Aalto University Magazine 25 – English edition

Page 1




Farewell, oil! p. 12

Light is an endless source p. 26

Microbes create spider silk

Acoustics researchers make objects sing

Strategy evolves with time

contents Anna Muchenikova and Parvati Pillai designed a series of illustrations to enliven the fence of Aalto Töölö’s construction site.

5 Openings – Kristiina Mäkelä agrees with the Government’s education policy objectives.

32 On science – Miniscule sensors can be a big help in brain research.

6 Now – Minor news, major issues.

35 Cooperation – Ekosetti steers the AV industry towards sustainable solutions.

10 Visiting – Marja Makarow awarded an honorary doctorate. 11 Oops! – Tuomas Auvinen and the story of a seedling. 12 Theme – Farewell, oil! Research provides solutions for the energy transition. 17 Theme – Martti Larmi’s five alternatives to fossil fuel. 19 Column – Teemu Malmi examines Finland’s social and healthcare reform. 20 Who – Kari Korkman is a design emissary. 24 Entrepreneurship – Pia-Maria Nickström and Hanna Tikander give investment advice to the gals. 26 Theme – Photonics, the science of light, influences almost everything. 30 Cooperation – PdP product development course participants learn through experimentation.

36 On science – Vesa Välimäki and Koray Tahiroğlu research the wonders of acoustics. 38 Theme – Strategy preparation involves live cooperation. 41 In-house – Helsinki Design Week expands to Espoo. 42 Partnership – For Tauno Voipio, coming to campus is like coming home. 44 Wow! – Art and maths combine in exhibition works. 45 Campus – Construction of the Aalto Works block gets underway. 46 Theses – Mika Jalava and the water we eat; Veera Westenius and the avian influenza virus; Tiina Ojala and corporate law. 48 Everyday choices – Tuukka Saarimaa ponders solutions for the urban economy.


Iiro Immonen

On the job

MY PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY was created by exposure to impressive and memorable photographs from a young age. I feel that photographs and illustration play a major role in any type of communications. My work consists of meeting with and shooting people, which is why I always have a responsibility towards the person being photographed. My shoot takes up not only their time, but also something of their very selves. This is why trust between me and the subject is so important, and I’m always grateful for it. Iiro Immonen

IN MY WORK AS AN ILLUSTRATOR, values, instructions, materials and formats all come from the client. There are, however, some small things that I myself can influence, for example choosing recycled paper. When creating, I pay attention to the uniqueness and authenticity of the characters. I also strive to create characters that are as diverse, differentlooking and -sized as possible, while avoiding certain stereotypes and gender roles. Jolanda Jokinen

PUBLISHER Aalto University, Communications EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jaakko Salavuo MANAGING EDITOR Paula Haikarainen AD/PHOTO EDITOR Liisa Seppo, Otavamedia OMA Oy COVER Kalle Kataila




Sinikka Heikkala, Riikka Hopiavaara, Minna Hölttä, Iiro Immonen, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Kalle Kataila, Krista Kinnunen, Martti Larmi, Annika Linna, Eeva Lehtinen, Teemu Malmi, Casey McCee, Anna Muchenikova, Parvati Pillai, Tiiu Pohjolainen, Aleksi Poutanen, Nina Pulkkis, Marjukka Puolakka, Matti Rajala, Mikko Raskinen, Anu Salmi-Savilampi, Mona Salminen, Laura Siira, Heli Sorjonen, Noora Stapleton, Anne Tapanainen, Aleksi Tikkala, Tiina Toivola, Annamari Tolonen, Annamari Typpö TRANSLATION Ned Kelly Coogan ADDRESS PO Box 18 000, FI-00076 Aalto TELEPHONE +358 9 470 01 ONLINE aalto.fi, aalto.fi/magazine EMAIL magazine@aalto.fi CHANGE OF ADDRESS alumni@aalto.fi PRINTING COMISSIONED BY Unigrafia Oy PREPRESS Aste Helsinki Oy PRINTING Grano Oy, 2019 PAPER Maxioffset 250 g/m2 (covers) & 120 g/m2 (pages) PRINT RUN 5 000 (English edition), 32 000 (Finnish edition) SOURCE OF ADDRESSES Aalto University CRM Partnership and alumni data management PRIVACY NOTICES aalto.fi/services/privacy-notices ISSN 2489-6772 print ISSN 2489-6780 online


CONTRIBUTORS IN THIS ISSUE Matthew Allinson, Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne, Mark Fletcher, Riikka Haikarainen,


LJÖ M Ä RKT 4041 0955 Painotuote


Finland needs more Aalto graduates Prime Minister Antti Rinne’s cabinet includes a chapter titled A Finland of expertise, education and innovation, which sets out guidelines for education and science policy. The title is quite apt from our perspective. The highest level of research-based education should support expertise, learning and innovation. No sub-section can be ignored. The development of competence is especially close to my heart. I have, over the years, talked a lot about this issue both in my role as Provost of Aalto University and as a Professor of Management with an interest in the evolution of work. At the same time, I have noticed that educational issues are a major cause for concern. High-quality education is the foundation of our prosperity. The programme for government sets out ambitious goals for university policy: raise Finland’s research, development and innovation expenditure to four percent of GDP and raise the share of university degree holders to 50% of each new age cohort by 2030. The realisation of these objectives would boost national competence significantly. Public research, development and innovation policy should promote the building of competence clusters that draw companies to locate more of their functions into Finland. From the universities that operate at the core of such clusters, this requires not only worldclass standards, but also a strong focus on their respective strengths. Aalto University is spearheading this development in Finland. We have determinedly developed the University and its cooperation partners into an innovation cluster that is networked with the world’s leading centres of expertise and serves the entire nation. The other major educational policy goal, raising the share of university graduates to 50% of each age cohort, is likewise excellent. Additional student admissions should target sectors and regions in which labour market demand is the highest and that support the national economy’s ability to innovate. These key sectors are technology, business science and, to an ever greater degree, the creative

sectors, i.e. the three main fields of Aalto University. Nationally, the need for additional university admissions pertains especially to the Uusimaa region, which has too few starting places relative to its population base. Furthermore, many companies suffer from a shortage of qualified employees in Uusimaa. The conclusion of this analysis is quite clear as well: Finland needs more Aalto graduates! Aalto’s status as an engine of societally relevant expertise and sometimes even radical innovation is recognised, but it is of equal importance to understand the University’s strong commitment to furthering education and culture in general. Education is more than just the assimilation and application of information, nor does university education aim primarily for mastery of some specific profession – instead, it prepares students for continuous learning and the identifying of personal competence development needs. This is clearly connected with Aalto’s way of operating. We educate changemakers who think independently.

Mikko Raskinen

THE PROGRAMME for government of

A student’s personal growth as well as the independent thought and responsibility that it requires are built by combining high-standard research and teaching – you can’t have one without the other. In addition, members of the Aalto community have a genuine opportunity to learn from one another; learners from teachers and teachers from learners. Educated people aren’t afraid to think for themselves, they dare to be free and take responsibility for themselves, their actions and destiny.

Kristiina Mäkelä Provost AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 5


IN IVAN PAVLOV’S famous psychology

experiment, a dog could be trained to salivate when it heard a bell. Now, researchers at Aalto University and the University of Tampere have created material inspired by Pavlov which learns to react to a new stimulus. In the study, a solid gel containing seaweed extract, water, and gold nanoparticles was made to melt fluid by color light without direct heating. Pavlov trained a dog by ringing a bell every time he was about to feed it. The dog associated the sound with its food and would begin to drool upon hearing the bell ring. The gel developed by the research group mimics this process with the heating corresponding to the food and the coloured light corresponding to the bell. When the gel is illuminated with red and blue light during thawing, it spontaneously melts even without heating,

under the influence of color lights alone. The gel can be trained because of the gold nanoparticles in the mixture. The nanoparticles are initially spread at random throughout the gel. If you melt the gel and solidify it without illumination, they remain randomly distributed. However, if you melt the gel while illuminating it with blue and red light, the nanoparticles stick together and form little chains. When you shine blue and red light on the gel containing chains of gold nanoparticles, the chains heat up in a way that individual nanoparticles themselves do not and the gel learns to melt by itself. The gold nanoparticles act as a memory for the material. The research was conducted as a collaboration between Aalto University and the University of Tampere at the Academy of Finland’s HYBER Centre of Excellence.

Jolanda Jokinen

Researchers trained material as Pavlov did with dogs

Study in darkness shines light on brain activity

Aalto University & University of Helsinki

SCIENTISTS HAVE SHOWN an exact relationship between a series of ocular nerve impulses and the behaviour of a mammal. The study investigated how the mouse brain interprets nerve impulses transmitted by the eyes in low light. The research was conducted at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki under the leadership of Professor Petri Ala-Laurila. Sensory information is transmitted to the brain as nerve impulses along nerve pathways. However, it is not known exactly how the brain interprets these

signals because the nervous system carries the same message in many different forms. Also, the structure of the individual nerve impulse sequences that control the animal’s behaviour is not fully understood. In the study, a group of mice were taught to swim towards a light in a dark maze. The researchers measured how effectively the mice found the light. The light was dimmed gradually to the point where only a small amount of light particles, or photons, could pass into the eyes of the mouse.

The mice were trained to swim towards light in a dark maze.


In the dark, the number of nerveimpulse-transmitting information channels from the retina to the brain is limited to only the two most sensitive ON and OFF channels. The researchers determined which of these controls the behaviour of the mouse. The breakthrough achieved by the group is based on a combination of research methods. The researchers developed a way to measure electronic signals from individual photons via the retina. In addition, they had to find a connection between the signals and the behaviour of the mouse. The movements of the mice in the maze were observed with night vision cameras and the data recorded was analysed by deep learning software. The results are relevant to both vision research and, more broadly, to brain researchers. The study also refutes the belief prevalent in neuroscience that, when there are two competing signals, the brain selects the one that contains more information. It was now revealed that the form of information transmission rather than the volume of information carried would be relevant to the brain.

Casey McGee

Both the need for air-conditioning and the production of solar electricity come from the same source.

Cooling to be powered by the sun, too A NEW STUDY yields critical insight to a question: How much photovoltaics (PV) would be needed to power the world sustainably? The study is a collaborative effort of an international team of solar energy experts from Aalto University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SMART (Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology). It analyses the intersection of two dominant trends in the energy sector: the impetus to decarbonise the energy sector to mitigate dangerous anthropogenic climate change and the increased economic prosperity

in tropical countries which makes for a higher demand for cooling than heating. More specifically, the study investigates whether the several billions of airconditioning devices expected to come online within the 21st century could be powered by clean PV electricity, and accelerating the growth of the PV industry in the process. Using established socio-economic, climate change and energy efficiency improvement projections, they predicted that the cooling demand would increase from approximately 400 TWh/year in

2018 to nearly 14 000 TWh/year by the end of the century, a dramatic 35-fold increase, despite air-conditioners growing significantly more efficient. In monetary terms, this means that the cooling industry increases from an approximately 50 billion dollars/year industry to a 1.5 trillion dollars/year industry. It was concluded that the potential added AC PV capacity is on par with the global PV production capacity today as a whole, or enough to power the entire country of France with PV, and by the end of the century it will grow to be enough to meet that of India.

New honorary doctors conferred

Matti Rajala


two conferral ceremonies held during the Aalto University Ceremony Week in June 2019. At the conferral of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture eight new honorary doctors of arts were conferred: Visual Artist, Filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila; Professor of User-Centred Design Jacob Buur, University of Southern Denmark; Professor Emerita, Textile Artist Helena Hyvönen; Landscape Architect Leena Iisakkila; Director, Founder Kari Korkman, Helsinki Design Week; Professor of Visual Culture Irit Rogoff, Goldsmiths, University of London; Artistic and Managing Director Gerfried Stocker,

Ars Electronica; Publisher, Editor-inChief Daniel Thawley, A Magazine Curated By. The following honorary doctorates were conferred at the ceremony for the technological fields: Director of Technology Matti Kauhanen, ABB; Director General Arvo Kokkonen, National Land Survey of Finland; Professor Enrique J. Lavernia, University of California; Director Marja Makarow, Biocenter Finland; Mayor Jukka Mäkelä, City of Espoo; Managing Director Jussi Pesonen, UPM Oy; Research Director Markku Tilli, Okmetic Oy. An honorary doctorate is the highest academic degree a university can award. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 7

EHT collaboration


Fundamental Physics 2019, also known as the Oscar of Science, was awarded to 347 researchers who succeeded in capturing the first-ever image of a black hole and its shadow. The three million dollar prize will be split evenly between the scientists. The only Finnish member of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration is Academy Research Fellow Tuomas Savolainen of Aalto University’s Metsähovi radio observatory. Savolainen took part in the analysis of an enormous volume of data that enabled the making of the image.

