Importance of long-term research must not be forgotten, says Riikka Virkkunen, new honorary doctor at Mälardalen University


Riikka Virkkunen, Professor of Practice at VTT, has been appointed an honorary doctor at Mälardalen University in Sweden. Virkkunen is working to accelerate industrial renewal and points out the importance of cooperation in a volatile world. We cannot forget the importance of long-term research, but we must invest in research-industry cooperation and strengthen Nordic collaboration.

Mälardalen University (MDU) has recognised Riikka Virkkunen's exceptional contribution to technology and innovation in various arenas of society by awarding her an honorary doctorate. Virkkunen has a distinguished record of promoting cooperation between academia, industry and society.

“Receiving the honorary doctorate is a memorable recognition on a personal level, but it also shows that VTT is appreciated and regarded as a sought-after partner,” Virkkunen says.

Virkkunen, who has a PhD in Computational Materials Physics, has made a long career at VTT in a variety of supervisory roles. As a professor of practice, she has been promoting the digitalisation of industry in the green transition since the beginning of 2020. Virkkunen also coordinates VTT's SynbioMAP programme for the accelerated design of biosynthetic materials.

She has an extensive international network, including chairing the EU's Made In Europe partnership and participating in numerous other EU working groups. This has allowed her to contribute to the direction of future EU research topics and broader strategies.

“In Finland, I’ve also been involved in the core teams of the national AI 4.0 programme and have thus been able to influence the interplay of national and EU strategies,” Virkkunen adds. 

Research-industry cooperation key to strengthening industrial resilience

Virkkunen, who is working on industrial renewal in a volatile world, calls for strengthening resilience and flexibility. According to her, industry struggles with shifting conditions and rapid technology changes. Research-industry cooperation is key to this.

“The resilience of manufacturing industry can be strengthened by introducing, for example, alternative value chains, flexible production systems and diversified skills. With the rapid development of flexible technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, industry is facing the challenge of deploying them smartly. This requires cooperation between business and research.”

Martin Hellström, Cecilia Bjursell, Helena Jerregård, Klas Bergling and Riikka Virkkunen sitting at the ceremony
Martin Hellström, Cecilia Bjursell, Helena Jerregård, Klas Bergling, Riikka Virkkunen

Nordic countries stand stronger together

VTT is working to ensure that we can play our part in strengthening Finland's position and competitiveness. Together with our partners, we are seeking to proactively influence EU and international research policy in our chosen priority areas.

“The challenge is that, in a crisis-ridden world, long-term research collaboration is less visible, so we have to constantly highlight its importance and remind people of our successes. If we can strengthen Nordic cooperation – as seems to be happening now – we will be a stronger player in the EU and internationally.”

Original news on the Mälardalen University website


Photos: Jonas Bilberg, Mälardalen University

Riikka Virkkunen
Riikka Virkkunen
Professor of Practice
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