VTT has offices in a number of locations and operates regionally in close co-operation with universities, research institutes and universities of applied science. In 2010 the emphasis has been on developing expertise at the Kajaani and Kuopio offices and linking them with VTT’s other activities. Intensive local networking has continued.
VTT’s organisation of regional representatives has been strengthened in order to improve the availability of VTT services for development-oriented companies all over Finland. At the moment there are representatives in 14 locations.
VTT plays an important role in actively offering SMEs international contacts and participation in international projects, including the EU’s Research for SME projects, in which the companies have excellent opportunities to network internationally and forge new business. New offering is in development to better meet the research service needs of developers of innovative technology, and of SMEs involved in co-operative networks for large companies. The possibilities offered by VTT’s services and co-operation have been communicated in various seminars across Finland, especially at trade fairs and in extensive media reporting of research results.