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A magazine on science, technology and business

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Challenges conceal opportunities

Antti Vasara | 24.5.2017

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VTT turned 75 in January. It has an eventful history, from the crisis period in its early days to the era of economic and industrial prosperity. A surprising number of issues have remained on our research agenda through the decades. For example, VTT’s Food Industry Laboratory tested and studied alternatives to more traditional ingredients at the very beginning. Wartime shortages created plenty of work. Nowadays, food research is driving sustainable development forward, in addition to well-being. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine what VTT researchers from the early days would think of our current vision of the future, in which insect protein will replace meat, and berries will be grown at home from plant cells. 


Biorefineries, gene technology, IoT sensors and robotics are now at the forefront of development. The same themes were already topical when Tekes was founded in the 80s. The first technology programmes funded by Tekes explored the use of wood as a raw material in the chemical industry, the potential for exploiting gene technology in production processes, and the development of sensor and automation technology. Of course, technology has taken huge strides in all areas since 1983 and the range of applications has expanded. The Internet, mobile technology and digitalisation were then in their infancy.


What does the history of VTT and applied research teach us? To be challenge oriented, to take a long-term approach, and also to understand that some things never change.


From the very beginning, VTT’s task has been to find solutions to specific business or societal challenges. Through these, it has accumulated an understanding of real-life problems requiring solutions and built a reputation as a reliable partner. By taking a long-term approach, VTT has been able to build deep but diverse expertise, which has survived turmoil on the markets and elsewhere. Challenge-orientation and a long-term approach also lie behind the VTT lighthouses, which will guide our long-term agenda and help us to identify tangible opportunities for finding new sources of growth.  


Some things never change. Funding has always been a headache; from the very beginning we were worried about how a small country’s resources would suffice for research during a period of crisis. Crises and booms have come and gone, but the discussion of what constitutes sufficient funding and what can be achieved with it has continued. For VTT, it has been great that both support and proven uses have been found for applied research. 


VTT has been a trailblazer in research conducted alongside enterprises; it has operated in a competitive environment on this basis for 75 years, in which research quality, novelty value and the ability to create value alongside the private sector have been vital to success.​

Vasara_014.jpg
Antti Vasara 
President & CEO

 

 

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