Aalto University: President Ilkka Niemelä: ‘Cuts to research are always cuts to education’

In his opening speech at the opening of the academic year, Aalto University President Ilkka Niemelä expressed his deep concern about the downsizing of research when the challenges posed by sustainable development require extensive societal renewal. ‘Public investment is essential if society is to be reformed. Public investment must be used to create internationally competitive competence and environments that, in turn, are able to attract private investments from around the globe. Only then will we be able to increase Finland’s expenditure-to-GDP ratio for research, development and innovation to four per cent of GDP by 2030, a target specified in Prime Minister Marin’s Government Programme.’

According to Niemelä: ‘There should be every opportunity to mobilise investments to renew society. But this is not the case. What is happening is the exact opposite. Finnish research is being driven down, and the proposed cuts to the Academy of Finland’s budget for research funding will especially affect young researchers and the future. Cuts to research are always cuts to education.’

Jutta Urpilainen, the Commissioner in charge of international partnerships at the European Commission, greeted participants at the opening ceremony on behalf of the Finnish Government. ‘Before coronavirus, we were living in a world that was increasingly competitive and fraught with global tension. Though tensions still exist, we have a better understanding of the interdependencies that bind us together. The pandemic and mutations of the virus have shown us in a very visceral way the need for international cooperation.‘

Chair of the Aalto University Student Union (AYY) Milja Leinonen stated in her address: ‘Aalto is a place where we can safely try, fail, try again and practice asking for help. It is a place where we make friends, fall in love, experience disappointment and learn to deal with uncertainty. Encounters make Aalto what it is. We cannot afford to be divided into small, individual groups; instead, we must always reach out to others and also reach for new ideas.’

Risto Ilmoniemi appointed Aalto Distinguished Professor
Professor of Applied Physics Risto Ilmoniemi, Head of the Aalto University Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, was appointed Aalto Distinguished Professor. This title is awarded to professors of exceptional academic merit.

Professor Risto Ilmoniemi is an internationally distinguished researcher and one of the world’s leading experts in magnetoencephalography (MEC) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). He served as Academy Professor in 2012–2016, is a distinguished educator and has supervised over 50 dissertations. His passion and commitment in applying new knowledge into practice is exemplary, as evidenced by numerous patents, innovation awards and active entrepreneurship activities.

As part of his work to develop a new kind of brain stimulator, Professor Ilmoniemi obtained funding from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2018 for his ConnectToBrain project, becoming the first Finn to receive an ERC Synergy grant. In the future, artificial intelligence-enabled ‘self-driving’ brain stimulators can improve the condition of millions of patients suffering from brain disorders. Professor Risto Ilmoniemi gave the Aalto Talk at the opening ceremony.

Esa Saarinen was awarded the Aalto Act of the Year
The Aalto Act of the Year award for 2021 was granted to Professor Esa Saarinen for his pre-retirement, farewell round of Philosophy and Systems Thinking lecture series during Spring 2021.

Esa Saarinen has touched the nation’s soul with his deeply human approach of thinking, love and flourish in life. His course videos have inspired more than a million viewers, with a total watch time of 50 years.

The opening ceremony also gave recognition to other accomplished members of the university community for their achievements.

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