five people at the front of the audience.

Joint event brought experts together to discuss the role of higher education in promoting EU competitiveness and sustainability

The higher education institutions in Turku, together with other Finnish and Nordic partners in Brussels, organised a joint event The Role of Higher Education Institutions in Ensuring the EU’s Competitiveness and Resilience.  The event took place in Brussels during the Research and Innovation Week launched by the European Commission. Research Area Director of the INVEST Research Centre, professor Mikko Niemelä was one of the panelists in the discussion Perspectives on economically and socially sustainable states fostering an equal and resilient EU.

The event highlighted the important role of universities and universities of applied sciences in addressing the EU’s competitiveness and sustainability objectives and challenges. The event promoted dialogue between policy makers, higher education institutions and industry. It attracted a large number of participants from Europe and Brussels. 

Among Niemelä Vice Rector of the University of Turku Kalle-Antti Suominen, Rector and President of Turku University of Applied Sciences Vesa Taatila and Professor of Industrial Management at Åbo Akademi University Kim Wikström participated in the discussions as representatives of the higher education institutions of Turku. In addition, representatives of other Nordic higher education institutions, the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the European University Association were among the speakers.

As a panelist, professor Niemelä opened perspectives on economically and socially sustainable states 

The event highlighted the key role of higher education institutions in the EU’s strategic objectives. Discussions showed that the EU should emphasise the role of higher education in building a sustainable and competitive Europe, integrate scientific views more strongly into policy-making, and ensure adequate funding for research.

Professor of Sociology at the University of Turku and Research Area Director of the INVEST Research Centre Mikko Niemelä was one of the panelists in the discussion Perspectives on economically and socially sustainable states fostering an equal and resilient EU. He was asked, among other things,what are the research needs for a more resilient EU?

– First, the European integration is the success story of peace building. Thus, in the current situation, one clear research need is to understand the genesis of resilience in the EU’s external activities and foreign policy and to combine the issues like peace building, fostering the sense of security and reducing people’s fears the issues included in European Pillar of Social Rights, Niemelä replied.

Secondly he said, if the EU wants to become more capable of reacting to different internal and external shocks, there is need to systematic assessment of the region’s specific shocks and risks.

– This requires also new kind of partnerships within Europe. For instance, we have a decades-long history of Nordic cooperation in welfare research, but we should extend it to the whole Baltic Sea region. Third, we must continue and expand multidisciplinary research especially in fields of strategical importance such as growth, sustainable development, environment and climate action, Niemelä said.

In the event the essential role of both basic and applied research in future innovation and competitiveness was also highlighted. Improving the efficiency of knowledge transfer and the use of research throughout the value chain emerged as key themes. Scientific quality should also guide decision-making in future EU Framework Programmes. The discussions highlighted the importance of digital transformation, artificial intelligence and space exploration, and called on Europe to catch up with global leaders in these areas. Furthermore, there was consensus on the need to act decisively and with scientific knowledge against climate change and biodiversity loss.