Mikko Raskinen

LAST MAY’S NÄYTÖS 19 fashion show in Helsinki’s Cable Factory paraded 26 new thesis projects and group work collections on the catwalk. An international jury of fashion industry professionals handed out several prizes at the event. The picture is of a collection by Master’s degree student Justus Kantakoski, who won the Diesel Prize.



Aleksi Tikkala

Laura Väre, who just completed her Master of Arts degree at Aalto, is the Young Designer of the Year 2019. Included in the picture is her metal Hide lamp with its lively fringe.


Eeva Suorlahti

experiments. In collaboration with Iittala, 43 design students from Aalto took an open-minded look at properties of materials. The exhibition can be seen at Iittala & Arabia Design Centre (Hämeentie 135 A, Helsinki) until 10 November 2019.



‘Aalto is a step ahead’ Marja Makarow, Director of Biocenter Finland, was conferred as an honorary Doctor of Technology at the ceremonial conferral. Makarow, talented in many fields of science, urges Finnish universities to form long-term international partnerships. Text: Marjukka Puolakka Photo: Heli Sorjonen What are your main thoughts after the conferment ceremony? I am very happy and proud to have received this honour. At the ceremony, a large group of young international doctors celebrated alongside us honorary doctors. These doctors have an enormous amount of talent that Finland should hold onto. They should be helped with a smooth transition to the world of business or continue on their academic path. I was involved in the first Aalto University board to help the new university get started. Because of my background, it was particularly wonderful to become an honorary doctor when I could see the fruits of my labour making a difference at the university. You were involved in setting up Aalto University. Has its development progressed in the desired direction? Aalto has redeemed its promises in a record-breaking time. Its ambitious goal was to transform into a university of science through its three founding universities. Today, Aalto has a number of top researchers, for whom the European Research Council (ERC)

has awarded prestigious top-level research funding. This already shows that the goal of becoming a science university has become a reality. Aalto is also at the forefront of societal influencing in Finland. And I didn’t even need to look at the list of new doctors to realise that this is truly an international university. The body of professors has rapidly become international, as well thanks to the tenure track career path. What about the future of Aalto University? Aalto is in an excellent position to tackle the big questions that other universities around the world are also trying to solve. Tackling these enormous challenges requires multidisciplinary collaborative research. When many universities are only starting to introduce multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinary approaches into their operations, people at Aalto have already been working in this way for a long time. It is now expected that universities create international networks. Do Finnish Universities have to work harder at this? It would be very benefi-

cial for all Finnish universities to invest in building long-term international cooperation with well-chosen universities. The number of partners should be limited and it is always useful to find partners who are better than you, and who share your values and spirit. British universities are quite scared of Brexit, which is threatening to exclude British researchers from European consortia. Many British universities have therefore started to seek partnerships where they could be physically present on campuses in EU countries. Finnish universities have not jumped on this, although there is a great opportunity to form close cooperation with top universities. The European Commission’s new European Universities programme also offers an opportunity to build crossborder cooperation. The idea is that a limited number of EU universities will be able to develop training and research that is in the common interest. The programme’s first pilot search for eligible consortia include Aalto University, University of Tampere, University of Eastern Finland and University of Jyväskylä. •

Marja Makarow (on the left) at the ceremonial doctoral conferment event with Professor of Practice Taina Tukiainen and Professor Riitta Smeds.



Dry sandy soil proved fatal Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture Tuomas Auvinen failed to take the impact of the environment into account. Text: Paula Haikarainen Portrait: Kalle Kataila Illustration: Jolanda Jokinen ‘OUR SCHOOL-AGE son returned from a visit to his godmother in Southwest Finland proudly bearing a pot containing an oak seedling. It had been grown from an acorn with a fine history: it came from an arboretum in the Turku region that was home to some very old oak trees. Both boy and his family thought the seedling magnificent. In our mind, it would be a fine addition to the yard of our summer home in East Finland. We’d plant the oak now and, ten years later, admire how it had grown! We thus transported a noble oak seedling from Finland Proper to the very dry sandy terrain of East Finland. With high hopes, it was planted and then nurtured in every way. But the summer before last, when the little oak was supposed to put down roots, happened to be the hottest on record. The oakling withered away, shedding its very last leaf this summer. All we could do was let this particular oak rest in peace. The story provides an example of how even the finest individual has no chance of survival if it is placed in the wrong type of habitat. I compare this setting to working life. An employee might be very motivated and capable, but, in the wrong kind of setting, he or she will wilt away rapidly. I think recruiters pay too little attention to this. Competence, experience, background and education are emphasised, but we don’t always remember to adequately consider whether the work environment would suit this applicant in particular. We can, of course, shape the culture by planting new kinds of seedlings and aim to consciously adapt the environment by introducing something different into it. Responsible conduct is especially important in such cases and leaders should openly communicate that you, the oak, are being planted in this dry sandy soil, but we hope that a forest will grow here in fifty years time. In management, my interest lies in finding the perfect union, a match, that can promote a blossoming – success that stems from wellbeing and enthusiasm. This is of essential importance especially in the creative fields. The “I just work here” attitude often stems from a failure to create a match. This benefits neither party.’ •




Farewell, oil! It’s time to turn our backs on an old friend that has now hatched into an enemy. Text: Annamari Tolonen Illustration: Jolanda Jokinen



In the cold global north, the hungriest consumer of household energy is heating.


hey heat our homes, power the coffee maker and keep the factories that make our clothes running. They serve as raw material for our yoghurt cups, transport us to work and bring food to the shops. Fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas – are with us in every area of our lives. Coal, a densely packed fossil fuel, is an excellent energy carrier. The downside is that its combustion crates carbon dioxide, which has the impact of heating the climate. And alongside our fossil fuel combustion we’re puffing up carbon, which had been bound into the ground over hundreds of millions of years, into the atmosphere. The ecological crisis forces us to ask if we can manage without this fateful partner now that it is exceeding our planet’s ability to cope. ‘Of course we’ll manage. Different sectors are becoming fossil-free at different paces: first electricity, then heat and finally transport,’ reckons Aalto University Assistant Professor Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio. She researches energy storage and conversion, i.e. the processes of converting energy from one form into another. ‘But we will have to revolutionise how we produce and consume energy.’

Fossil-free Finland to lean on wind power

In Finland, more than 40% of the energy used for electricity, heat, transport and industry is generated with fossil fuels and peat. It’s clear that severing this bond will not be simple. The global energy transition has nevertheless commenced and Finland could bring it to a victorious conclusion, the Smart Energy Transition research project proposes. A multidisciplinary group of researchers has modelled a fossil-free Finland in this Aalto-led venture. There is no single technology, which could alone take the place of fossil fuels. Instead, the totality will consist of streams, says the project head, Professor Armi Temmes from the School of Business. According to the models created by the project, 95% of Finland’s primary energy could be generated using existing technologies based on wind, solar energy, bio14 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

mass and nuclear power. In addition, fossil-free fuels will be needed for heavy transports and industry, for example. The point of departure is that society is electrified with cleanly produced power. For this to happen, wind and solar power capacity would need to increase more than tenfold because it is no longer possible to boost the sustainable utilisation of biomass substantially, Temmes says in reference to the project’s calculations. In the cold global north, the hungriest consumer of household energy is heating, and district heating schemes are significant users of coal and natural gas. The Smart Energy Transition has modelled how a city the size of Helsinki could be kept warm cleanly. The model says fossil fuels could largely be replaced by wind and solar powered industrial and propertyspecific heat pumps that collect heat from ground, water and sources of waste heat like industry and buildings. Backup power would be provided by a biomass-fueled combined heat and power plant. Electricity and heat will be more closely coupled in the wake of the energy transition, Temmes says.

Decentralise and conquer

Fossil fuels have done lots to ensure that our energy production remains stable, centralised and manageable. Just add more fuel to the fire when electricity and heat are needed. In a decentralised system that leans on wind and solar power, supply of electricity fluctuates, necessitating methods to even out imbalances in supply and demand. We already have many efficient energy storage options, such as hydropower, thermal stores and battery technology, and new ones are being developed all the time. But storage is no conjurer’s trick, which could make renewable energy stable by itself, so we’ll also need to regulate the consumption of energy, Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio points out. This means that, in future, we’ll have to pay more attention to how we consume electricity. This is where technology is charging to the rescue: intelligent electricity grids and building automation will play an important role in balancing supply and demand.



A clean energy system requires a major change to the markets, business models and taxation. Closely coordinated team play will emerge between energy and construction. Buildings will have their own solar power systems and heat pumps. They’ll regulate their own consumption with, for example, smart heating systems and will store energy in hot water capacitors and geothermal heat wells. Energy-efficient construction will prevent heat loss, Armi Temmes says.

Greenhouse gases recovered and stored

Our oil-based transport system is in need of a thorough overhaul. Electric cars, mass transit and new transport services will provide alternatives to driving your own petrol or diesel car, but cannot resolve the problem of heavy transport and air travel. ‘It’s unlikely transport can overcome its dependence on fossil-based liquid fuels, as carbon is an unsurpassed energy carrier. It is, however, a different question whether carbon is extracted from fossil fuels or by recycling the carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere,’ Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio says. The development of fossil-free transport fuels has taken mammoth leaps forward in recent years. Finland’s Neste now markets renewable diesel and flight kerosene that have up to 90% fewer emissions than traditional fuels. Santasalo-Aarnio’s research team is part of Neste Digifuel project that aims developing renewable petroleum. ‘For now, all new fuels still have to compete with cheap oil.’ Synthetic fuels, which can be manufactured with renewable energy and free of emissions using hydrogen extracted from water and carbon dioxide from air, are considered the next step in transport fuels. A liquid fuel would be compatible with current engine technology and fuel distribution infrastructure. Synthetic fuels are also a promising electricity storage solution and they could replace oil as a raw material for the chemical industry. These are being studied by Santasalo-Aarnio’s group, too. 16 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

‘Finnish industry is very interested in this topic at the moment. Business Finland is leading an effort to build an industrial ecosystem in which Finnish universities and major corporations are taking part.’

Technology is an aid, not a solution

We sorely and urgently need alternative ways to heat homes, generate clean electricity for coffee makers and transport people and goods from place to place. Assessing our energy consumption is of equal importance. ‘To begin with, we must reduce unnecessary consumption. Industry and the transports caused by its deliveries are one of the largest energy gluttons,’ says Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio. But a clean energy system can’t be built with technology alone, it will require a major systemic change, Armi Temmes notes. Changes to the markets, business activity, taxation and subsidy policies as well as business models will be required. ‘For example, we should immediately begin dismantling tax obstacles that hamper the transition to renewable energy,’ says Temmes. Energy transition already visibly affects the markets. The cost of wind farms, solar panels, batteries, heat pumps and energy-conserving technologies have reduced considerably. New kinds of transport services and intelligent systems to regulate household energy consumption are available. ‘New energy solutions require the cooperation of many sectors of industry and a global scale. On the other hand, they offer enormous business potential,’ Santasalo-Aarnio says. The energy transition gives everybody an opportunity to bid farewell to fossil fuels. ‘Climate anxiety is associated with a feeling of powerlessness to change things. Your own solar panel or heat pump provides a feeling of control and a concrete way to contribute to the fight against climate change through your own actions,’ Armi Temmes says. •

Read more: The Aalto Effect

Five alternatives to fossil fuels 1. 2.




