Research produces new knowledge and this knowledge produces new innovations and new resources that help produce new knowledge and solve problems in society. This was the key message of the speech delivered by Chairman of the FRIF Board, Mr Lauri Oksanen at the reception held for new FRIF funding recipients.
The Finnish Research Impact Foundation awarded more than two million euros through its Tandem Industry Academia programme to support 11 new joint projects in 2021. The aim of the funding programme is to promote dialogue between academic research and industry and to advance the impact of cutting-edge research through cooperation with business and industry.
In his speech Chairman of the FRIF Board, Mr Lauri Oksanen stressed the fundamental importance of cooperation and collaboration in producing impact and in generating new innovations.
“Research produces new knowledge, and that goes for both basic and applied research. Private companies and public organizations can use this knowledge to produce new innovations,” Mr Oksanen said.
Research needs resources, which means hard money, to produce this knowledge, and innovations will again translate knowledge into money and other resources. This is how society works and prospers, and this is how challenges in society can be addressed and handled.
“In order to achieve impact we need both research and innovations,” Mr Oksanen said.
The funding gap needs to be bridged
In Finland, the Academy of Finland funds research in higher education, while the role of Business Finland is primarily to support business research activities. At the moment the target in Finland is to increase research and development expenditure from its current level of 2.7 % to 4 % of GDP. This effort is being promoted through national RDI roadmap activities as well as by the parliamentary RDI working group.
Mr Oksanen was keen to stress that Finland has long had an exemplary effective innovation system. Over time, however, a gap has opened up with respect to cross-sector cooperation.
In spring 2021 FRIF commissioned a survey on the current state of funding for joint industry-academia projects and discovered that the gap between businesses and academic research had widened. This was reflected in a declining trend of funding channelled through the business sector to universities in the 2000s: Finland now ranks below the average for OECD countries.
“The funding system must be viewed as a whole. If money is simply invested across different parts of the system, that won’t necessarily have the best effect on cooperation,” Mr Oksanen said.
He compared the efforts to step up cooperation to getting the wheel in motion: “FRIF’s aim is to support cooperation and get the wheel of cooperation between research and innovation rolling more efficiently.”
“Getting that wheel rolling is beneficial for both parties. It is not only about funding individual projects, but the development of a culture of cooperation”, he concluded.