Public research funding plays a significant part in the background of successful products and solutions. It may support and boost the birth of active cooperation between academia and business.
“However, funding in itself does not guarantee innovations. At its best, it promotes the partners’ willingness to jointly understand the problem at hand and to come up together with a functional and also commercially viable solution by combining various kinds of know-how”, the director of the Confederation of Finnish Industries Riikka Heikinheimo says.
Heikinheimo has been active in a number of various duties in promoting cooperation between Finnish research and industry. She has taken part in making decisions on the funding for the research cooperation behind the bioproducts of the oil-refining company Neste for example.
“There were a strong vision of the future and a willingness to try out new things behind the project. There was also the ability to take risks boosted by public funding. At a later stage, the responsibility for the development moved to the company that has paid back the support it was provided many times over as taxes”, Heikinheimo says.
The Finnish Research Impact Foundation’s objectives are to increase the impact of cutting-edge research and to improve connections with industrial life, with an increased cooperation between the enterprises and academic research organizations as its central aim. The Foundation’s recent Tandem Industry Academia call is a case in point.
“I would say that feeding curiosity and encouraging cooperation are the main factors behind the creation of the Finnish Research Impact Foundation”, Heikinheimo says.
Many new products and services have had their background in active research cooperation. The role of research is a difficult one to see afterwards since the products are often made by companies for other companies yet examples are found in pharmacies as well as on the milk and bread shelves of shops.
“Cooperation between experts of different branches is often part of the background of successful products and new inventions. There is strength in bringing together different approaches. Demand for multidisciplinary cooperation keeps increasing when global challenges are observed. It is important, however, to understand that the problems are not only academic ones. Instead, bringing research findings to the market and launching production are equally enormous challenges”, Heikinheimo says.