Renewable diesel, made from biomasses and waste flows, produces up to 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than normal diesel. It is an excellent fuel, and can be used as is in diesel-powered vehicles. Biogas is an alternative to natural gas, both in heat and electricity production and as a fuel for vehicles. Hydrogen, which can be produced from water using renewable energy, could potentially be added to biogas to further improve its properties. Synthetic fuels, such as methanol, could be produced with renewable energy for wide use in maritime transport, renewable energy storage, and road transport. Synthetic fuels may be on the market within ten years. A more environmentally friendly aviation fuel, biokerosene, is already being produced, though it’s more expensive than crude oil-based kerosene. Large-scale production of biokerosene requires more demand – and consumers will need to get used to higher prices for air travel. Maritime transport is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions. A bio-oil, produced from various raw materials and other materials such as forest industry byproducts, is currently under development and, potentially, could be further refined to produce an economical fuel for maritime transport. These tips were given by Professor of Energy Technology Martti Larmi.


On science

Spider silk is created by adding spider DNA to microbes Researchers studying spiders have produced a synthetic biomaterial that can, in future, be used to make a multitude of products from clothes to car parts. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photos: Nina Pulkkis & Aivan DID YOU KNOW that female spiders can

weave seven different types of silk? And that, by mimicking spiders, humans have learned to make a silken material that is almost as strong as spiderweb? Spider silk consists of unique proteins. It is what makes spider silk both very strong as well as very flexible and elastic. Spider web is one of the toughest materials known – in other words, it is quite the wonder stuff. Producing silk for human needs is especially interesting because of the material’s excellent properties. Researchers are particularly interested in the silk that spiders use for mobility and to hang from. It is simultaneously especially strong, rigid and tough.

Spider genes not a mystery

The mimicking of spiders begins by getting familiarised with their genes, on which plenty of knowledge already

exists. Researchers know which genes are responsible for spider web silk production, for example. Developments in biotechnology over the last 20–30 years have enabled scientists to embed specific genes in microbial cells. This turns the microbe into a producer of silk that resembles spider web. Microbes are simple, usually single-cell organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, moulds and viruses. The microbe used to produce the silk can be for example fungus called Trichoderma reesei that has for some time been used to produce industrial enzymes for example for biofuel production. The fungus, which decomposes wood in nature, does not cause illnesses, in addition to which it has another important property: once the cell finishes producing new material within itself, it pushes the substance out. Once the gene is embedded in the cell, it can be activated for example with

The plastic and leather parts of the earphones made by the Korvaa project were produced with the aid of microbes. The goal of the project was to increase awareness of the potential of microbe utilisation in sustainable production processes. The project researched and developed various microbial processes for making soft, resilient, foamlike and leathery materials, which designers used in various earphone components. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University produced the materials, while the industrial design side was handled by the design firm Aivan. The documenting and recording of the project phases was done by Fotoni Film. 18 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

Biosilk yarn or film is made using high voltage. The raw material is placed to a long thin tube from which the material is sprayed onto an aluminum-coated surface to form a film.

alcohols or carbohydrates. The gene needs to be added to just one cell, as cell division then provides researchers with more and more silk-producing cells.

The biology happens in water

Microbes produce the biosynthetic silk in a bioreactor, which contains sugar, amino acids and vitamins in addition to water. The end result is a light, fluffy substance from which the silk can be separated. The process doesn’t end with the work of the microbes, as the raw material still needs to be refined. Researchers manufacture a silken yarn or membrane utilising high voltage to run the raw material through a long and narrow tube, causing the material to spray out of the end onto an aluminium-covered surface where it forms a membrane. The material is odourless and feels incredibly fine, soft and flexible between your fingers, like stroking a very soft, short-haired animal. This recyclable biomaterial could be used to make clothes, surgical sutures and wound dressings as well as many other types of objects from phone covers to aircraft and car parts. • VTT research scientist Pezhman Mohammadi, who took part in the Korvaa project, was interviewed for this article. He completed his doctorate at Aalto in December 2018. In Aalto spider silk is studied by Professor Markus Linder and his research group.

Column Read more: The Aalto Effect

Increases in health care efficiency can also improve quality I AM A PROFESSOR of accounting and in recent years

Aleksi Poutanen

I have focused my research on two large areas: the role of accounting in corporate management systems, and health care and opportunities for boosting health care efficiency. Social welfare and health care costs have, for a long time, been growing faster than GDP, which is an unsustainable trend. Nor is it any kind of natural law which just needs to be accepted, at least as the population ages. In fact, for the majority of people the need for care increases only during the last one or two years of their life. Finland is ranked high on the WHO lists in terms of the numbers of operations carried out. There are, however, massive differences in these figures between different regions, and these differences cannot be explained by sickness rates or other patient- or regionrelated factors alone. This suggests that the number of operations is being determined, at least partly, by supply rather than demand. Changing this situation

requires effective leadership and changes to production structures, and this, once again, is not possible without larger social welfare and health care regions. In a study funded by the Foundation for Municipal Development and nine hospital districts, we compared the expenses of different hospital districts. We calculated that there is an opportunity to achieve savings in social welfare and health care expenditures of as much as €2.6 billion without significantly affecting the level of service. This could be achieved by following the example of the most efficient hospital districts: reduce the number of operations, increase the operational efficiency of operating rooms, laboratories and imaging services, direct resources to rehabilitation and invest in elderly care. In Finland, for example, dementia patients continue to receive care in hospital bed wards, which is often both expensive and inhumane for the patients. There was a serious defect in the social welfare and health care reform proposal that recently collapsed in the country: price competition was not included. Instead, the price to be paid to private and public social welfare and health care centres was to be calculated according to the public operator’s cost levels. According to market logic, private companies will be particularly drawn to areas where there are more patients. In this way, the public sector is forced to take care of areas on the margin, which causes their cost level to rise. The companies would have received larger payments, amounting to an income transfer from society to these companies. After these society-level calculations, we have turned to examine individual organisations and how to improve the efficiency of their operations, as well as seeking methods for getting personnel inspired about productivity development. One central thought is that operational management and planning should be factbased. In psychiatric care at the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), for instance, they have started to code patient treatments. With these we can know precisely what has been done to patients, and better monitor and compare the effectiveness and costs of treatments. In many ways, Finland has an excellent health care system, one which fares very well in international comparisons. But, nevertheless, it would be foolish to think that further development and changes are not necessary. As in industry, so also in health care, we can improve both productivity and quality simultaneously —and all the while make progress. Teemu Malmi The author is Professor of Accounting at the Aalto University School of Business. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 19



Design emissary It is possible to cooperate with any and every person, Kari Korkman believes. The founder of Helsinki Design Week is inspired by brainstorming. Text: Tiiu Pohjolainen Photos: Aleksi Poutanen


ari Korkman was on the road to Fiskars. The year was 2001 and a song by J. Karjalainen was playing on the car radio. While driving, Korkman thought about the Design Partners 01 exhibition he had recently founded. The 24-hour happening, then staged in old railway storehouses in the very heart of Helsinki, showcased products that were only coming onto the market. The event, a satellite of the larger Habitare expo, had been a success as such, but, for its producer Korkman it had been, in his own words, bloody expensive. ‘Design Partners was supposed to have been a one-off event, but I couldn’t afford to end it. Had I called it quits after one go, all the money I’d invested in the exhibition would have been wasted. I needed to come up with something for the next year,’ he recalls. ‘I thought that here is a music-maker who really seems to understand the Finnish audience. I wondered if Karjalainen could design a dish or a chair that would be equally attractive to the general public.’

Funny partners

His thought continued during the drive. Korkman reckoned that a musician could well design a product if he or she were partnered with a professional designer.

This is how the idea for the next Design Partners emerged. The exhibition Two visions, one design opened at the Design Museum in 2002. Korkman connected partners with quite differing backgrounds for this exhibition. Harri Koskinen was paired with TV producer Saku Tuominen and Eero Koivisto with choreographer Kenneth Kvarnström, while Brita Flander was coupled with writer-dramaturg Outi Nyytäjä. Korkman even debated having J. Karjalainen himself take part in the project. The participants were briefed to come up with an idea and design for a new product. Korkman says the exhibition outcome was incredible. ‘The products were amazing, outright mind-blowing. Two complete strangers just started brainstorming and designing. There was real passion there. I’m certain that the 2002 Design Partners exhibition still strongly influences my work, making interdisciplinarity its primary idea. These exhibitions gave my activities direction.’ His present-day work takes place at the offices of Luovi Productions Oy in an old customs warehouse in Katajanokka. From here, Korkman pilots the Helsinki Design Week event while also serving as president of the global World Design Weeks network, among other things.

‘This is my wee little empire, which sprang up from Katjanokka to manage the Helsinki Design Week, one of the oldest design week events in the world.’ One way of strengthening the empire is cooperation: ‘Luovi is still a small company and cooperating with others is pretty much its only option. Perhaps my personal strength is a belief that you can cooperate with any person, organisation or firm.’ Another factor is expanding activities into a media-based format. ‘Design Week is a once-a-year event, but I think we should be able to operate year-round. That’s why we are developing the urban festival into a media, which promotes the design cause all year.’

Self-designated title

Things were very different some thirty years ago. At the time, Korkman founded Luovi without a single client or product idea. He had years of work experience at designer Hannu Kähönen’s firm Creadesign, where he, right after graduating with a Master’s in business, had worked on sourcing new clients. For about three years, he was also the Managing Director of Moform Oy, a company established by Kähönen. But then the recession of the 1990s hit. ‘Hannu and I really tried hard to find something good we could do together, but those were dark times for everyone. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 21


Korkman invented his own profession: design producer.

There was radically less work around. My only remaining option, if I wanted to realise my own visions, was to set up my own company.’ And he had plenty of vision. He’d made many connections with designers during his years at Creadesign, so Kari Korkman decided to become a design producer. He modelled his work and self-developed title on movie production and book publishing. ‘Where someone else would read manuscripts or listen to demo tapes, I started to study product concepts. I positioned and offered myself as an agent at the point where designers and their product ideas come together with manufacturing and marketing.’

Brainstorming is a pleasure Kari Korkman had written his Master’s thesis on the world of banking, but he knew that he wouldn’t be happy if he remained working with numbers. Perhaps the fresh business graduate was drawn towards art and design by blood heritage, as his family has produced lots of artists and architects. ‘Were my talents different, I would have surely aimed for architecture. But I realised at an early stage that I didn’t have what it takes to make it in that field. My family has always appreciated creativity, so I wanted to be in contact with creative people.’ Brainstorming, the process of getting together to deal with a problem, to find a solution for a challenge, is the phase he enjoys most. ‘For sure it is one of the reasons why I have stayed in the world of design for well over thirty years.’

The climate issue can’t be avoided So what would Kari Korkman do if he were unable to work in design and art? This question prompts a prolonged silence. The CEO recognises his ability 22 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

to think strategically and form a comprehensive view. He knows he’s pretty good with people. He’s also aware that his personal strengths are on the practical side, he’s a doer. ‘My efforts have always been based on intuition, or a vision of what is sensible or necessary in each situation. Although you could, for sure, often put that sensible in quotation marks.’ After thinking about it, Korkman reckons he’d be working for the climate. ‘I want what I do to have meaning. I can imagine working to find solutions to the burning questions related to climate change.’ Kari Korkman appreciates how art and design can react to contemporary phenomena and events. Concern for the climate was visible in both September’s Helsinki Design Week and in Korkman’s latest project, the Fiskars Village Art and Design Biennale, which launched this year. This year’s Helsinki Design Week focused on the theme of Learning Climate, while Fiskars examined the co-existence of humans and nature. ‘The Design Week and the Biennale both tap into the zeitgeist. This enables us to influence public opinion and, through it, consumer behaviour and habits.’ After another thoughtful pause, Korkman continues: ‘This means that we can influence decision-makers and industry. In other words, we can affect the future. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of my work and position is the fact that I can influence things. Arranging topics into themes and highlighting them are how I wield influence. When Helsinki Design Week challenges companies and cooperation partners to think about their attitude to global warming, I am doing meaningful work. Design Week makes a strong contribution to activities that aim to curb climate change which – for heaven’s sake – really is the only thing for it to do.’ •

• Kari Korkman graduated with a Master’s degree from the Helsinki School of Economics in 1990. Aalto University awarded him an honorary doctorate in arts in June 2019. • CEO of Luovi Productions Oy, which produces the Helsinki Design Week event and the Helsinki Design Weekly media outlet, among other things. • President of the global World Design Weeks network. • Curator of numerous design exhibitions and events: the first Design Partners event in Helsinki in 2001, Design Market events since 2005. Introduced PechaKucha Night storytelling gatherings to Finland in 2006. The Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale was established in 2019 and is set to continue until 2025 at least. • Married to Eevi, who Korkman says has been crucial to his ability to handle his many responsibilities and run a business. Father to three adult daughters Anni, Iris and Taru. Anni Korkman works as the programme director of Helsinki Design Week. • Sails a wooden yacht as a hobby.


