Aalto University: The Finnish Freshwater Competence Centre Aims to Boost Science, Education, and Business with Key Technologies

The Freshwater Competence Centre (FWCC) consists of Finnish universities and governmental research institutes: University of Turku, University of Oulu, Aalto university, Finnish Environment Institute, and Finnish Geospatial Research Institute. Currently, there are also 15 business organisations involved.

‘Each one of these organisations has their own specific field of expertise within the research area of freshwater. The previous successful collaborations encouraged these organisations to finally start the Freshwater Competence Centre, to try and solve great challenges related to our valuable freshwater resources,’ says the leader of the Centre Petteri Alho from the University of Turku.

The Freshwater Competence Centre focuses on three themes: green transition, networking, and digital transition. The centre is funded by the Academy of Finland via multiple Academy projects.

‘We are developing a concept in which we take environmental values​ into account and utilise digitalisation in the examination of river basins. For example, westudy the effects of climate and land-use changes to the river basins, nutrients, suspended matter, and carbon loads. We also study the greener, ecosystem-based solutions for managing the upcoming challenges,’ Alho says.

The researchers aim to create a digital twin of river basins, in particular, three supersites (River Vantaanjoki, Oulanka River, and Tana river), to develop next generation modeling research for fluvial environments in the context of water amount and quality.

‘We also have wide-ranging expertise from peatland and ground water hydrology to fluvial dynamics and state-of-the-art 3D mapping and modeling of the river basin and the catchment area,’ Alho says.

The researchers of the centre are developing a research, development and innovation ecosystem connecting the scientific actors in fluvial and water shed science as well as businesses in the field of freshwater in Finland. In this task, the University of Eastern Finland is also involved as a partner.

The hydrological research infrastructure of the centre will obtain and build a research infrastructure of sensors and models for freshwater research in a coordinated manner across the main science actors, consisting of latest available under- and above water sensor technologies as well as a wide variety of autonomous and human-operated platforms to mount the sensors on.

‘In order to be better prepared for the predicted effects of climate change, it is important to study the seasonal changes in floods, material transport and erosion risk in the northern rivers,’ reminds Academy Research Fellow Eliisa Lotsari, from the Department of Built Environment at Aalto University.

‘It is also essential to develop new observation methods, digitize water environments, and improve the distribution of data so that information is made available to the widest possible range of users in addition to researchers,’ she continues.

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