University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute - strong roots and eyes to the future

This year, the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Matti Muhos

This year, the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary. The Institute was named after Kerttu Saalasti, a Minister of Education who played a key role in establishing the University of Oulu in 1958. The 20th Kerttu Saalasti seminar, which was organised on Saalasti's birthday on 21 September, celebrated the growth story of this institute established in 2000 under the title ‘Internationality and societal impact’.

As an international research institute focusing on micro-enterprises and their operating conditions, Kerttu Saalasti Institute is one of a kind. In her greeting to the seminar, Minister Saarikko aptly referred to the story behind the Institute's growth: "The goal set by Kerttu Saalasti, Counsellor of Education, Minister, Member of Parliament (1907–1995) has been reached. Entrepreneurship, courage and trust in the power of education have turned the University of Oulu and its research unit, Kerttu Saalasti Institute, into a unique actor which is firmly rooted in its region but which operates internationally, creating concrete, practical solutions to problems affecting the entire human race. “

While we have strong roots, we also look to the future: following negotiations between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the University of Oulu, the Ministry decided to assign a new national mission to the University of Oulu from the beginning of next year: research and education related microentrepreneurship. This mission will be fulfilled by Kerttu Saalasti Institute. The mission assigned to it means that our Institute will be responsible for research and education related to micro-enterprises and their operating conditions in Finland.

The Institute’s research theme is the operational excellence of micro-enterprises, for which we produce new information from the perspectives of microentrepreneurship, future manufacturing technologies and regional excellence. In its field of expertise, the Institute conducts pioneering research whose societal significance is exceptional. In a short time, Kerttu Saalasti Institute has achieved the position of a trailblazer in research focusing on micro-enterprises and their operating conditions.

National and international research funding providers have also recognised the importance of the work carried out for the benefit of micro-enterprises. Each year, the Institute coordinates and participates in some 30 research projects funded by such parties as the EU Framework programmes for research, including Horizon 2020, the Academy of Finland's Strategic Research Council, Business Finland, international and national Structural Funds as well as various ministries, companies, municipalities and regional actors.

In spring 2020, the University of Oulu launched national e-Learning courses on microentrepreneurship. National micro-entrepreneurship studies enable continuous learning as well as an agile and proactive response to rapidly changing skills needs. The outcome is customer-oriented and interactive offering of e-Learning that is independent of time and place and takes into account the special characteristics of micro-enterprises.

From the perspective of a sustainable national economy, research and education focusing on micro-enterprises are a necessary investment in the future. We are bridge-builders locally, regionally and internationally. Over the course of its 20 years of operation, the Institute has grown into a research institute with a nationally and internationally significant research profile, a strong international partner network, and responsibility for fulfilling the new national mission in line with its profile.

To conclude, I quote the words of Kerttu Saalasti during the University of Oulu’s first autumn semester: "The support of scientific research is urgently needed to investigate and find solutions to many of the major issues in Northern Finland. Expectant eyes are fixed on the University of Oulu, not only in the northern or national context but also in the sense of serving humankind as a whole.“ These words are highly topical as we start fulfilling our new national mission.


Matti Muhos, Director, Professor

This article was published in the newspaper Keskipohjanmaa on 27 September 2020.