Minnesota higher education delegation’s visit to Aalto University, from left to right: Jussi Impiö, Steven Massey, Terhi Mölsä, Amy Lindgren, Rachel Limón, Aaron Budge, Ilkka Niemelä, Don Weinkauf, Meredith McQuaid, Ossi Naukkarinen, Jeff Standish, and Jérôme Rickmann.
Fulbright Finland News Magazine

Shaping Future Frameworks for RDI Collaboration

7 September 2022 • Text: JÉRÔME RICKMANN, MELISSA PLATH, TERHI MÖLSÄ, Photos: Aalto University

Together shaping the future - Fulbright Finland Foundation’s maxim succinctly expresses the imperative for collaboration and agency. We want to live in a sustainable, wellbeing-centered world. This requires holistic big picture thinking, global engagement and collaboration, and local actions. As current world events demonstrate, this is far from being the case, but all of us in Finland and the U.S. have shared responsibilities rooted in our common democratic values to work towards that goal. In this spirit, it is no surprise that immediately after last year’s launch of the Finnish-American Research & Innovation Accelerator (FARIA), the interest sparked to explore collaboration opportunities between the Fulbright Finland Foundation and FARIA.

The Fulbright Finland Foundation is the premium bridge-builder and facilitator of Finnish-U.S. collaboration through the exchange of talent and knowledge. And FARIA members represent 92% of Finnish research universities, and 89% of the higher education sector’s RDI-power when measured in terms of RDI-funding.

In recent years, Finland’s diplomacy in the United States has become more state-focused and is underpinned by a systematic, integrated, multi-stakeholder, and multi-level approach. The new approach increasingly coordinates the nation’s diplomatic efforts, key ministries, business organizations, the higher education sector, and even single research groups to work together with a large set of U.S. stakeholders in selected states. The states of Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and most recently Colorado have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Finland to increase collaboration in various areas of business, research, and innovation.

Finland seeks to promote its globally recognized strengths in education and technological know-how; nature and sustainable development; and functionality and wellbeing. Key actors under the “Team Finland” umbrella such as the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., and Business Finland’s offices in the U.S., collaborate for new Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) and business opportunities by connecting Finnish innovation ecosystems with state ecosystems and developing jointly long-term partnerships for a sustainable world.

While concerted efforts in the U.S. create new connections, the Finnish higher education sector, key funding bodies, and stakeholder organizations, such as the Fulbright Finland Foundation, increasingly align to create synergies. A key initiative was the inclusion of the U.S. MoU-states as target regions in the “Global Program” launched by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Aalto University and the University of Helsinki have subsequently been mandated by the Ministry to develop FARIA as a large-scale Finnish RDI network to increase the visibility of the excellence of the Finnish RDI sector in the U.S. with special emphasis on Artificial Intelligence, 5G/6G wireless technologies, the new bioeconomy, and research and interventions in the area of inequalities, education, governance, and broad citizen wellbeing.

Ultimately, the vision and mission of FARIA and the Fulbright Finland Foundation are strongly aligned: strengthening transatlantic ties in research and education between both countries based on shared values and interests. Many of the Foundation’s activities and services aim to support the internationalization of the very higher education institutions organized in FARIA. Thus, the collaboration offers new venues to strengthen inter-institutional ties and broaden the scope of stakeholder engagement. From FARIA’s perspective, the core idea is to serve as a platform for synergy creation and as a potential “back office” to utilize opportunities created by Team Finland activities transparently and efficiently. We do not compete with existing structures and organizations. We seek to even further accelerate their impact: together better, and better together. By creating loosely coupled ties between stakeholder organizations, we contribute to nourishing existing and emerging innovation ecosystems. Finnish Academics serve on the Fulbright Finland Foundation’s Board of Directors, while the Foundation’s CEO volunteers her expertise and experience on FARIA’s External Advisory Board.

The Finnish and U.S. alumni of the Fulbright Finland Foundation stand collectively for the very best that our countries have to offer each other. FARIA is still a young initiative but together with the Fulbright Finland Foundation we see the potential to have a real influence in shaping future frameworks for Finnish-U.S. RDI-collaboration.

The authors, Jérôme Rickmann (Aalto University) and Melissa Plath (University of Helsinki) serve as the FARIA Coordinators, and Terhi Mölsä is CEO of the Fulbright Finland Foundation.


Read the whole Fulbright Finland News magazine 1/2022!

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