Investment questions you were afraid to ask Pia-Maria Nickström and Hanna Tikander wanted to hear more understandable talk about finance, so they founded the Mimmit sijoittaa investing community for women. Text: Laura Siira Photos: Mona Salminen ‘I’VE ONLY been into investing for six months,’ says Hanna Tikander, cofounder of the Mimmit sijoittaa (MS) community. The organisation, whose name means Gals investing in Finnish, aims to talk about investing as interestingly and understandably as possible, so that especially young women, who are under-represented as stock owners, would be inspired to get involved. Not having accumulated the most in-depth knowledge of investing is no drawback in this. On the contrary, it ensures that everything that the MS channels put out is accessible to the target group. Tikander’s friend Pia-Maria Nickström set up the MS blog in 2018 after noticing that, even with a Bachelor’s in business, she found the investing terminology used in a bank negotiation hard to grasp. ‘I wondered how my friends, people without a university degree in the field, would have coped with this situation. It inspired me to learn more about investing, and I realised that it is actually fairly easy – or at least it can be made easy. A small amount of work and a little initial capital get you started, and it is much more profitable than just saving,’ says Nickström, who studies marketing and finance at the School of Business. Against her own expectations, Tikander also became enthusiastic about investing after reading Nickström’s blog and she decided to get involved in her friend’s company. Their first after-work event, which focused on getting started with investing, was held in Helsinki in January 2019. There were 35 places available, and 4 000 people interested in attending. MS quickly gained enormous lift on social media. Tens of events were arranged already that spring, and their podcasts have tens of thousands of listeners – 98% of whom are young women. ‘In the long run, we hope that the stock market will become more equal. Investing still remains too dependent on whether money and investments were a topic of conversation at your childhood home, or if your granddad bought you shares when you were a baby. Everybody


We hope that the stock market will become more equal, Hanna Nikander and Pia-Maria Nickström say.

should have the right to invest,’ Nickström says.

Can I lose all of my money?

How do you access the stock exchange? What’s a share and how is its price determined? Do you personally have to find a buyer for your shares when you want to sell them? Can I lose all of my money? Nickström and Tikander wanted to create a forum where you can ask any question at all about investing. ‘Many have misconceptions and fears about investing, and put off getting started because of them,’ Tikander says. ‘But numbers do motivate people. We often talk about the compound interest effect, for example. When, at our events, we show a calculation of what can happen to even a small sum invested monthly over 20 years, it represents a turning point. The audience goes quiet and digs out their phones to snap pictures.’ Women’s share of fund investments continues to grow, and there is more talk in general about money. Men dominate the stock market because of historical reasons, however – men have had access to more money, and the longer you have held your money in the stock market, the more money you have typically accu-

mulated. Furthermore, investing used to require more knowledge and money, Nickström points out. ‘Nowadays, the world of investing has, in principle, opened to everyone thanks to broad index funds and low-fee financial instruments. But then again, when the topic is investing, the tendency is often to immediately go deeper. We don’t want the people who need to know what a stock exchange does and what a share is to be ignored.’

Work that doesn’t feel like work Originally, Nickström and Tikander intended to run the MS community alongside their studies, but its popularity has turned the tables. Setting up a community media has called for careful planning and a constant presence. ‘Our strength is that we ourselves represent our target group. We create content that genuinely serves their, and not someone else’s, interests,’ says Tikander, who studies visual marketing at HaagaHelia University of Applied Sciences. The ladies generate revenue through corporate gigs, other cooperation with businesses and by selling ads on their own channels.

Many have misconceptions and fears about investing, and put off getting started because of them. ‘Our investment portfolios would be thicker if we held regular jobs. But this is so much fun that it hardly feels like work. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,’ says Nickström. ‘The School of Business is great because you can combine developing your own business with studies.’

Passive success is also possible

The ladies don’t spend too much time on investing, however, as they don’t believe

that active stock picking can significantly outperform the overall market. ‘We are both extremely passive longterm investors. We put our faith in lowfee index funds, having more confidence in the growth of the world economy than the rise of some individual company,’ says Nickström. The most important thing about an investing career is getting started, however. And that is precisely what Nickström and Tikander intend to

encourage for as long as the audience wants to hear them. ‘I really would have wanted someone to tell me about these things, or to come across a community like this, ten years ago. I have been saving in the wrong way for many years,’ Tikander says. ‘Now, with six months of investing experience, I can say that it provides security and opportunities, it is empowering to have your back covered – even by that small monthly sum.’ • AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 25


The science of light is everywhere

Photonics is everywhere, and not just in nature. It figures abundantly in research, industry and business, and not always in the most obvious places. Text: Mark Fletcher Illustration: Jolanda Jokinen


hotonics is a subset of physics, and it’s being heralded as the new frontier for the next generation of devices and technologies that will be light-speed fast, sustainable, efficient and cost-effective, and all this at great benefit to our society. Together with nanoelectronics, nanotechnology and biotechnology, it has been recognised as one of the key enabling technologies (KET) that are 26 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

seen as the essential building blocks for future technological innovation across all sectors by the European Commission. However, even with a rising profile, it can still be a challenge to attribute its significance, says Juha Purmonen, Executive Director of Photonics Finland. ‘Photonics is an enabling technology, which means that photonics is itself invisible, but when you use it in other solutions then it becomes a crucial element.’

New uses of light

Some of the more prominent areas where photonics is applied are information and communication, manufacturing, life science and health, lighting and displays, security, energy metrology, imaging and sensors. Assistant Professor Caterina Soldano at Aalto University explains that even though photonics is commonly seen as a new thing that has led to some of today’s coolest applications and

devices, any process through which light is created is actually relatively old. ‘We could think of early examples like the first Tungsten lamp or eye-glasses, as well as many other instances. However, current scientific understanding and knowledge, along with technological advancement, have led to completely new ways of creating, manipulating and detecting light, and laser technology is a perfect example of this.’ The history of photonics could also be a history of the laser, and since the laser was first invented nearly sixty years ago, the range of applications has had an immeasurable impact on humanity, over a vast array of fields. Even though laser-driven technologies have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for the last two years, the prizes represent the research and innovations in the decades preceding. Professor Zhipei Sun is the leader of the research group in photonics at Aalto. He breaks up the field of fundamental photonics development into four core

groups: generation, modulation, propagation and detection. ‘Photonics has traditionally been concerned with getting emissions of light, such as from lamps or LEDs, but now it’s moving more towards making the light emissions more efficient while trying to increase efficiency in controlling the photons.’ As manufacturers are approaching the limits of what can be achieved through conventional technology, the field of photonics is creating exciting new opportunities. Gaming and entertainment would be the most apparent applications of new photonics technologies and might be the primary driver of consumer interest, but the omnipresence of photonics and its potential to transform society, business and industry cannot be understated. ‘As just one example, the internet can’t work without photonics as nearly all data goes through optical fibres. In the future, data centres need more capacity, and light-based technologies

will supplement or replace current electronics/electric-based technologies, so from a business point of view, photonics will cover many current solutions and open new possibilities,’ says Purmonen.

No plateau for photonics applications Photonics communication technologies are at the optical heart of transforming modern society where data will be transmitted at an ultrafast pace in millions of extended fibre-optic networks in every home around the globe. These light-based technologies, therefore, feed new artificial intelligence algorithms to enable autonomous driving, smart cities, industry 4.0 as well as a comprehensive understanding of our climate. Industrial manufacturing will consist of an entire end-to-end digital value chain, from supplier to customer, which will create new business models, enabling new methods of collaboration and service. Photonics technologies in health sciences will contribute to the development of mobilAALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 27


Enormous growth potential • Photonics is expected to generate one million new jobs in Europe by 2030. • Today, there are more than 200 photonics companies in Finland alone. • Photonic technologies have a significant impact on the world economy. The global market value of photonics is projected to exceed €600 billion in 2020. • The photonics industry’s growth rate was more than double that of worldwide GDP growth in 2005–11. • Photonics impact around 10% of the European economy. • The European photonics market is worth €58.5 billion (21% of the world market) and the European photonics industry employs 290 000 people. Source: Photonics21 Multiannual Strategic Roadmap 2021–2027


ity optimised wearables that, combined with state-of-the-art biosensors, will give instantaneous diagnostics, catching diseases earlier on, as well as monitoring and assessing treatment responses, heralding the age of precision medicine. On the horizon is the ability to search and detect biomarkers for serious (and as yet incurable) diseases. Photonics in lighting, electronics and displays will replace the more traditional navigation and information systems, which monitor user habits and preferences, and can offer more personalised information as a result. This could be through facial recognition technologies or health monitoring wearables. These technologies could be utilised in a whole range of applications such as in commerce, entertainment, and industrial planning to name only a select few. The advancements of these technologies will also be requisite in the looming selfdriving boom, with several challenges addressed, such as improving road safety and reducing congestion.

From agriculture to laser surgery

Less apparent is the effect photonics will have on food and agriculture, with challenges coming both from population

growth and environmental issues in how food security will be approached. Purmonen says, ‘I believe that the food and agriculture sectors need a lot of photonics innovations, and it starts from the field and continues to branch outwards into all facets of production. There is a need for food production to be economical, less wasteful and environmentally and socially sustainable.’ Light-based technologies are invaluable in monitoring and measuring tools, on farms, in food processing plants and the consumer’s hands. Sensors that can monitor soil quality and crop yields will give valuable insights into possible actions to get the best results. Professor Sun says photonics-enabled improvements could be made in data transfer, as there is a need to both increase the speed and capacity of data transfer, as well as to control the energy input and output required. Intel just announced a new silicon photonics solution with a pumped-up data transfer rate of up to 400Gb/s, offering ten times the speed and longer distances while saving a substantial amount of power compared to traditional copper cabling. Laser surgery is another example where improvements could be trans-

While the global photonics market has reached €600 billion in 2020, estimates are that only 20% of the potential power and benefits have thus far been unlocked. – Photonics21 Multiannual Strategic Roadmap 2021–2027

puting devices will support the current Internet of Things revolution, where machines can see, think, decide and communicate, transforming our society.’ While Sun and his colleagues are working on photonics more from a fundamental side, Professor Caterina Soldano works from an applicationdriven approach, with the goal of developing new and innovative devices and applications. ‘I research optoelectronics, which uses organic molecules instead of conventional materials like silicon, to generate and detect light, and I aim to play a cruAalto delves deep cial role in developing next-generation Most of the photonics-related research groups at Aalto are located in Micronova, optoelectronics. Organic materials enable a novel class of devices which, along with an Aalto University and VTT Technical traditional properties, can also be flexible Research Centre of Finland-run faciland conformable. This would allow such ity in Espoo for research on micro- and things as medical devices to adapt to nanotechnology. Professor Zhipei Sun body movements, clothing with integratand his team at Aalto are dedicated to ing sensors or foldable mobile telephone investigating the unique properties of displays. Working across the fundamendifferent nanomaterials that could be utilised for various photonic applications tal research and R&D environment has provided me with a broader perspective in the future. on how to bring a laboratory object to ‘One of my personal views is to make a close-to-market application. Here all photonics devices on-chip with high at Aalto, my goal is to combine those performance. For example, highly inteaspects, and I will mainly guide the grated, highly sensitive and fast photoresults towards practical applications.’ • nic sensors as well as imaging and comformative. Laser surgery currently works at a one-micron wavelength which operates at the near infra-red. Professor Sun says, ‘The main reason for working at one micron is that we can easily get high power at that range. A better wavelength would be at two microns, and the reason is that our body consists of 90% water. The two-micron wavelength is not transparent to the water layer, so much better and more precise surgical cutting and removing can be performed with less damage to healthy tissue.’

