Cooperation between universities of applied sciences in the west coast expands and deepens
Ministry of Education and Culture provides 2.5 million euros of funding to deepen the cooperation.
The shared goal of Turku University of Applied Sciences, Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Centria University of Applied Sciences, the so-called west coast universities of applied sciences, is to deepen the cooperation built around digital manufacturing technology and robotics, as well as clean energy solutions.
The west coast cooperation of Turku UAS, VAMK , SAMK and Centria 2023–2025 is built around two current, main themes of the west coast regions’ smart specialization: digital manufacturing technology and robotics and clean energy solutions. Thematic priorities have emerged from the smart specialization strategies and the needs of the industry of the regions and the strategic priorities of the universities of applied sciences. The strengths and competences of the west coast universities of applied sciences complement each other. The needs of the industry and business life in the region are strategically shared. The thematic cooperation aims at a proactive approach and multidisciplinary cooperation to address systemic challenges.
The Ministry of Education and Culture has allocated 2.5 million euros in funding for the cooperation.
“It is great to see how the universities of applied sciences in the west coast are joining forces and taking education and research cooperation to a whole new level by utilizing the regional strengths and considering the needs of companies. This is the kind of project I’ll be happy to support”, says the Minister of Science and Culture, Petri Honkonen.
The west coast historically has a long and close cooperation with Sweden and Norway. The green transition, the shortage of experts and the change in the security environment with its energy crisis impacts further underline the importance of active cooperation between Sweden, Finland and Norway. The west coast cooperation aims at closer interaction with Uppsala, the Västerbotten region and Umeå.
The long-term aim of the cooperation is to strengthen the competence base of the west coast, thereby supporting regional development. Close west coast cooperation enables the implementation of more effective RDI projects, the provision of high-quality, joint training and answering to the shortage of experts in the region.
Strong regional competence creates a basis for new innovations
Southwest Finland, Ostrobothnia, Satakunta and Central Ostrobothnia have a wealth of nationally significant competence in digital manufacturing technology, automation and robotics in the metal industry, construction industry, processing industry and bio- and pharmaceutical industry. The significant number of high-tech export companies on the west coast makes the region important in terms of the national security of supply and a fertile breeding ground for new innovations and production technologies.
Strong education and RDI cooperation built around digital manufacturing technology and storage of clean energy requires that the higher education institutions continuously invest in competence development. The ever-growing shortage of experts which the companies of the region suffer from also requires increasingly tailored training entities from the higher education institutions in the region.
Development projects related to the battery value chain and the supporting logistics and infrastructure are currently underway. The renewal of industry and the production of fossil-free steel, for example, highlight the importance of hydrogen. The challenges are shared in terms of the ageing population, lack of workforce and long distances. Solutions must be sought in automatization and AI together. Closer cooperation in research and education can also increase the attractiveness of the entire region in terms of gaining international experts.
Enhanced cooperation contributes to the green transition and sustainable development
Eventually, deepening the cooperation will enable, for example, the sharing of research infrastructures and educational content, co-teaching and more effective RDI projects. Closer cooperation, for example in remote access to the research infra, also contributes to the green transition and sustainable development.
“The future is built on cooperation and in Finland, we need more and more bold initiatives, of which this is an excellent example. The intensifying cooperation between the west coast universities of applied sciences will create prerequisites for well-being throughout Finland through increasing RDI funding, new innovations and the development of competence”, rejoices Kati Komulainen, President and CEO of Vaasa University of Applied Sciences.
“The spearhead of the cooperation project of the west coast universities of applied sciences focuses on industrial production and clean energy solutions. The main actors in these themes are international industrial companies and SMEs in our regions. Through the project, our goal is to jointly promote the availability of competent workforce and the international competitiveness of these companies. A special emphasis in the project is also placed on the joint actions of the involved higher education institutions to improve our students’ capabilities and the higher education institutions’ networks towards Finland’s second largest trade partner, Sweden”, comments Vice Rector Juhani Soini from Turku University of Applied Sciences.
“The importance of the industry and exports of the west coast is vital for Finland. The strategic cooperation of the west coast universities of applied sciences in research and educating a competent workforce further strengthens this role. The focus areas of the cooperation have been selected based on the joint strategic competences of the region’s industry and universities of applied sciences, for example: smart robotics, additive manufacturing, energy storage and recycling of high-tech metals”, states Vice President for Research Cimmo Nurmi from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences.
“The west coast plays a central role in Finland’s manufacturing and production industry and exports. Through this project, we will be able to secure the vitality of the companies in our region and our residents’ prosperity for many years to come. The cooperation between the universities of applied sciences in the west coast enables a significant increase in the impact of higher education and RDI activities in the region”, says Marko Forsell, Director, RDI from Centria.