In today’s challenging economic situation, where universities are finding the funding of their education and high-quality research to be increasingly hard to come by, donations from the private sector are surely welcomed with open arms.
While it is clear that the private sector is not going to be able to rescue university research with its contributions, it can nevertheless aid universities in keeping research in the fields it considers important alive and kicking.
According to Tauno Heinola, CEO of ABB Finland, the private sector tends to direct its funding at applied research, as applied research is more likely to result in business opportunities in the future.
“We consider technological research and innovation important,” Mr Heinola said, “not only in terms of improving Finland’s and our own competitiveness, but even in terms of larger global issues such as tackling climate change.”
ABB Finland CEO Tauno Heinola (Image: Industrial PRIME)
The Importance of R&D
The recipients of ABB Finland’s donations are Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology, Lappeenranta University of Technology, and University of Vaasa.
Part of the donations are related to the universities’ own fundraising projects taking place between 2014 and 2017. The donations directed to University of Vaasa also include support for the funding of a new professorship of smart grids as well as for the procurement of equipment for a new laboratory dedicated to energy research.
As seen from above, the donations are directed at universities with a strong focus on technological research. This kind of choice is hardly surprising, considering ABB is a world-leading technology group.
“For a group such as ABB, competitiveness is to a great extent tied to being able to offer cutting-edge, leading technologies,” Mr Heinola pointed out. “In order to promote innovation and development, we want to support and strengthen technological research and teaching in Finnish universities.”
ABB is renowned for its strong emphasis on research and development. To quote an example, the group filed more patent applications in 2014 than any other Swiss-based company.
ABB Finland is not an exception. On the contrary, it invests nearly 10% of its turnover in R&D. In 2014, the total sum was as large as €204 million.
Around 5,200 people work for ABB in Finland, nearly one-fifth of them in R&D. Strong research takes place in Finland in various areas, including high-efficiency motors, technology related to variable speed drives and smart grids, as well as solutions related to solar power, marine industry, and the utilization of digitalization in products, systems, and solutions.
Text by Industrial PRIME
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