Systematic innovation activities and stakeholder cooperation create impact

The University of Oulu Innovation Centre, which started operating in early 2019, is responsible for coordinating business cooperation, supporting new research-based growth companies, and activities related to IPR management. It has provided a more systematic approach in these areas by means of shared operating models and processes as well as support for researchers´ work.

Previously, each researcher worked independently without coordinated support, mostly in the way they felt was most effective. This system may have seemed confusing to external partners and the surrounding society.

The first university-level business development manager and customer manager were also hired in May of the same year. Now we have three business development experts – each with personal start-up experience – and three university-level customer managers. Key account manager activities were introduced in the faculties in 2020, and we now have 13 part-time key account managers.

Sufficient resourcing in this area, interesting training sessions, and one-on-one discussions with researchers have made it possible to launch best practices and operating models for use by the faculties and their researchers. The message has been well received, and we can say that things are really coming together at the researcher level.

Since 2019, the amount of research directly commissioned by companies has increased by 42% when measured in euros. In addition, the number of invention disclosures submitted has steadily increased, and the number of new patent applications remains stable at the rate of approximately 10 applications per year. As a result, the number of patents granted to the University of Oulu in 2022 was the highest ever – seven patent families in total.

In June 2020, the university's working committee approved the business cooperation operating model, which contains a lot of practical examples and instructions on how to work with companies. The business cooperation operating model is currently being expanded into a model for stakeholder cooperation. This will enable better cooperation with public bodies, such as the church, museums, cities and ministries.

At the same time, we will extend the operating model to cover tailored non-degree education, continuous learning, student cooperation and fundraising. These topics come up regularly when we discuss cooperation with external stakeholders.

The expanded operating model will also better serve the entire university community. This will simultaneously increase the complexity of activities as new service functions are added, and that’s why we’ve focused a lot on developing internal communication in order to send a consistent message to stakeholders.

Bringing a systematic and coordinated approach to stakeholder cooperation has been the key to our university's success in innovation activities. We're moving from commercialising research results towards commercialising research competence.

Arto Maaninen, Vice Rector for Cooperation