New University Innovation Centre serves researchers

The vernal Professor Forum brought together University of Oulu professors from different scientific disciplines. Topics discussed in the event varied from the commercialisation of research results to creating new business and cooperation with companies.

Since the beginning of the year, services for the development of research-based innovations, university-company collaboration and business development have been combined in the new University Innovation Centre, UIC. The centre is a joint venture of the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences. The core of the centre consists of an approximately ten-strong team of personnel from both the organisations.

The University Innovation Centre will have joint premises on the Linnanmaa campus, operating on the one-stop-shop principle. The centre provides help in everything from inventions and entrepreneurship to finding a suitable partner. The team of university personnel will be complemented by a BusinessOulu employee located in the same premises.

The Professor Forum aimed to bring the operation of the University Innovation Centre to the fore. The University of Oulu professors were also probed for their views on how the centre could best help researchers, lecturers and students.

“The University Innovation Centre does not dictate what the researchers should do or how things should be done,” says Rector for Cooperation Arto Maaninen of the University of Oulu.

The UIC helps in finding more commercialisable ideas to develop into new business in future.

The researchers are provided with expertise that facilitates new business. In the group discussions, identification of a commercialisable idea in one’s own research, and building a team, were found problematic. Typically, researchers are not known for their strength in turning research results into commercial products or services.

The university also aims to take a more active role in the operations of the spinoff companies it owns. At the moment, the university is a co-owner in eight research-based companies.

In cooperation with companies

The university aims to increase collaboration with companies. Some research units already have strong traditions in cooperation with businesses, while others are just in the process of building the collaboration.

Innovation Manager Pekka Räsänen spoke of European research that has identified 14 different forms of collaboration between universities and businesses. These include, for example, student exchange, continuing education, joint research and product development projects, consulting, entrepreneurship and utilisation of joint equipment.

One aim of the UIC is to help researchers find partners for the research projects. This is important because research is more and more reliant on supplementary funding, and the financiers are increasingly demanding more collaboration with companies.

In practice, the work requires knowledge of the kind of expertise on offer in the universities. The needs of the businesses, however, must also be acknowledged.

Importance of research for the City of Oulu

“Without research, Oulu would be a much smaller place. I would estimate that there would be up to 40 per cent fewer citizens living in Oulu without it,” says Juha Ala-Mursula, Executive Director of Business Oulu.

Not all businesses based on innovations are research-based. “Of the most successful, however, many are research-based,” Ala-Mursula points out.

As an example, Ala-Mursula mentioned the machine vision research group. Their research work has created almost two dozen research-based businesses producing approximately EUR 23 million in turnover last year, and employing 200 personnel.

“The amount of venture capital investments per capita in Oulu is the third highest in Europe,” said Ala-Mursula.

Interdisciplinarity was a popular topic during the day. Ala-Mursula also brought forward suggestions of disciplines that could develop new solutions by combining the expertise of the researchers in the various fields and businesses in the region.

University Innovation Centre, UIC

  • Responsible for services related to innovations, university-company collaboration and business development
  • A joint venture of the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences, including also BusinessOulu services
  • Premises for the approximately ten-strong team will be provided on the Linnanmaa campus

Innovations in the University of Oulu

Year

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Invention disclosures

53

54

44

47

35

Priority patent applications

2

8

9

9

6

Patent portfolio of the university (number of patent families)

22

24

34

30

35

Technology transfer agreements (new)

13

13

10

14

9

New research-based companies1)

5

5

4

3

3

Proof of Concept (PoC) projects

-

6

9

11

9

Business Finland TUTLI funding (new projects)2)

6

5

6

5

5

 

For more information on the research-based University of Oulu companies, please visit: https://www.oulu.fi/yliopisto/startups

For all the TUTLI funded University of Oulu projects for commercialisation of research results, please visit: https://www.oulu.fi/yliopisto/tutli

Professor Forum is organized twice a year. The event is aimed at professors and rectors and it aims to bring forth current themes regarding the job of professors and offer a forum to discuss ideas. The next Professor Forum is held on September or November 2019.

Text: Maarit Jokela

Pictures: Lasse Lehto

Last updated: 4.4.2019