Doctoral competence brings significant value to companies – VTT invests in increasing excellence in Finland with new PhD and Postdoc programmes

News, Press release

VTT promotes research and technology impact in business and industry by increasing talent and number of skilled experts in Finland. 42 percent of VTT's research staff have a doctoral degree. In addition, around 150 experts leave VTT each year to work in industry and other sectors of society.

To further improve the scientific and technological excellence that feeds Finland's innovation system, VTT launched PhD and Postdoc programmes in 2023. The PhD programme is aimed at researchers working on doctoral theses at VTT, while the Postdoc programme will recruit new postdoctoral researchers. These programmes increase the number of PhDs at VTT and create new career opportunities for recent university graduates in applied research and technology development, often in collaboration with companies.

“Doctoral education and its benefits for Finland's RDI system have been brought to the forefront of the debate in a whole new way with the government programme's doctoral pilots. This is a great time to increase the attractiveness of doctoral research at VTT, too, so that it supports the researchers' own development and our external impact”, says Executive Vice President Erja Turunen.

PhD programme promoting career development

The PhD programme strengthens the development opportunities for VTT researchers and supports goal-oriented doctoral research on topics of importance to society and business. The programme focuses primarily on providing systematic support for the career development phase of doctoral studies throughout the organisation and on developing PhD supervision as a key element of doctoral research. Participants in the programme get individual support for their doctoral work and become part of an evolving community of doctoral researchers at VTT. In addition, the training provided by the programme supports the development of critical skills during the doctoral career phase.

“We already have more than 60 doctoral researchers participating in the programme. The programme has already made a clear difference in our ability to provide them with enough time in their work for doctoral research, as well as active, competent supervision”, says Kaisa Michelsson, Manager of VTTs PhD and Postdoc programmes.

Aiming at international Postdocs

VTT is also increasingly recruiting from abroad, and VTT plays an important role in attracting international talent to Finland. VTT has 59 different nationalities among its experts.

‘The aim of our Postdoc programme is not only to create new natural career paths from Finnish universities to applied research, but also to make VTT a more attractive place to work for PhDs from top universities abroad,’ says Michelsson.

Afsoon Farzan and  Armando W. Gutiérrez (in the picture), who started in VTT's Postdoc programme in early 2024, saw VTT's Postdoc role as an opportunity to work in applied research.

"I defended my doctoral thesis on biomedical materials at Aalto University in March and then wanted to do experimental research in an applied research environment. VTT’s postdoctoral call came at just the right time for me to do this", says Afsoon Farzan.

“I hold a doctoral degree in mathematics from Aalto University and I've carried out research in Finland and internationally.  As a postdoctoral researcher in energy systems at VTT, I'm getting a fantastic opportunity to work on clean energy transition projects”, adds Armando W. Gutiérrez.

Gutierrez and Farzan

Cooperation with universities and businesses

At VTT, doctoral research is often carried out in applied research topics that serve industry. Doctoral students at VTT often have expertise relevant to the research and product development of companies and continue their research after the doctoral phase in RDI cooperation with companies at VTT or transfer from VTT to companies. "Our aim, in the coming years, is to develop new types of cooperation models with companies for doctoral research. We see that doctoral expertise has significant value for companies", says Michelsson.

Cooperation with universities has been crucial in the launch of VTT's PhD programme, as the degree is always awarded by a university. "The majority of VTT's doctoral researchers do their doctoral studies at a few Finnish universities, and we have worked together to develop ways to accelerate and support doctoral work. We have started to experiment with new forms of cooperation such as joint doctoral researchers with universities", says Michelsson.

More information on the VTT Postdoc programme

In the photo above: Participants of the VTT PhD programme gathered on 16 May 2024 for the first annual PhD Day.

Erja Turunen
Erja Turunen
Executive Vice President
Kaisa Michelsson
Manager, PhD and Postdoc program
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