Neither distance nor the pandemic can put a stop on international cooperation

To make interesting scientific discoveries, you should acquire as many good friends as possible who are as energetic, intelligent and knowledgeable as they can be. You should form partnerships with them whenever possible. These were the wise words of Professor Herbert Simon (1916–2001), winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Professor Simon's advice sums up the essential aspects of partnerships, which are not limited to the pursuit of scientific discoveries.
Eija-Riitta Niinikoski

The international cooperation network of University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute covers the Nordic countries, the Baltic Sea region and most of the rest of Europe. The Institute also engages in active cooperation with partners in North and South America, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Our network consists of universities, development actors and companies in more than 40 countries.

Internationality was one of the themes of the Institute's 20th anniversary seminar in September. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some speakers attended it by virtual means. Professor Ho-Don Yan from Taiwan highlighted the cooperation between universities in two geographically distant countries. This cooperation was founded on research in the early growth stages of companies and meetings at scientific conferences. In 2019, Professor Ho-Don Yan came to Oulu on a scientific exchange. He explained that during this time, he learned to understand more about the Northern Spirit. He remembers his many discussions, trips and visits, including to Nivala. Expanding research cooperation to family businesses is a future opportunity.

Birute Miskiniene, Dean of Vilnius University Business School, congratulated the University of Oulu for its choice of research focus for Kerttu Saalasti Institute. She noted that microentrepreneurship is very important in terms of prosperity, not only in Finland but globally. Miskiniene pointed out that during the Covid-19 pandemic, societal impacts and sustainable development should also be taken into account, not only the economic impacts. The pandemic has brought about changes in operating methods, and virtual reality has become and will increasingly be part of everyday reality. One of the focus areas of the Vilnius University Business School is entrepreneurship and understanding the enterprising mindset. In this context, cooperation that has got off to a good start will be expanded with new projects.

Breda Kenny, Head of the School of Business at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland, reminded the listeners: The more you read, the more you know. The more you learn, the more places you go. This is something we should remember, also in relation to the internationalisation and growth of small companies. The international activities of micro and small enterprises in Europe have great potential. Tapping this potential is slowed down by such factors as a lack of knowledge about the international market, difficulty of finding business partners abroad, shortage of human resources and the challenges of accessing funding. Through research and network cooperation, universities can strengthen the structures that help small companies build their knowledge of the markets and internationalisation. Ms Kenny pointed out that this help must be tailored to each customer in their own language.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has affected travel and agreed researcher exchanges and visits have had to be postponed, research cooperation has not lost its momentum. Quite the opposite. One example of this is a data collection project on the pandemic’s impacts on micro-enterprises in Finland and in the state of Minais Gerais in Brazil. Researchers at the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute and the University of Uberlândia use the same set of questions when interviewing companies. This will provide very interesting research data from two very different areas. There are almost 21 million inhabitants in Minais Gerais. What Finland and the second biggest state in Brazil have in common is the large share of micro-enterprises out of all companies: almost 95% in both. Remote connections make a joint study possible despite the long distance between the partners.

We are bridge-builders locally, regionally and internationally. Our international network is open to regional actors, helping to boost their dynamic growth, sustainable development and vitality.


Eija-Riitta Niinikoski, Development Manager

The article was published in the newspaper Keskipohjanmaa on 31 October 2020.