Ilkka Niemelä: ‘Higher education a critical national investment’

Speakers at the Aalto opening ceremony included Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori and Chair of the Student Union Joona Orpana.

In his opening address for the academic year, Aalto University President Ilkka Niemelä, following the vision that the Ministry of Education and Culture is currently planning for higher education and research to the year 2030, gave a guideline for the future: ‘All policy options must be reviewed for how they will advance our operations relative to higher education internationally. Higher education is a national investment critical for securing Finland’s economic prosperity and Finnish well-being.’ The opening ceremony was held at the recently renovated Dipoli building in Otaniemi.


Niemelä underscored the importance of international networking and hubs of expertise as guarantors of Finnish competitiveness: ‘To maintain a competitive edge, Finland must have hubs of expertise with international stature and strength to be able to participate as equals, even take the lead, in major international networks. Only then can domestic actors throughout Finland be linked to the international frontlines of science, art, research and education, innovation and business.’

Niemelä foresees increases in competition between universities due to the rise of Asia, particularly in the areas represented at Aalto: technology, business and the creative disciplines. However, Niemelä is optimistic about gaining a place at the top of the international competition through passionate work by talented people.

President Niemelä welcomed the new students, highlighting their position at the centre of the Aalto community.

Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori also gave his greetings at the opening ceremony: ‘I look forward to seeing what kinds of innovative solutions Aalto University will produce this academic year to address the global challenges – new businesses, new theories to be applied and proven in practice, new knowledge and competence capital for the whole nation and for the world – this is what Finland expects of you during its centennial year’.

Chair of Aalto University Student Union, AYY, Joona Orpana, stated in his own address: ‘I am especially glad that our ability to develop the Aalto University is based on doing things together.’

The Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori

Chair of Aalto University Student Union, AYY, Joona Orpana

Maarit Karppinen appointed Aalto Distinguished Professor

President Niemelä appointed Professor Maarit Karppinen from the Department of Chemistry and Materials Science of the School of Chemical Engineering as an Aalto Distinguished Professor in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the development of new materials, particularly in the areas of energy technology and nanotechnology. At the ceremony, Professor Karppinen gave a presentation on sustainable materials science.

Aalto Distinguished Professor Maarit Karppinen

Other achievements by members of the Aalto University community were also recognised at the opening ceremony. The Aalto Act of the Year award for 2017 was granted to Professor Pirjo Hirvonen (second from the left), Lecturer Tuomas Laitinen (third from the left), Studio Master Sari Kivioja, and Aalto University’s students of fashion and clothing design for their outstanding efforts in making Aalto University a global leader in fashion design education.

The Aalto Success Enabler Award for 2017 was granted to the Donor Engagement Team for their excellent work in supporting the fundraising campaign, which ended this summer.

The 2017 Aalto Community Award was granted to Slush and its organising body Startup Sauna Ltd for their outstanding achievements in advancing entrepreneurship.

Read more
Speech by President Ilkka Niemelä (pdf)
Speech by Joona Orpana, Chair of AYY (pdf)

Photos: Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen