Impact of Universities on Regional Development and Economy

“It is a real pleasure to start the working week with such uplifting news of a new initiative on growth entrepreneurship at Aalto University.” These were the words of the Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen when introducing the App Campus program at Otaniemi this morning. AppCampus is a Finland-based application development program providing funding, training, support and business opportunities to Finnish and international mobile developers. During the next three years, Nokia and Microsoft will each provide up to 9 million EUR funding for the program that will be led and managed by Aalto University.

The Prime minister continued: “The AppCampus program is a fine example of how fundamental research at universities can give rise to tangible societal benefits. I am pleased that this is now happening at Aalto in the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

In 1997, the Bank of Boston published a report revealing that MIT graduates have founded 4,000 companies, creating 1.1 million jobs worldwide and generating annual sales of $232 billion. Since then a growing number of studies confirm that universities are regional “engines” that create jobs and welfare through the import of and investments by established companies, and through “spin-off” activities that transform research findings into commercial products – these companies tending to stay in the region.

Silicon Valley in California is the classical example of knowledge ecosystems boosting entrepreneurship and economic growth. A recent study of the Boston Metropolitan Area estimates that the eight universities in the region have an annual economic impact 7 billion US dollars in that area. Another report from the OECD this week revealed that the University of Arizona is a key a driver of economic growth in the state of Arizona, one of the US’s most rapidly expanding states.

All these examples emphasize that excellent universities have a key role in supporting the success of knowledge -based economies. Aalto University is located in the heart of the Helsinki Metropolitan area, spanning both sides of the border of Helsinki and Espoo, next to the headquarters of Nokia, Kone and Fortum as well as 800 smaller businesses and corporations. As Aalto undergoes its own transformation toward the world class, it is important that we continue to develop our relationships with stakeholders so that we all benefit from Aalto’s coming growth. Launching a collaboration worth 18 million EUR between Nokia, Microsoft and Aalto today is a sign that we are on the right track.