Literature review Context of University – Business Engagement in Finland

Finland is often seen as a forerunner in university-business-cooperation (UBC). However, in European comparison the level of collaboration in Finland is around average [1]. Furthermore, according to a recent national report we are seeing a declining trend since 2010 in collaboration. It seems we are lagging behind our former peers [2].

Finland’s UBC strength lies in education-driven collaboration – in particular those collaboration types where students work side by side with businesses. For academics in scientific universities, joint R&D projects between academia and business are also strong. The grassroots-driven startup hype that emerged among Finnish university students in early 2010s has also left an impact in a form of wide support for (student) entrepreneurship [3].

Even though Finnish academics are motivated to participate in UBC by the opportunity to have an impact on society, not all of them are equally active. Pareto principle applies. In some forms of collaboration, such as research commercialization, 15-20% of academics are responsible for majority (80%) of collaboration. For example, only a select few have commercialized their research. The lack of individual incentives and interaction with businesses remains a barrier [4].

On the other hand only roughly a half of surveyed Finnish businesses in 2019 said that they had cooperated with universities in one way or another. Cooperation was often mostly limited to student-collaboration, such as internships, thesis work or project assignments. Collaboration that requires deeper involvement with university staff, e.g. joint R&D projects or valorization activities, is less frequent. Larger businesses have collaboration capability – among SMEs situation varies a lot. All this means there is plenty of market for new partnerships [4].

All in all, both Finnish academics and businesses who have experience of doing UBC, are quite satisfied with the results and likely to recommend it to peers. As a general rule of thumb, SMEs wish that universities would be more proactive. The high-trust in Finnish culture is seen as a driver for open collaboration across organizations [2].

In Finnish context, a number of opportunities for joint HEI-SME projects has been identified. As UBC is a people’s game, co-creation platforms could enhance long-term cooperation, relationships as well as deeper interaction and play a larger role as ”an interface” for curated matchmaking events and access to resources. Also, impact-driven innovation and project training methodologies represent an opportunity for joint HEI-SME projects and have been used with success by various co-creation platforms and intermediaries. In addition, HEI-SME projects could work as vehicles for enabling more diverse career roles within academic community [4]. The last but not the least both the Finnish HEIs and businesses need better understanding of how to use different funding instruments in synergy to access and leverage larger opportunities. This applies to both public funding, but also for growth businesses how they can access [5].


Authors: Toni Pienonen & Katerina Salmi


Photo by Saltiola Photography on Unsplash


[1] Davey, T., Meerman, A., Galan-Muros, V., Orazbayeva, B. & Baaken, T. (2018).  The State of University-Business Cooperation in Europe.

[2] Koski, I., Suominen, A. & Hyytinen, K. (2021). Selvitys tutkimus– yritys-yhteistyön vaikuttavuudesta, tuloksellisuudesta ja rahoittamisesta

[3] Davey, T., Meerman, A., Korpela, K., Pienonen, T., Orazbayeva, B., Galán-Muros, V., Troutt, M. & Melonari, M. (2018) Country report –  The State of Finnish University-Business Cooperation: the university perspective.

[4] Jääskö, P., Korpela, M., Laaksonen, M., & Pienonen, T. (2019). Korkeakoulujen yritysyhteistyö Suomessa.

[5] Pienonen, T. & Markkanen, M. (2014). Change 2020 – RIS3 WORKBOOK (A) FOR LEARNING- DRIVEN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT


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