Riikka Heikinheimo: Space for visions

"In terms of strategic research openings, it's important to make sure the whole concept works," writes Riikka Heikinheimo.

Strategic research openings are one of the means we use to encourage Finns towards bold and visionary research work. It's been wonderful to see how so many different sectors have proposed good strategic openings and the surprising ideas that arise when people are given the space to brainstorm. This illustrates the potential that we have here in Finland.

"In terms of strategic research openings, it's important to make sure the whole concept works. We need a strong vision of how the results will be utilised as well as a convincing and very ambitious scientific vision. The research opening also needs a competent leader who is capable of steering a consortium that is often multidisciplinary towards its goal, also in terms of utilisation. Strategic research openings are expected to change the way things are traditionally done. It's hard to turn a vision into reality without a convincing and inspiring leader.

I know that Tekes requires a lot from strategic openings and many good projects don't receive funding. It's good to keep in mind that even if an idea is not successful in this round of strategic research opening applications, it may well receive funding from our other funding types. We won't have a lot of these openings in progress at the same time.  

We require renewal from our customers and from ourselves. As a funding type, strategic openings already represent a new way for Tekes to think about funding innovations. In strategic openings we don't require that a company be involved in funding the project. If company representatives are involved, they are part of the project because of their personal competence - not to fulfil the aims of their company. 

For the first time, we utilised an external expert panel when evaluating the strategic openings. The experiences were eye-opening for all parties, and we also learned a lot at Tekes.

We may not be accustomed to "pitching" to an international audience, but in the future this skill will be increasingly valuable. Major global challenges put researchers and companies in a new situation. Rather than solving problems only inside Finnish borders, we have to offer solutions to enormous issues like climate change and simultaneously be internationally credible and competitive partners.

Riikka Heikinheimo

Executive Director
Large Companies and Public Organisations

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