International and domestic cooperation
Challenges at the global level are changing the operating environment for enterprises. VTT’s response to social challenges is to reform its research and innovation vision, and to act as a provider of networking opportunities for Finnish and European stakeholders in a global environment. Transfer to an eco-efficient economy requires strong innovation partnerships. VTT is strongly committed to furthering the EU 2020 goals.
In 2011, 506 (2010: 414) international public research projects were under way at VTT – 90% of them within the framework of European Union programmes (the Seventh Framework Programme; the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme; Artemis, Eniac and FCH initiatives; and programmes under EIT and ERA; as well as Nordic co-operation).
Participation in international research and innovation co-operation through EU framework programmes is important, and also supports the renewal of the European economic structure. VTT is a major organisation yielding EU-level influence and, with the help of EU and ERA projects, is developing cutting-edge technology, international impact, networks and innovation partnerships. VTT received a quarter of all Framework Programme funding in Finland. VTT’s projects are focused particularly on information and communications technologies, nanoscience, materials and new production methods, energy, biotechnology and transport.
VTT’s strong position in European strategic alliances – EERA, NULIFE/NUGENIA and ETSON (energy), HTA (micro- and nanoelectronics), EIT ICT Labs (ICT), JIIP (innovation policy) and AERTOs (horizontal partnerships among research institutions) – has afforded it an active role in shaping European research and innovation policy. Experience from new modes of co-operation such as these is important with a view to the development of the innovation system, both in Finland and across the EU. VTT’s representation in the European High-Level Expert Group on Key Enabling Technologies (HLG KETs) in 2010 and 2011 provided VTT with an opportunity to present the views of research and technology organisations on the development of European industrial and innovation policy and prioritisation of the contents of the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme.
International mobility of VTT personnel
In 2011, 62 VTT research scientists (3.2% of research staff) spent at least one month working abroad (2010: 79). The most important host country was once again the United States, where 14 research scientists worked. 252 foreign personnel (majority were research scientists or research interns) spent at least one month working at VTT. International research scientists with an employment contract made up 8% of research staff. Research scientists came from 49 different countries, but primarily from Germany, China, Great Britain, and India.
VTT strengthened its international office network
VTT made substantial contributions to implementation of its internationalisation strategy during 2011 within selected strategic focus areas, including industrial biotechnology, renewing forest industry, energy, and ICT/electronics. VTT had a total of eight foreign contact points in 2011. Three of these are research units, where VTT conducts active research and innovation co-operation, and five are contact points operating as networking and marketing offices.
VTT’s foreign research units are located in Brazil and Korea, and in the United States at Berkeley, California, and administratively are organised under VTT International Ltd. VTT International is a fully state-owned limited company tasked with administering VTT’s foreign service points. The research activity of VTT’s Brazilian unit focuses on biomass use, water technology and research serving the needs of forest industry. In VTT’s Korean unit the focus is on research and development operations within the fields of ICT and electronics, with the involvement of local universities and research institutes. VTT/MSI Molecular Sciences Institute in the U.S. Berkeley focuses on basic and applied research on industrial biotechnology, strongly utilising the competencies of local universities and co-operation partners.
Four of VTT’s five contact points are part of FinNode, the joint network of Finnish innovation operators, and are located in Japan, China, Russia, and in Washington D.C. in the United States. VTT’s Washington D.C. office focuses on marketing environmental and electronics competences to major corporations operating in the region. The office has also been used for enhancing co-operation with local universities and other partnerships. 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 in Russia concentrated mainly on the transport and logistics sector. In addition, VTT has an office in Brussels, in connection with EARTO, through which it supports the EU’s project activity and participates in developing the European Research Area together with other leading research organisations.
In 2011, VTT International Ltd surveyed new opportunities for internationalising VTT’s activities in Australia and Singapore, and assessed the potential for expanding the operations in China.
VTT as a driver of renewal in Finnish innovation activity
VTT has been highly active in preparing and launching Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOK) – established with the aim of renewing Finnish innovation activity – and in all of them acts as shareholder, board member, author of strategic research agendas and researcher. SHOKs offer VTT new opportunities and synergies in both research and operations. VTT is involved in almost all the current SHOK programmes. Several of the programmes are led by a VTT programme director.
VTT participated in more than thirty national research and technology programmes, with those run by Tekes and the Academy of Finland playing the main role. The operation of research alliances established with industry and science partners remains active. The key alliances include the Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies, the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), and Oulu’s Printocent innovation centre programme in the area of printed electronics and optical measurement technology, as well as the Centre of Water Efficiency Excellence (SWEET) with Kemira Oyj and VTT Research Centre of Finland as principal partners. The forest bioenergy research and innovation programme prepared under BETA (Bioenergy Technology Alliance) co-operationŽbetween VTT and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) was launched at the beginning of 2012.
VTT is also steering the Finnish Research Programme on Nuclear Power Plant Safety SAFIR2014 set by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and acting as the co-ordinator in the Finnish Research Programme on Nuclear Waste Management (KYT2014).
VTT’s research and innovation vision 2020 guides VTT’s strategic co-operation network with domestic universities, as well as the development of significant and internationally unique joint research infrastructures. Micronova, owned jointly by VTT and Aalto University and based in Otaniemi, acts as a centre for the design, development and fabrication of micro- and nanosystems. The Remote Operation and Virtual Reality Centre, ROViR, of VTT and Tampere University of Technology, conducts research and development related to the international ITER fusion reactor project.
VTT is accelerating regional innovation activity
VTT is an active participant in regional research partnerships and project-based development. In addition to having a number of offices in Finland, VTT operates regionally in close co-operation with universities, research institutes and universities of applied science. Intensive local networking has continued.
The operations of VTT regional representatives in 14 locations have been developed further.With their assistance, events have been organised for enterprises in various regions presenting VTT’s operations and seeking opportunities for co-operation. For SMEs, VTT plays a significant role as an active provider of international contacts and participation in international projects. In 2011, a promising number of Finnish SMEs filed applications for EU Research for SME projects, in which companies have excellent opportunities for international networking and the creation of new business activity.
VTT developed an operating concept with SMEs involving collaboration with growth-oriented enterprises and hightech companies as the special target. 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.