The Research Council of Finland selected four new clusters of expertise to its Finnish Flagship Programme, and the University of Turku is a partner in two of the Flagships.
The University of Turku is a partner in the Education for the Future (EDUCA) Flagship and the Digital Waters Flagship (DIWA) that received funding from the Research Council of Finland for 2024–2028.
“At the moment, the University of Turku leads two Flagships and will have a central role in two of the new Flagships. With these Flagships, the University’s research and impact will be strengthened significantly and will be more visible both nationally and internationally. Multidisciplinary research is the strength of our University, which is apparent in all the fields of science represented in our Flagships. The Flagships have a key role in the utilisation of the increasing RDI funding, for example, in the researcher training pilot programme that will be carried out in 2024–2027,” says Vice Rector responsible for research Kalle-Antti Suominen.
Solutions for challenges in education
Professor Mikko-Jussi Laakso at the Turku Research Institute for Learning Analytics directs the EDUCA Flagship at the University of Turku. The University of Jyväskylä leads the Flagship and Aalto University and the University of Helsinki are partners in the initiative in addition to the University of Turku.
Challenges in schools require research-based solutions: learning outcomes are declining and drop-out rates are increasing. At the same time, technological innovations and an increase in the number of pupils with immigrant backgrounds are changing teaching and learning methods.
The EDUCA Flagship combines expertise in education, psychology, learning analytics, sociology and economics with research and development in the education sector.
The Flagship strengthens the research-basis for decision-making and pilot projects in education policy and the expertise of teachers and leaders. Research increases understanding of the variation in individual and social learning processes, optimal learning situations, and challenges in committing to studies as well as of the impact of scalable solutions in teaching technology.
The ViLLE learning platform developed at the University of Turku has a key role in the Flagship. ViLLE is used already in over 70 percent of the Finnish schools and in dozens of countries. The University of Turku is also responsible for learning analytics and utilisation of AI in the Flagship. The University is represented in the Flagship by researchers from the Turku Research Institute for Learning Analytics and the Faculty of Education.
“With learning analytics and artificial intelligence, we can prevent learning challenges and improve the school system’s ability to react to, for example, major turning points in digitalisation now and in the future. The ecosystem enables early interference with scalable and research-based analyses and interventions. It also enables knowledge-based management from the classroom all the way to the national level,” says Laakso.
Future water resources secured with sustainable management
Professor Petteri Alho from the Department of Geography and Geology is the Vice-Director of the Digital Waters Flagship and directs the activities at the University of Turku. The University of Oulu leads the Flagship and the partners include the Aalto University, National Land Survey of Finland, Finnish Environment Institute, and Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Water is necessary for good quality of life and its integrated and sustainable management is the only way to secure water resources for people and ecosystems in the future. The Digital Waters Flagship aims to become a leading research and innovation ecosystem in the water sector, using research to support decision-making and pave the way for the next revolution in water sector – digitally.
The Digital Waters Flagship will bridge the knowledge gap on the water cycle. By combining measurement data on climate, land and water through digital innovation, the Flagship supports sustainable solutions to avoid the serious consequences of global changes on water cycles, the environment and socio-economic systems.
The digitalisation of water resources will improve the management and security of water systems, distribution and use, for example in the event of flooding or drought. Digital water management also helps to balance the objectives of industry, energy, agriculture and forestry in a sustainable way. The water sector has a multi-billion business potential worldwide, which is expected to grow rapidly due to climate change.
“We need these solutions urgently, as water is a critical natural resource that enables a variety of social and economic activities,” says Alho.
At the University of Turku, the Flagship involves researchers from the Department of Geography and Geology, Department of Computing, and the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
Research Flagships create a better society
The Research Council of Finland’s Flagship Programme is an instrument that supports high-quality research and increases the economic and societal impact emerging from the research. The Finnish Flagships represent an effective mix of close cooperation with business and society, adaptability and a strong commitment from host organisations.
International collaboration is an integral part of the Flagships’ activities. The Research Council promotes international cooperation in flagship fields through special actions together with its American partners.
The Flagships create future know-how and sustainable solutions to societal challenges and promote economic growth by, for example, developing new business opportunities.