Research achievements at the University of Oulu in 2023

The year 2023 started splendidly when we learned that Professor Heli Jantunen in the field of technical physics received the honorary title of Academician of Science. She is internationally renowned for her research on electronic materials, especially for her pioneering work in electroceramics. Heli is the first Academician of Science at the University of Oulu, and therefore, her attainment of this significant title is particularly remarkable for our university!

Since 2015, the Research Council of Finland's profiling funding has aimed to support and speed up the strategic profiling of Finnish universities to improve the quality of research. The program's goal has been to strengthen the research conditions of selected entities by reducing fragmentation within scientific disciplines and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration.

The University of Oulu has prepared its proposal for profiling areas through extensive collaboration. In January this year, the Research Council of Finland announced the results of the 7th research profiling call. Once again, we succeeded in submitting an excellently evaluated application. Our ongoing Profi 7 programme is structured around three themes led by Marko Huttula on 'Hydrogen future as a climate change solution,' Jarkko Saarinen on 'Frontiers of Arctic and global resilience,' and Sanna Järvelä on 'Hybrid intelligence.'

Another national strategic programme commenced this spring, namely the 4th flagship call by the Research Council of Finland. The Flagship Programme supports high-level research and resulting broad economic and societal impact. The flagships combine strong collaboration with the business sector and wider society, adaptability, and strong commitment from the parent organizations. In October, we received pleasing news as the Digital Waters Flagship, prepared under the leadership of Professor Björn Klöve, was chosen as one of the four new flagships. Additionally, we are partners in two flagships: in the fields of mathematics and medical imaging, and quantum technology. This outcome complements our successful 6G Flagship research and our participation in the GeneCellNano flagship in the field of biomedical science.

The impact of our research is notably reflected in the productivity of our publications. Over the past two years, our publication activity has significantly increased in terms of both quantity and quality. While the publication data for this year is still incomplete, it seems that the output of our publication activities will continue to be excellent this year as well.

In the European Union's competitive funding programme, Horizon Europe, we have excelled particularly in consortium applications. We received gratifying results in the Marie Curie co-fund call as well when the long-term and interdisciplinary work conducted at Biocenter Oulu was recognized, allowing us, under the guidance of Johannes Kettunen, to train new post-doctoral researchers in the rapidly evolving field of health data. There is still room for development, especially in constructing research funded by the prestigious European Research Council.

We also excelled in the Research Council of Finland's FIRI 2023 research infrastructure call, securing funding for five projects listed in the infrastructure roadmap and one project outside the roadmap.

The forthcoming year's significant effort will be the national doctoral training pilot, in the preparation of which researchers from the University of Oulu have been actively involved. By February at the latest, we will know the number of new doctoral training positions we will receive from the available 1000 vacancies funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This program will initiate a significantly revamped, faster, and more diverse doctoral training scheme.

The updated strategy of the University of Oulu, to be published in early 2024, will continue to guide the strategic development of research at the university, taking into account global challenges. The engagement of the university community in shaping the research profile of the University of Oulu will also play a crucial role in determining the future directions of research at the university.

Taina Pihlajaniemi, Vice Rector for Research