Photonics and Finland THE DEVELOPMENT of photonicsbased solutions in Finland crosses the spectrum between global and local challenges/solutions. ‘If we think about photonics from a technology point of view, VR, AR and MR are great examples of big things being developed in this country by companies such as Varjo Technologies and Dispelix, both of whom are producing world-class solutions,’ says Juha Purmonen, Executive Director of Photonics Finland. In addition to VR/AR/MR, there are 200+ companies in Finland developing a wide array of solutions with optical sensing and imaging, micro and nanophotonics, and lasers and fiber optics, and these technologies are used in everything from laser surgery to data transfer, displays and sensors. With Finland’s considerable forestry inventory, photonics has begun to figure quite heavily in a technology called Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) that, when deployed on drones, can monitor and control forest fires and forest inventory. The Academy of Finland Flagship Programme selected the most important themes for Finland’s future and subsequently grouped them into six different flagships. One of them is PREIN – Photonics Research and Innovation. It is a light-based technology competence cluster of 300+ personnel collaborating on multi-disciplinary science, industry, and society. The initiative combines the extensive resources and infrastructures of all partners, including Aalto University, University of Tampere, University of Eastern Finland, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. It covers the whole value chain from fundamental research to applied research, product development and commercialisation. The PREIN Flagship was recently awarded the Aalto Research Impact for 2019.



Learning product development by experimenting Aalto students tackle real challenges posed by companies. Text: Eeva Lehtinen Photos: Mikko Raskinen The Product Development Project (PdP) course is a good reflection of what forms the essence of Aalto University: students from three different fields get together to solve real-life challenges, producing innovative and research-based solutions. The course lasts one academic year and concludes with the students showcasing their works to participating firms and the general public. The PdP course was established some 23 years ago at the initiative of Professor Kalevi Ekman who remains at the helm to this day. ‘We train the world’s finest product developers. People who aren’t afraid to apply their university learning to practice and communicate the results of their work,’ he says. ‘Companies present wildly different challenges to our teams, including some they wouldn’t dare propose with a straight face within the firm. For our course, however, these provide interesting learning experiences. The companies benefit when our students develop ideas, measures and tests for the challenges they present with an open mind.’ Students participating in the 2018–19 academic year’s course produced a total of 12 project works, two of which are presented on this spread. The latest course commenced in September 2019, and the teams are now busy brainstorming their projects. The final products of this PdP course can be admired at the Product Design Gala, which will be held at the Design Factory on 15 May 2020.


The dogs are tasked with identifying where the scent comes from. Treats are given as reward.

Robots to teach dogs DOGS ARE not only our best friends, but also invaluable providers of help as guides for the blind or in customs duties, for example. In recent years, their excellent sense of smell has also been harnessed for the detection of diseases like cancer. Nose Academy is a research-based startup, which was established to promote olfactory cancer detection. The firm challenged students to make a robot that can train dogs to recognise smells and serve as a source of stimulation when the dogs are left alone. It needed to reward dogs for success and enable owners to remotely observe their dogs over the course of the working day, for example.

The scent holes were designed to suit dogs of various sizes.

Friction moves the elevator

‘A robot like this has many advantages: part of the labour-intensive training process can be performed by the robot, and dogs also feel better when they have something interesting to do while alone,’ says Nose Academy’s Anna HielmBjörkman, who also leads an olfactory cancer detection research group at the University of Helsinki. Shreyasi Kar, a second-year Master’s student from Aalto, served as the project manager for the Nose Knows student team. ‘Our group consisted of six Aalto students and five students who remoted in from South Korea,’ says Kar. ‘We wanted to design a tool in which humans play a minor role. We designed an app for the robot that registers everything the dog does. This generates important data for researchers. What the dog does can also be observed remotely with the app.’ The idea is for the dog to look for

a scent in the device. After it recognises the right one, it gets a treat. The automated feeding machine is placed at some distance from the device in order for the dog to get some exercise as well. Getting to know canine behaviour and their mental workings was a special challenge, as dogs don’t always do things like humans expect them to do. ‘For example, we spent a lot of time testing the shape and colour of the robot’s scent holes. The device had to suit dogs of various sizes and with different noses so that the dogs would feel comfortable and eager to perform their exercises.’ Nose Academy was so enthusiastic about the project that it decided to continue developing the product at the Design Factory facility. ‘It’s a practical and inspiring environment that has all that we need to carry the prototype forward,’ Hielm-Björkman says.

‘BUILD A PROTOTYPE of a free-moving elevator of the future, one that can move both up and down as well as horizontally. It may not be suspended by ropes or cables.’ This was the assignment elevator manufacturer Kone gave to students taking part in Aalto University’s PdP course. Just one elevator car of the traditional type, capable of moving only up or down, can be installed in one elevator shaft. Enabling horizontal movement would make it possible to install several cars per shaft, which would result in savings in energy consumption, time and building costs. ‘As per the assignment, we created a free-moving lift car. We used mecanum wheels, with small rollers installed at a 45-degree angle to the wheel’s axis, to transport it. The rollers enable the car to move vertically and horizontally. The car stays up and moves along the shaft with the aid of friction alone. The materials of both the car and the shaft were selected to create sufficient friction between them,’ says team leader Hanna Nortomaa, a Master’s student. The Freelevator group consisted of nine students representing different fields. Four of the group were students from the University of Mumbai, India. ‘The team’s operating methods were agile, even though its members were working in two different time zones. They were also very good about keeping our company’s representatives informed on progress. At the start, we agreed that the team would record a little video about its progress each week,’ says Tommi Huotari, who works as Senior Chief Design Engineer, Concepts, at Kone. The end result also wins praise. ‘The technical and visual realisation were both clever and of a high quality. The prototype is now at the KONE product development unit in Hyvinkää. It has inspired good ideas that other projects can utilise and will be sent to an expo in Dubai that showcases similar projects from around the world,’ Huotari says.


On science

A teeny-weeny sensor with an enormous task A sensor just a few thousandths of a millimetre across can inform physicians of the effectiveness of treatment. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photos: Iiro Immonen


cademy of Finland Research Fellow Emilia Peltola holds in her hand a sensor that will play a significant role in the future treatment of illnesses. Many diseases, such as depression, chronic pain, Parkinson’s and epilepsy are caused by neurotransmitter disorders. Among other things, neurotransmitters enable cells to communicate with each other. Problems in the production of these chemicals are the cause of symptoms like, for example, shaky hands in sufferers of Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation has achieved good results in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. The therapy involves electrically stimulating the patient’s brain to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine. If a sensor were added to treatment devices installed in the brain, physicians would know in real time how the neurotransmitters were responding to treatment. Neurotransmitters are too small to be seen by the naked eye, and therefore no device can visualize us how they function directly, forcing us to employ other means to gather information. ‘A definite benefit of such sensors would be the realtime nature of the data they produce. Neurotransmitters move from cell to cell very rapidly, and only a realtime method can let us know how much of a specific substance is present at each given moment. Treatments would become more effective and the risk of adverse effects would reduce,’ Peltola says. Peltola is both a Doctor of Science in Technology and a medical researcher. A multidisciplinary background is an advantage in her work, which combines technology and biology. Funded by a grant from the Academy of Finland received in spring 2019 and funding from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, she is searching for the optimal synthetic material for use in sensors, which measure neurotransmitters. 32 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

Academy Research Fellow Emilia Peltola is searching for the best synthetic material to use in sensors that measure neurotransmitters. The researchers grow carbon nanotubes and fibres on the surfaces of sample pieces or pipette nanodiamonds onto them. Nanofibres and -tubes are made of graphene, a carbon allotrope, and nanodiamonds are microscopically small synthetic diamonds.

Towards new types of treatment

In addition to neurotransmitter concentration, it is important to know the location in which neurotransmitters are being released, how rapidly cells are releasing the substance as well as how long it takes for the cell to uptake it. Existing methods are unable to gather this information. The part of the brain in which the sensor is placed determines which neurotransmitter should be measured. The functioning of glutamate, the neurotransmitter that affects learning and memory, is studied in the hippocampus in particular. Local measurements yield fresh information on disease mechanisms as well as on the functioning of the brain and pharmaceuticals.

This needle-type sensor is suited to measurements of brain sections, for example. The tip has a diameter of just one micrometre.


On science

Peltola believes that if measurements inside the body were to become possible, researchers could develop new diagnostic and treatment methods. ‘We could have new treatments that would not only slow down diseases, but stop or even cure them.’

The right material would make sensors part of the body What happens when you get a splinter in your finger and can’t get it out? To protect you, your body grows scar tissue around the stick. This is a good thing, as otherwise an infection might spread and potentially endanger your life. Your body will react the same way when, instead of a splinter, it encounters an object, such as a sensor, intentionally placed there for therapeutic purposes. The immune system that protects us makes Emilia Peltola’s work challenging because the scar tissue, which develops around a sensor, prevents the substances it’s supposed to measure from reaching its surface. And this prevents accurate measurements. Researchers hope that sensors embedded into the body would become part of its tissue. This is what happens when nerve cells attach to sensors. But our body can send glial cells to surround sensors, and they form scar tissue that hampers measurements. In order for a sensor to attract the right kinds of cells, its surface must be of a specific type. But researchers have not yet determined what this type is like. 34 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

Good and bad proteins

Solving the scar tissue problem alone will involve plenty of work. In addition, proteins are causing a headache as well. Proteins are the building blocks of all cells and they perform nearly all of a cell’s functions: cell motility, cell fusion, signal transduction and immune defence. But proteins, though vital to humans, are detrimental to the functioning of sensors. They settle on the surface of the sensor, preventing the substance being measured from getting there. The sensors work well in saline solution, but whenever the fluid, such as a blood sample or cell culture, contains proteins, measurements are not as successful. Research is made more challenging by the finding that protein attachment on the surface doesn’t always ruin measurements. The correlation between the functioning of a sensor and the amount of proteins remains a mystery, however. Experiments have detected that a sensor’s electrochemistry still functions even when lots of proteins are attached to its surface. This means that the presence of proteins in large amounts alone doesn’t mean that a sensor won’t function. Researchers still need to explore how surface structures could be used to steer the attachment of proteins in a way that doesn’t disturb measurements.

Nanofibre thickness is decisive

Emilia Peltola works at Micronova, which has good facilities for experimental research. Sterile working is a must for

Local information of cell cultures can be obtained using this kind of dishes. The bottom of the well contains 44 microscopic sensors laid side by side.

examining finished sensors, although an actual cleanroom is not required. A cabinet in her lab holds various sample sensors for study. Their materials combine different carbon allotropes. Once sensor materials are prepared, it is time for the actual experiments, which study the measuring of neurotransmitters as well as interactions between cells and various carbon surfaces or between proteins and surfaces. While researching carbon nanofibres, Peltola and her colleagues have identified a connection between the thickness of nanofibres and cellular shapes. This link has helped them deduce that thickness also affects which cells, desirable nerve cells or undesirable glial cells, attach onto sensor surfaces. With respect to nanodiamonds, the results of cellular experiments show that a nanodiamond’s surface geometry and surface chemistry can support nerve cell attachment. Peltola thinks her research might progress to animal testing over the course of the five-year Academy of Finland study. Even if it takes more than a decade for the final product to make it into use, the study will provide useful and applicable knowledge for nerve and medical research along the way as well as further our general understanding of the brain and various diseases. •


First ecological guide for the Finnish audiovisual industry introduced Industry actors are being coaxed towards environmental responsibility. Text: Krista Kinnunen Illustration: Jolanda Jokinen THE EKOSETTI guide published this Sep-

tember broadly targets actors and stakeholders in the audiovisual industry: advertising, film and TV producers and studios, equipment lease firms, employees, buyers, funders and cooperation partners. ‘The guide provides information and is an attempt to inspire actors to develop their activities, and consequently the entire industry, in a more environmentally responsible direction. The aim is to introduce sustainability into all decisionmaking and practical work,’ says doctoral student Kaisa Astikainen from Aalto’s Department of Film, Television and Scenography. She compiled the guide in cooperation with TV industry freelancer Anna Puolanne, who is studying environmental design at Häme University of Applied Sciences. Ekosetti was created as part of Aalto University’s multidisciplinary Sustainability in filmmaking (SUFI) project in spring 2019. This project examined the environmental impacts of film

production and drafted guidelines for ecologically sustainable productions. ‘It’s important for the AV sector to play its part in climate-aware societal and global developments. As the industry becomes more international and production sizes grow, it is ever more important that activities are subjected to ecological boundaries as well. It may well be that sustainable production practices become a precondition for getting funding in Finland, too,’ Astikainen ponders.

