Aalto University: Cooperative business veteran Taavi Heikkilä starts his new post at Aalto University

Former SOK CEO and vuorineuvos (honorary title) Taavi Heikkilä MSc (Econ and Bus Admin) has been selected by Aalto University for a five-year Executive in Residence (EiR) position that was established with donated funds. The position is based in the Department of Marketing, and its central focus is cooperative business.

Now due to start work in his new role on 1 August, Heikkilä is especially looking forward to working with students.

‘I am also excited to get stuck into building bridges between the expertise of Aalto and the needs of businesses. It is really great that my experience of modern cooperative business and ethical responsibility can contribute towards the Aalto success story,’ he adds.

Taavi Heikkilä has long and varied experience of both cooperative business and retail trade, and also has a strong background in financial administration and strategic leadership. At Aalto, his role will be to help build and develop stakeholder relationships, launch new research initiatives, and strengthen and diversify teaching. Active participation in public discussion is also central to his role.

The Executive in Residence for Cooperative Business is Aalto University’s first EiR position established with donated funds. The project initiator was Sami Karhu Secretary of the Advisory Board for Cooperative Business and Managing Director of Pellervo Coop Center, who also sought out the donators for the project. Underlying the initiative were the concerns of experts in cooperative business regarding the lack of adequate research and teaching within the field.

‘Research and teaching on cooperative business and the strengthening of collaboration between universities and cooperative enterprises is especially important in Finland, as cooperative business is stronger here than anywhere else. Expertise in the cooperative business model is also important because many graduates from the School of Business will go on to work for cooperative enterprises,’ Sami Karhu explains.

This new Executive in Residence position has been supported by Pellervo, the OP Group Research Foundation, The Central Finnish Cooperative Society SOK, Helsinki Elanto Consumers’ Cooperative, Varuboden-Osla Handelslag Consumers’ Cooperative, LähiTapiola Mutual Insurance Institution, Uusimaa Cooperative Bank, Itä-Uusimaa Cooperative Bank, Helsinki Area Cooperative Bank, Tradeka Cooperative and Metsäliitto Cooperative.

The Executive in Residence positions are important for the School of Business because they support the school’s objective of building bridges between the everyday business world and the school’s research and teaching. The particular details of these positions are always worked out individually based on the needs of the school and the special expertise of the potential position holders.

‘Taavi Heikkilä has a lot to offer our researchers, and especially our students, from his expertise in a field where Finland is leading the way at the international level. Through his connections, cooperative enterprises will also have even better opportunities to benefit from the expertise of the School of Business. This new Executive in Residence position is a very welcome addition to our activities. I am excited about the opportunities that it opens up and I am deeply grateful to the project initiators and the donators,’ says Timo Korkeamäki, Dean of the School of Business.

The title Executive in Residence is used in reference to respected top management figures, leading figures in academia or society, or experts who have been invited to Aalto University. In terms of their content, EiR positions are similar to Professor of Practice positions, but they do not require a doctoral degree. Those currently holding Executive in Residence positions at the School of Business include Esko Aho, Gautam Basu, Bruce Oreck, Juhani Pekkala, Osmo Soininvaara and Juha Äkräs.

Seven million members
Cooperative business is a form of business in which company ownership is divided equally among all owners. The objective is to provide sustainable benefits that meet the owners’ everyday needs, and this is only possible through successful business activities. The operations of cooperative enterprises are guided by democratic principles.

In Finland, there are currently seven million members of cooperatives and mutual insurance institutions, and a significant number of adults are members of more than one cooperative enterprise. These enterprises can be found in many different lines of business, including the trade and commerce sector, banking and insurance sector, food industry, forest industry, hotel and restaurant sector and fuel sector.

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