The first jump does count
The Consortium of Universities of Applied Sciences in Southwest Finland, CoastAL, has for two years cooperated to find and test mechanisms for enhancing the research, development and innovation (RDI) activities of higher education institutions. The Kolmiloikalla vaihtovirtaa (“Triple Jump”) project divided the activities into three “jumps” of different lengths. Of these, the national and international parts were related to long-term staff exchanges with business life and other higher education institutions. But the third element, however, was something else – a regional, student-oriented innovation exchange.
The sun shines from a bright blue sky as a group of people with safety vests and helmets walk through an empty asphalt field towards the gaping doors of a gigantic industrial hall. On the face of it, everything seems quite ordinary, but this morning the group starting their workday at Seaside Industry Park in Rauma is actually composed of students from Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and TUAS.
After getting used to the surroundings, the darkness on the other side of the doorway quickly changes into a pleasant dimness. It’s time to open the mental blinders, too.
“Developing an industry park for heavy industry with a multidisciplinary group of students, whose backgrounds are delightfully different, was an experience to remember for the participants, organisers and commissioners,” Lector Teppo Lundell and Principal Lecturer Niko Kandelin from Satakunta UAS look back on the event which took place a couple of months ago.
What’s this all about?
The aim of regional innovation exchange is to develop more efficient ways to bring together the needs of other parties in the region with the hidden potential within the UAS to answer to these needs as quickly as possible. This kind of cooperation transcends sector boundaries.
“Higher education students are a unique resource. Only higher education institutions have the chance to offer such a large and multidisciplinary group of experts for the development needs of their cooperation partners. Harnessing this potential through student-based innovation services requires seamless and systematic cooperation between teaching, services to business and RDI services within the universities of applied sciences,” says Head of Education and Research Ursula Hyrkkänen, who is the responsible director of TUAS’ part of the project.
Student-based innovation services in universities of applied sciences
The work should be done by listening to the actors in the region, but also by experimenting to find new synergies. Hence a bold vision came about during the project – a vision according to which by 2020, innovation services will have risen beside theses and practical training as one of the most common student-based forms of cooperation with business life.
Uniting students from different fields under any project learning environment of a higher education institution has many positive sides. One of these is that study paths become more interesting and flexible, which enables the students to get in touch with real-life businesses already during their studies.