Practical tips for responsible conduct The guide emphasises that a sustainable production is a systematically planned totality, which has the aim of minimising the associated environmental load and encourages the setting of sustainability targets for productions that are monitored along the way. It offers practical tips for, among other things, production management, the scriptwriting phase, waste management, energy consumption, travel and

The Ekosetti guide is funded by its project partners, the Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture AVEK, Audiovisual Producers Finland APFI, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s Department of Film, Television and Scenography as well as the School of Engineering’s Department of Built Environment.

logistics. The significance of advance planning is emphasised. For example, scriptwriters are advised not to get stuck in old cliches. Flushing medicines down the toilet is visually effective, but an extremely unecological thing to do. The same applies to flicking cigarette butts into nature and chucking leftover food in the bin.

Industry certification a goal

Astikainen participated in a green filmmaking course while on student exchange in Germany in 2012. Prior to this, she had never even heard of the topic. But her interest was piqued and she wound up writing her Master’s thesis on the subject in 2016. Her work examined what the situation regarding sustainable productions was internationally. Guidelines and certifications have been in use in the USA and Western European countries for years, even decades. In Finland, there is as yet not certification scheme for green productions. A big question is what makes a production sustainable. The environmental impact or carbon footprint of the Finnish film and AV industry has not been researched, but comparable data from other countries does exist. ‘In Belgium, for example, the biggest emission load factors of productions are associated with transport, waste, post-production, catering and energy. It is likely that we have the same load factors, although our recycling systems are quite effective,’ says Astikainen. The authors of the guide say Finnish productions already get a lot of things somewhat right. Nevertheless, additional tools, training and collective organisation within the industry are needed. ‘In other words, resources are required, but first and foremost it is a question of adopting a new, more responsible operating culture,’ Astikainen stresses. The aim is to add tailored tools like a carbon footprint calculator and other monitoring aids to the Ekosetti online guide in future. Data should also be collected on environmental effects. • ekosetti.fi


On science

Ironing tunes Technology can make an instrumentalist out of anyone. The brain loves music, but you need to be careful with the ears. Text: Minna Hölttä Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi WHEN AN INTERNATIONAL group of

experts came to evaluate Aalto University’s research and artistic activities one year ago, Academy of Finland Research Fellow Koray Tahiroğlu played them some ironing music. Tahiroğlu’s student had crafted a unique instrument by combining a computer with a clothes iron and an ironing board during the course he was teaching physical interaction design. An infrared scanner on the iron recognises different colour hues on the board, then transfers the data to the computer, which processes the hues into musical melodies. Sounds fun, but Tahiroğlu, who leads the Sound and Physical Interaction research group, and Professor of Audio Signal Processing Vesa Välimäki say a bigger idea is at stake. ‘Everybody likes music. We want everyone to also enjoy the opportunity of playing it,’ says Välimäki.

Teaches language and nurtures the mind Hearing is one of our most nimble senses, and music triggers emotional responses faster than any other art form. Just waiting for the best part of our favourite song makes the brain release dopamine, the neurotransmitter of satisfaction. But music affects a lot of other things besides emotions. Research indicates that it refreshes memory, boosts concentration and speeds up language learning, for example. Music benefits especially those who themselves practice it. The younger you get started, the better, but the brain benefits also from musical activity that starts in adulthood. Vesa Välimäki started playing the piano and flute as a child and got into synthesisers when at school. He seriously considered a career in music before deciding to study for a master’s in engineering because this enabled him to simultaneously immerse himself in acoustics. Koray Tahiroğlu played in bands, studied to become an architect in Istanbul and experienced an awakening when he got the opportunity to work with the available digital technologies at the time in a team and together they developed one of the first virtual museums on 36 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

the internet in 1995, Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture. ‘Getting to digitally do things that would have never been possible before was a turning point in my career.’ Now, Välimäki and Tahiroğlu both are part of Aalto Acoustics Lab, a multidisciplinary research centre that brings together researchers, teachers and students from the departments of Signal Processing and Acoustics, Computer Science, and Media. Välimäki specialises in, among other things, developing earphone and speaker sound quality as well as virtual audio technology, for example modelling and encoding Jimi Hendrix’s guitar sound. Tahiroğlu studies the interaction between music, technology and people. At present, the pair is coming up with

ideas for new instruments – details on which they are not yet ready to divulge. Learning to play traditional instruments often demands lots of motivation and diligent practise. Although all of us are gifted at birth with an ability to understand music, many don’t even try creating it themselves, fearing that they have no sense of rhythm or singing skills. ‘With help from a computer, touching nearly any object can make it play. A vase might sound like a drum or a symphony orchestra,’ Välimäki says. ‘Everyone knows how to use a phone or a clothes iron, so why couldn’t these things be refined into instruments? We want to provide people with the means to produce something beautiful with real world physical interactions,’ says Tahiroğlu.

Decibels and hertz

What something sounds like depends on the sound, the space and the listener. As a physiological process, hearing is straightforward: the ear translates sound waves into electrical nerve cell signals that are conveyed to be interpreted by the auditory cortex, and often also to the limbic system, which regulates emotional responses. Sound waves have a frequency that is measured in units called hertz. The more the waves vibrate, the higher the pitch of the sound heard. At best, humans are capable of hearing sounds ranging from 20 to 20 000 hertz, but sounds at the upper end of the range are often experienced as disturbing, even painful. ‘Our brains are mostly tuned to the frequency range of the human voice,

which is why we find high, screeching sounds unpleasant,’ Tahiroğlu explains. Sound intensity levels are measured in decibels. If sound intensity increases by 10 decibels, a person experiences a doubling in loudness. Tree leaves rustle at 10 decibels and a loud conversation can reach 70 decibels, while a rock concert’s typical 85-decibel loudness already breaches the noise level. Sounds louder than a 120 decibels are immediately hazardous to our hearing. ‘Noise is a major problem globally, it erodes wellbeing and causes significant health hazards ranging from stress to tinnitus. This is why you should shield yourself from it with all possible means,’ says Vesa Välimäki. ‘Earphones are a good idea in many cases, but they must be of a suitable type.

Earbuds are the worst. Our measurements have shown that the intensity of background noise can actually increase when using them.’

Good echo, bad echo

Acoustics design can have an enormous impact on how sounds are heard indoors. Put concisely, it is a question of echo management, which, in offices and classrooms, for example, can be done with the aid of acoustic boards, carpets and textiles. One space is rarely suitable for everyone, which is why a musician’s dream can be a speaker’s nightmare. Välimäki has personal experience of this. ‘My flute never played as beautifully as it did at my aunt’s wedding in a handsomely resonant church in the Turku archipelago. On the other hand, I’m sure the majority of the guests couldn’t make out a word of the priest’s oration.’ How sound makes us feel is very individual. The sounds of nature often place highly on lists of our favourite sounds, but quite surprising sounds can touch us, too. In 2011, a year of record snowfall, the City of Helsinki stacked huge piles of snow on Senate Square, where tunnels were formed. ‘The thick snow blocked the sounds of the city, making it very quiet inside the tunnel,’ Tahiroğlu recalls. The researchers’ favourite sounds are found closer to home, however. For Vesa Välimäki, it is his cat purring. ‘There’s something so sweet about it, especially when you stroke a purring cat and can feel its body vibrate.’ For Koray Tahiroğlu, the sound of his baby’s heartbeat comes tops. ‘I recorded the fetal heartbeat during my wife’s pregnancy. The pulse was rapid, about 150 beats per minute, but the rhythm was uneven, it had its own variations. I used the original recorded sound as part of the musical structure I developed on that beat in my live-electronics performances in 2010.’ •

Vesa Välimäki engages in cooperation with the speaker manufacturer Genelec, which is held in high regard by music fans and professionals alike. Koray Tahiroğlu, handling a single-string monochord, next intends to research the musical opportunities opened up by deep learning and artificial intelligence technologies. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 37


See, hear, feel! The quality of thinking improves when hundreds of people contribute to the formulation of strategy, says Assistant Professor Timo Vuori. Text: Anne Tapanainen Photos: Mikko Raskinen


echnological development, digitalisation and globalisation are impacting the operating environment of companies in a complex way. It is difficult to precisely predict activities when undergoing constant and fast-paced change. Success in competition requires companies to be agile, and this is why their strategies need to be adjustable as well. Assistant Professor Timo Vuori of Aalto University is familiar with different ways to prepare and implement strategies. Vuori says the basic idea – maximising benefits and adding value with limited resources relative to the competition – has remained the same starting from strategies for war from 3 000 years ago. Today, companies need to constantly check the assumptions they have made and have the ability to make fresh choices rapidly.


digital services and emphasise analytics, Google and Amazon, both of which conduct thousands of experiments each year. On the other hand, experiments and prototyping are also familiar from industry and production. How these are viewed is largely tied to management. ‘Put simply, you can say there are two types of executives: visionary leaders who trust their own intuition and see no need to test their thinking, and managers who favour experimentation and value continuous learning.’ Perceiving alternative paths and experimenting are important also at Aalto University, where research-derived new ideas for strategy work have already been Listening aids success Anticipating the future requires the mak- taken into use. The University’s new strategy, which will come into force in ing of assumptions, and experimenta2021, is being prepared with input from tion is a concrete way to explore which the entire community from students to path is most probable and what issues stakeholders. Engaging and listening to should be promoted. Vuori mentions as people is beneficial for at least two reaexamples two corporations that develop sons, Vuori says. ‘The quality of thinking improves. There’s a difference when three or three hundred people take part in brainstorming. Listening to a large group provides a broader view of the situation. Coming up with ideas together also helps individuals develop their own thinking and teaches them to understand different alternatives.’ And how do you identify things that shouldn’t be changed? ‘Identifying your own strengths is surprisingly difficult. Organisations can even destroy them inadvertently,’ says Timo Vuori. ‘The danger in overreacting as well as excessive enthusiasm is that too many things get changed. That’s why it’s important to understand and analyse current ‘Recognising what’s relevant from the perspective of decision-making remains central, although the collection of data and measuring things precisely, for example, have become commonplace. Scenario work, constantly creating options as well as measuring and evaluating the correct things with respect to objectives are significant,’ he says. Vuori talks of living strategy, a new kind of way to plan operations. In place of a rigid, set-in-stone model, its core is formed by a live working process in which the implementation, evaluation and renewal of strategy iterate.

Timo Vuori says the living strategy process brings the thinking of an organisation’s different groups together.

operating practices and critically compare them to new ways of doing things. The realisation of fresh ideas rarely succeeds completely. You’ll be up against similar practical challenges as in the status quo, and this should be taken into consideration.’ Organisational culture and human emotions are also of significance in the strategy process. ‘It’s important to foster an atmosphere of openness so that alternatives and also difficult issues can be talked about. Fortunately, more and more executives have acknowledged the impact psychological factors have. When we understand emotional reactions, they can be managed and harnessed for the implanting of the strategy. How things are said and what the staff feel like are often more meaningful than what is said.’

