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Profiling areas in focus: STUE pursues urban sustainability breakthroughs through research and cooperation

Published on 28.10.2021
Tampere University
Professors Liisa Häikiö and Marko Seppänen.
Professors Liisa Häikiö and Marko Seppänen are inviting others to join them to promote the sustainability breakthrough. (Photo: Jonne Renvall/Tampere University).
We live among numerous sustainability challenges. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, diseases and inequalities require swift solutions, but there is still time for action. Tampere University recently launched the Sustainable Transformation of Urban Environments (STUE) research community and profile area, which is conducting multidisciplinary research on urban sustainability. The profile area is funded by the Academy of Finland under the PROFI6 programme for 2021–2027.

The majority of Finland’s and the world’s populations live in or close to cities. Thus, cities of different sizes play a key role when answers are sought to sustainability issues. At the same time, cities crystallise an important challenge for the future. For cities to provide safe and sustainable places to live in the future, the lifestyles, institutions, and infrastructures implemented in them must change.

“If the sustainability breakthrough does not happen in cities, it is hard to imagine how we can meet the challenges we will inevitably face as humanity,” says professor Liisa Häikiö.

Häikiö leads Tampere University’s new STUE research community and profiling area, which aims to create research-based solutions to promote the urban sustainable transformation. STUE strengthens the already robust research tradition on local and urban issues at Tampere University.

“Tampere University has highly multidisciplinary research that is addressing sustainable urban development themes. Thus, while the starting point is not new, the historical roots are strong. The city as a limited research area enables an appropriate scale and provides a good starting point for multidisciplinary research,” Häikiö explains.

While policy statements and global commitments are traditionally made at the national level, many practical sustainability actions are taken in cities and municipalities.

“In Finland, the actions of municipalities have had and continue to have a major impact on, for example, residents’ and businesses’ carbon dioxide emissions. I believe that every Finnish city has understood the importance of this issue,” Häikiö points out.

If a city wants to succeed and be a good living environment in the future, sustainability issues cannot be ignored, which is why this project is seeking active measures.

Multidisciplinary cooperation between researchers and wider society

STUE is open to all disciplines that study sustainability in cities. Professor Marko Seppänen, member of STUE’s multidisciplinary steering group, thinks that the profiling area inherently combines Tampere University’s core competences in technology, health, and society. Medicine and health sciences and expertise in the built environment and technology also contribute to the sustainable urban development theme.

“We are not a single project, but act as an umbrella and our actions have a facilitation objective. We aim to create a framework where multidisciplinary research is possible, and researchers can come together around a theme. Everyone is welcome to come up with ideas and contribute to our activities,” Seppänen says.

“One aspect is infrastructure and its renewal. Technological solutions frame sustainability and affect the overall burden on the planet,” Seppänen mentions.

The STUE profile area builds connections and produces scientific research-based knowledge for cities and entire society. It is intended to be a meeting place in two ways. Not only does it facilitate collaboration between researchers and society, but it also invites people to contribute to the sustainability breakthrough at the level of organisations, associations, and communities.

“In addition to cities and their numerous organisations, companies that are committed to making changes and promoting sustainability in their own networks are our significant partners,” says Seppänen.

“All interested parties from researchers to organisations, communities and citizens are welcome to participate. The fact that we can bring people together in a broad sense is important, among other things, for defining our research questions and tasks. We want to produce meaningful information, and that means listening to a wide range of actors,” Häikiö says.  
In September, the STUE profiling platform was launched in a kick-off event. September also saw the first thematic seminar “Pandemic city” where experts discussed pandemics from multidisciplinary perspectives. Next up is the Green city seminar on urban nature on 4 November and the Aging city seminar on 16–17 December 2021.

Find out more about STUE and get involved:

Contact/further information:
Research coordinator Alisa Vänttinen, alisa.vanttinen [at]
Professor Liisa Häikiö, liisa.haikio [at]

Sustainable Transformation of Urban Environments (STUE)

This multidisciplinary research community and one of Tampere University’s profiling areas in 2021–2027 is

  • pursuing sustainable urban development solutions through research and community involvement.
  • creating opportunities for collaboration between researchers, public authorities, policy makers, communities, organisations, and businesses aiming to provide participation opportunities for a wide range of societal actors.
  • This will include organising collaborative events and disseminating research results and new ideas. Ideas from all stakeholders on how to develop the activities are welcome.
  • STUE’s research focuses on three interconnected areas: 
    1) health and well-being in urbanised society
    2) carbon neutral infrastructures and resilient businesses
    3) inclusive communities and practice-based politics.

Academy of Finland’s PROFI6 funding

  • At the beginning of 2021, the Academy of Finland made decisions on the PROFI6 competitive funding to support universities in strengthening their research profile and improving the quality of research.  
  • The Academy granted Tampere University €12.7 million for enhancing the profiling of strategic research.
  • Four profiling areas are funded in Tampere University’s spearhead fields of technology, health, and society: 1) Health Data Science
    2) Games as a Platform to Tackle Grand Challenges
    3) TAU Imaging Research Platform and
    4) Sustainable Transformation of Urban Environments.  
  • The applications were assessed by an international panel of experts whose members consisted of Rectors and Vice Rectors of European universities.

Funding granted under Academy of Finland’s revised funding instrument for research profiling at Finnish universities(Academy of Finland,