Bringing together the thinking of different groups

Of central importance to the success of a strategy is that the key stakeholders consider it meaningful. But it is not nec-

essary for every employee to be familiar with the strategy in full. ‘It is essential that employees who need to constantly make situation-specific choices in their work to internalise the strategy. But there are many tasks in which it is not necessary to know every detail of it.’ Vuori thinks living strategy suits everyone who needs change. The making of good decisions requires an analytic approach, and living strategy guides the organisation to recognise both fresh opportunities and threats. The model of course also contains challenges. ‘Living strategy requires broad-reaching examination in order for a sufficient amount of even improbable alternatives to be uncovered for comparison. At the same time, activities need to be very focused.’ In addition to Aalto University, the practices of living strategy have been applied in Finland by, for example, OP Financial Group, whose President Timo Ritakallio co-authored a book about the topic with Timo Vuori. The book utilised

both Ritakallio’s practical experiences and Vuori’s research, which focused on strategy work at Nokia. Timo Vuori has also worked on the strategies of many other companies and he is closely involved in the strategy process of Aalto. Vuori thinks the process will bring the thinking of the organisation’s different groups together for current use. ‘Formal processes, analysis and tools provide structure in which people can develop their thinking and become more open to new alternatives. For its part, scrutinising matters more broadly produces better decisions. Learning together is another positive: it recognises the reality of the moment, its alternatives and likely consequences.’ •

Elävä strategia – Kyky nähdä, taito tarttua tilaisuuteen, Alma Talent 2018, a book co-authored by Timo Vuori and Timo Ritakallio, was used as background material for this article.



The entire Aalto community has participated in the drafting of the new strategy.

Living strategy promotes teaming up JUHA ÄKRÄS, Chairman of the Board

Aalto University as a test lab for strategy work Why living strategy? Aalto University’s current strategy remains in force until 2020, and the work to prepare a new strategy is ongoing. Rapid technological development, the demands of continuous learning, sustainable development and international competition are powerfully reshaping the activities of universities as well. That’s why Aalto is charting alternative paths to serve alongside its existing strengths. Working together. The starting point was analysed with the aid of diverse background material. On hand were, for example, an impact assessment of research and art, a review of megatrends and analyses of the operating environment and the University’s own strengths. The entire Aalto community – staff, students and stakeholders – is taking part in the strategy work. There are many oppor40 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

tunities for wielding influence: workshops and public events, votes and an interactive online portal. Cornerstones and development targets. The work has produced a large amount of ideas and viewpoints. In the beginning, the community was asked to pose questions that the strategy work should answer. In all, 654 questions were submitted, out of which 14 key questions were sifted. Some 1 900 answers to them have emerged from the community. Development targets have been identified on the basis of the material. The University’s cornerstones – its purpose, values and way of working – have also already been written down. The new strategy will guide the University’s work as of 2021. The implementation of the strategy will avail of designoriented methods.

and partner at Hintsa Performance, started pondering what type of management and corporate culture would lead to goodness already during his long career as a Nokia executive. He believed in the view that a person’s comprehensive wellbeing was key to his or her effective performance as well. Reading the book Elävä strategia crystallised many of the strategy- and leadership-related issues he had been thinking about. Äkräs examined the living strategy model and selected practices suited to Hintsa Performance that could well be a fit for other SMEs and startups as well: Live scenarios. Strategy work involves the drafting of alternative scenarios, but once strategy proceeds to implementation, the monitoring of critical assumptions is often deficient. Monitoring can be facilitated by recording a set of ‘traffic lights’ for the critical assumptions used: once an issue goes from green to orange, it would be wise to keep a closer eye on the matter. Hintsa Performance has recorded alternative operating plans for its critical assumptions both for the medium and the long term. If the situation changes, activities can be flexibly focused onto a different area. Small steps and emotion. A large share of strategies and integrations will fail if it is forgotten that people – and their emotions – are always behind them. Making constant small changes and experiments can be a softer route to renewal than radical change. Taking account of emotions in change situations gets people onboard and promotes their belief in the strategy. Openness to options. SMEs and startups have strong faith in their own ideas and work – as they should – but they can be struck by ‘strategic blindness’ along the way and fail to record their critical assumptions. Sometimes they are unable to identify and evaluate possible challenges themselves. In this, the efforts of the Board of Directors can help. Hintsa Performance’s Board consists of several entrepreneurs and investors, and it convenes often.


Read more: aalto.fi/ unfolded

Designing a more sustainable world Text: Tiina Toivola Photo: Kalle Kataila


of the main venues for this September’s Helsinki Design Week. The Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibition totality highlighted solutions for a more sustainable way of life. On display were 11 multidisciplinary exhibitions, which showcased more than 40 projects combining research and design. The New Silk project researches spider silk, one of the world’s strongest materials with properties that outperform existing synthetic materials. •



Otaniemi, like coming back home Tauno Voipio, godfather of the Electric Workshop course, believes in learning through doing. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photo: Mikko Raskinen


t looks very different from what it was when I first came to the building, Tauno Voipio notes inside the renovated Dipoli. Back then, in winter 1966, he and other freshmen were carrying loads of planks used to cast concrete in the ballroom. The planks were heavy and studded with nails, while the ballroom was cramped and difficult to navigate. Students would pick up a few planks at a time for others to carry out of the near-complete Dipoli, which was being built by the student union to serve as a venue for formal celebrations. First-year students had been assigned a few weekends of work to save on labour costs.

Tech student life

When Tauno Voipio started his computer science and electronics studies in 1965, the main building of the Helsinki University of Technology still smelled of fresh paint and all of Otaniemi was covered in scaffolding. Once, when Voipio and his fellow students were leaving a calculation exercise class held in the hall of the main building, they noticed flames bellowing at the chemistry department construction site. The students rushed down the stairs to inform the janitor of the situation. It took time to convince the dubious man that there really was a fire at the site, and the students considered thinking up a ruse to lure him away from his hut so that they could call for help. Thankfully, the situation was resolved without resorting to ruses or pranks – something for which the tech student community was and still is famous for. Such antics only ever played a very minor part in Voipio’s life as a student, however, as his free time was taken up by tinkering with radios and cars. At the student radio club, Voipio got to know a lot of people who would later work on the first Nokia mobile phones. And the car club’s defensive driving lessons came in handy later, when work took him on the road, sometimes covering as much as tens of thousands of kilometres a year.

From hobby to profession

Tauno Voipio’s career represents a coming together of his hobbies: radio technology, electronics and aviation. As a young boy, he liked to dismantle and reassemble various devices. He built his first radio as a 12-year-old and was the first member of his family to acquire an amateur radio permit almost 60 years ago. 42 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

Aviation has interested Voipio since childhood. As a boy, he entered a self-build model aircraft in a competition held at Helsinki’s old exhibition hall. But it took decades before he acquired a pilot’s license because of the glasses he has needed to wear since 14, and a plane crash his uncle was involved in, scaring his mother. Voipio didn’t plan for a career in the aviation industry. That his hobby turned into a profession came as a surprise. Half by accident, he got involved with a radar project at Helsinki airport, and this launched a career spanning nearly three decades at the Finnish Civil Aviation Administration, where Voipio held various positions in administration, among other things. The airport’s runways, flight control, simulators and many other functions also benefited from Voipio’s interdisciplinary expertise. His teaching career, which started with an assistant’s post at Otaniemi, later continued in the role of flight instructor at his own aviation school.

The importance of working with your hands

In addition to building radios and model aircraft, Tauno Voipio’s hands have put together a lot of other things as well. His nimble fingers were good at playing the piano as well as at soldering minute electronics components. The Museum of Technology still displays a computer, which was built by a team including Voipio more than 50 years ago. It was the second computer recorded as made in Finland, although some imported devices had been in use, too. Voipio’s finger bears a scar as a memento of the assembly – the vacuum desoldering tool used to remove faulty components bit off a piece. The spouses of the group involved in the computer assembly project came up with the term a computing minute. You never could tell whether tinkering with the device would take five minutes, an hour or the entire night. One topic of many a story is this computer. When his children were teenagers, the family visited the Museum of Technology. The children were sceptical when the proud father revealed that he’d contributed to the building of the showcased computer. Only after they found his name mentioned in the computer’s reservation book did they believe he’d played a part in Finnish computing history, and still cheekily suggested that perhaps a glass display cabinet, with daddy in it, could be put next to the machine. Children, grandchildren, family, friends, workmates and employees star in Voipio’s stories. And the turning

Building the future with donations • In addition to State funding and competitive research funding, our funding consists of income from investment activities and targeted donations from companies, organisations and private individuals. • A donor can make a general gift to Aalto University or target it to a specific field of research and education. • Donations to the university are tax deductible in Finland.

Read more: aalto.fi/en/ give-for-the-future


The place where their eyes met. The lobby of the A and B halls at Otakaari 1 is especially meaningful to Tauno Voipio because it is where he first met his future wife Marja. Tauno was leaving a lecture when he happened to notice a female student climbing the stairs. Two years after that moment, they got engaged and set up their first home together in Otaniemi.

point of his career is also associated with people. He was working in a technology firm when restructuring cut Voipio’s team so harshly that he felt unable to continue with the same company. The decision was also influenced by his teenage kids and his youngest child, who was just a toddler. Voipio’s sons have followed their dad into the technology sector, while his daughter is an expert in Nordic languages. His family has earned five tasseled caps and is also musically gifted.

His own godchild, the Electric Workshop

Tauno Voipio confesses to feeling a bit envious of today’s students. Aalto University’s Electric Workshop is precisely what he would have wanted his own studies to include in the 1960s: the opportunity to do tangible work with your own hands and learn through trial and error. Participants in the Electric Workshop course are making a microcontroller. This project assignment utilises a very small computer and enables the students to test their learning in practice. Testing things in this way speeds up learning and requires participants

to lean on knowledge that can’t be looked up on a screen. Among other things, Voipio has donated start-up capital for the Electric Workshop. He wants to support the experts of the future because Finland’s success requires us to do things better than the rest. And this means that we need to educate the right people throughout their lives. Voipio is himself a good example of how pre-made plans don’t necessarily determine the direction of your career. Being prepared to constantly learn and practise new things in your life and career is essential. It is important that today’s students take these lessons onboard. The more you learn, the better you understand that there are so many things that you don’t know yet. You notice that every single day, says Voipio. Tauno Voipio looks out the window from Dipoli: at the green trees and red-brick buildings. The scenery is familiar, even though the campus has changed radically from when he studied here. Still, coming to Otaniemi is like coming back home. • AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 43


Elegant and exciting: math Art and math students produced an exhibition for the Espoo Cultural Centre. The works interpreted the phenomena of geometry and topology. Text: Matthew Allinson Photo: Kalle Kataila ‘TALKING TO CREATIVES you hear “I’m just not good at math” a lot, but that’s not how it works,’ says artist and designer Megan McGlynn. She took part in the exhibition project In Transition – Mathematics and Art, which was on display at the Espoo Cultural Centre in the summer 2019. ‘Math is like a language: anyone who’s willing to learn can start to understand it. Of course, it might take some time to learn the basics, but you don’t need to be fluent to start understanding some things, making connections, and possibly opening up new ways of thinking.’ The älvdans on the moon bridge was designed by interior architecture student Yi-Chiao Tien, bioinformation technology student Jannica Savander, arts and business student Alisa Kurganova and design student Tomi Hyyppä. They were familiar with the Cultural Centre’s architecture and wanted to construct their work in the empty space of the staircase. Mathematics is present in the fairy piece through minimal surface geometry. Stretched along its sides, fabric settles in a rest mode in which its surface is evenly curved. ‘The work was inspired by misty fields at dawn. In Swedish, this natural phenomenon is called älvdans, fairy dance. Fairy dance is a natural, visual work of art in an empty space through which air flows from one floor to another,’ says Jannica Savander. The garden city district of Tapiola, Espoo, and the high-ceilinged location on the top floor of the Cultural Centre that resembles a lighthouse laid the foundation for Crystal garden. It was designed and implemented by design student Iiro Törmä, mathematician Saara Vestola and graphic artist Punit Hiremath. 44 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

The älvdans on the moon bridge. The work was inspired by misty fields at dawn.

The flower petals of Crystal garden repeat the same polygon folded into different shapes. The works were produced as part of the course Crystal flowers in halls of mirrors: Mathematics meets art and architecture. ‘The course approaches the phenomena of modern mathematics using visual tools, and you can manage with any level of prior mathematical knowledge. The course participants’ relationship with mathematics varied greatly, and we discussed the dialogue between mathematics and creativity a great deal,’ says Iiro Törmä. ‘Mathematics is everywhere, and

a fearless attitude to it is at the centre of all learning. The visual methods of art provide an excellent point of contact with the essential elements of mathematical research’, states Kirsi Peltonen, teacher in charge of the course. As an alumna Megan McGlynn agrees, ‘The course not only gives art and design students more confidence to work with concepts of mathematics – and for mathematics students to work with designers – but through the work we make, hopefully it gives that confidence to much wider audiences. It shows everyone that math isn’t this insulated, incomprehensible world. But it’s everywhere, it’s elegant, and it’s exciting.’ •


Construction of the Aalto Works block underway Text: Noora Stapleton Once completed, the block will provide a home for, among others, several School of Engineering departments, the School of Electrical Engineering’s electric engine hall, Aalto Design Factory, Startup Sauna, Aalto Ventures Program and partners of Aalto University. •

Read more: aalto.fi/en/campus/ aalto-university-works

Conceptual illustrations of the new block.

Playa Architects and Aalto University

THE BLOCK CONSISTING of buildings formerly belonging to the Department of Mechanical Engineering is the final block on Otaniemi campus to undergo major renovations. It is also the first where parts of older buildings are being knocked down and replaced with entirely new ones. And new life brings with it a new name: Aalto Works. As its name implies, the block is home to a combination of various workshoplike spaces. Aalto Works brings together actors, spaces and opportunities to create innovations. It provides tools for building and testing prototypes as well as research labs for developing them into finished products, technologies and new research findings. In addition to the interior spaces being refurbished for new activities, the project includes the construction of new buildings as well as a green area improvement project. The renovation and new construction will be realised in stages. The first areas will be completed this year, and the entire block is scheduled for completion by 2023.



The water we eat Food production accounts for up to 70% of the global consumption of fresh water. Mika Jalava developed a model that optimises the diets of different countries in a way that saves water. Text: Marjukka Puolakka Photos: Iiro Immonen ‘FOOD IS an absolutely central issue when discussing water. Globally, the production of one kilo of wheat consumes 1 600 litres of water on average, while one kilo of beef takes 15 000 litres to produce. The reasons for this include plant photosynthesis and other organ functions, which require a lot of water,’ says Mika Jalava, who just completed a doctorate on the water consumption of food production. The water crisis is already a full reality in different parts of the world, and its biggest contributing factor is, by far, population growth. ‘Curbing population growth will not help in the short term, there’s already so many of us. Dietary changes are needed.’ An oft-repeated solution to cutting the water consumption of food production is to replace meat with plant-based products. ‘The eating habits of different countries are so varied that providing a single diet template for everyone is not a viable solution. For the vast majority of people, food is more than just a means of survival.’ As part of his study, Jalava developed an optimisation model in which country-specific diets are changed gradually, replacing animal products with plant products. Instead of making everyone’s

dinner look alike, the aim is to retain the national characteristics of each country’s diet to as great a degree as possible. ‘Starting with small changes is surely better than issuing a top-down decree to change everything.’

Aalto OptoFood takes production region into account

Jalava believes that the best way to change eating habits is to produce and make available the best possible alternatives. ‘I’m a habitual meat-eater and hunter myself. The best way to convert someone like me is to offer them tasty vegetarian food. The food industry, chefs, bloggers and other food trendsetters play a key role in this.’ Jalava himself visits cooking courses to talk about dietary changes. When vegetarian food is done right, it’s not just a meat substitute, it provides all consumers with better eating options. In Finland, the irrigation water needed to produce a kilo of beef is about half the world average. The global Aalto OptoFood model he has developed takes into account how the production region affects the water consumption of food products. The model accordingly divides also Finland into map sectors with varying farming conditions, which are then

utilised to calculate the water efficiency of different diets.

Feeding 10 billion people The need for food is constantly increasing, as the global population is forecast to reach 9–10 billion by 2050. Will dietary changes, reduced food waste and increased production efficiency be enough to secure food security for the future? ‘Yes. Simply adding these factors together results in up to a two- to threefold increase in global food availability. A bigger question concerns the environmental impact of food production if unsustainable means are used to boost production.’ If, however, nothing is done, there’s plenty of reason to worry. Africa is the focal point in all relevant scenarios because, in 2100, it will be home to as many as 4.5 billion people and the continent’s dependence on food imports will be even greater than before.

From astronaut to water economics researcher Jalava has always wanted to understand how the things around him work. As a little boy, he had clear plans for the future: ‘I want to be an astronaut! And a few years later: a pilot at least! Well, then I’ll be a scientist.’ As a scientist, Jalava sticks to water. In his post-doctoral research, he intends to continue the development and expansion of the Aalto OptoFood model by examining the carbon footprint of food production, among other things. Space is still a part of Jalava’s life after all these years. He chairs the Finnish Astronautical Society, and typically ends his presentations by showing images of the Moon and the Earth. ‘Satellite images of the Earth mostly show blue oceans and white clouds, a large water surface area is our calling card. If we don’t manage our water well, we’ll have to travel a damn long way to find more!’ Mika Jalava 30.8.2019: The water we eat – methods for estimating water use of diets in changing food systems.


All doctoral theses online: aaltodoc.aalto.fi; shop.aalto.fi

Avian influenza viruses may spread insidiously SOME AVIAN influenza viruses (AIVs) are able to spread extremely efficiently in human cells. This was found out in the doctoral research of Veera Westenius, M.Sc. In her work, she infected human immune cells with AIVs isolated from humans and birds to observe the cells’ defence responses and the propagation and spread of the virus. The field of her research is biotechnology. The study was conducted at the Finnish institute for health and welfare. AIVs are influenza A viruses, against which humans lack pre-existing immunity. Westenius found out that the H5N1 virus, which is dangerous to both humans and birds, causes strong innate immune responses in human immune cells, yet it is still able to spread extremely efficiently in the cells. The H7N9 virus, which is less dangerous for birds, in turn does not trigger immune responses in human cells, and is able to propagate and spread in a somewhat clandestine manner in the human body. The propagation of H7N9 is not, however, as efficient as that of H5N1. The behaviour of H9N2 viruses, which

cause mild diseases in humans and birds, was similar to seasonal influenza. The results can partly explain why some AIVs may cause potentially fatal diseases in humans, while other virus subtypes cause only mild symptoms similar to the flu. The findings of the thesis are useful

in preparing for pandemics. By developing biosafety practices and methods, the work helps maintain preparedness for emerging viral threats in Finland. Veera Westenius 22.3.2019: Avian influenza virus infection in human innate immune cells.

A corporate lawyer’s path from authority figure to customer servant PROFIT SEEKING and ethical conduct are not contradictory goals in business. This conclusion was reached in a doctoral thesis recently completed by Tiina Ojala, M.Sc., LL.M. Ojala’s study examined the change taking place in the business world that is steering activities towards a more customer-focused, ethical and responsible direction. Ojala’s practical experience of working in the business sector introduced viewpoints associated with corporate law and ethics as well as business management and economics to the doctoral thesis. The efficiency of business activities can be measured in things other than money. Efficiency requires firms to conform both with the expectations of clients and of society. Each organisational level of a company should shoulder responsibility for success in customer experiences. The work of lawyers and physicians is also becoming increasingly customer-oriented. Earlier viewed as authority figures, doctors or attorneys

will, in future, act more like the customer’s partner, alongside rather than above them. The tasks performed by corporate lawyers are transitioning from trial and contract-handling duties to the prevention of wrongdoing and unethical conduct. Modern, value-added-generating corporate lawyers use their expertise to safeguard the responsible actions and ethical thinking of individuals. They understand their role as part of the business totality and play their part actively and with sensitivity to evolving situations. They have the courage to take a stand and provide understandable and unambiguous answers rather than dazzling clients with sophisticated legal terminology. Tiina Ojala 29.3.2019: Judicial risk management of limited liability companies: a customer-focused, ethical and responsible transition. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 47

Everyday choices

How would you fill waste land, Tuukka Saarimaa? Whether land gets used to build a park or a high-rise, this Professor of Urban Economics would ensure that any solution is the result of careful consideration. Text: Paula Haikarainen Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi Where do you live? I live in an apartment building in Kalasatama, Helsinki. You originally hail from Kainuu. Do you miss anything about rural life? I’m actually from a town, Kajaani, the regional centre. I miss the winters up North, but not much else really. The segregation of residential neighbourhoods appears to be growing, especially in big cities. Won’t this lead to a widening chasm between rich and poor? To be fair, nobody really knows if segregation is very harmful. The claim keeps getting repeated, but the issue is difficult to study. What it boils down to is the price mechanism of the housing market. The fact that there are families with different levels of income and an urban area that contains different neighbourhoods. Ease of access to the city centre, where the majority of jobs are typically located, alone differentiates between neighbourhoods. Or an area might contain some attractive feature, such as the seashore. Those who are most willing and able to pay end up living in the most desirable areas. Then it looks like lots of lowincome people live in some other neighbourhoods, and this in turn appears to lead to more poverty. But the price mechanism is what’s really at work. What can be done to provide good housing for low-income people as well? There are efforts to resolve the perceived problems of segregation through social mixing, i.e. by building 48 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

subsidised housing such as city-owned rental apartments in expensive areas. But should public resources be focused on fighting segregation, or the same money be spent on providing direct housing subsidies to those who need it or, for example, perhaps give more resources to schools? At least we have some evidence of the effectiveness of these systems. Should all urban waste land be filled? If a plot is on some of the most valuable building land in the city, as is the case with the site between the Helsinki Music Centre and the Oodi library, it should benefit the citizenry in some way, for example by providing access to a nice relaxing park. For some reason, this area has been left unfinished, even though it could be very pleasant. Of course, it is fair to consider whether a park is the best solution in general. After all, everything comes with an opportunity cost. In the decision to build the central library, for example, the value of its site was assessed at a level corresponding with prices in the centre of Hyvinkää, which boggles the mind. An economist cannot help but think that, had the site been sold to a developer yielding a highrise and lots of money from selling apartments in it, would the benefit not have been greater? An identical Oodi could have been built in, say, Pasila, where land is cheaper while simultaneously getting a bit more cash to cover, for example, teacher salaries. It can, naturally, always be argued that Oodi is so beneficial in precisely this

location that it was worth building. But calculations should be made using true values, not by pulling cost estimates out of a hat. What is the ultimate problem in urban land use? Excessive regulation. Too few homes are being zoned in attractive areas. In Kalasatama, for example, you’ve got terraced townhouses in places suitable for tall apartment buildings. If the price per square metre indicates that an area is desirable, but it does not get built up, there should be a very good reason for this decision. It is often claimed that areas filled with tall, densely-packed buildings become uncomfortable. But I find this threat implausible considering Helsinki’s population density. How can housing policy become more fact-based? The Helsinki Graduate School of Economics, where I am a Professor, is one way of introducing additional information to decisionmakers. The joint Aalto, University of Helsinki and Hanken School of Economics doctoral school covers all of the central aspects of economics. Our teaching, theses supervision, post-graduate students and post-doctoral researchers create fresh knowledge and findings. It’s important that researchers actively communicate their findings and take part in societal debate with decision-makers, politicians and civil servants. But the fact remains that it is the politicians who themselves decide what information they want to take in.•


THIS ISSUE EXAMINES • energy transition solutions • photonics, the science of light • acoustics research Photo: Belenos Group of Arts performed at the Otaniemi Night of Arts festival on 21 September 2019.


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