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Universities to both support industry development and address societal issues

Published on 16.10.2019
Tampere University
Professor Henry EtzkowitzProfessor Henry Etzkowitz gives the keynote speech.
Social sciences and humanities play an important role in regional development, particularly in supporting business development. The role of higher education institutions is not simply to serve the needs of industries, but also to address social challenges.

In October, the Higher Education Group at the Faculty of Management and Business hosted the Tampere Triple Helix Workshop of 2019. The theme of the meeting was Soft sciences boosting SMEs’ business and it shared innovative ideas and hands-on experiences of how social sciences and humanities can support the business development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The workshop was a pre-event for the 2020 Triple Helix Conference, which will be organised on 15—17 June 2020 at Tampere University.

Adjunct Professor Yuzhuo Cai from the Faculty of Management and Business and Associate Editor of the Triple Helix journal, moderated the workshop where Professor Henry Etzkowitz from Stanford University, developer of the concept of the triple helix model of innovation, gave the keynote speech.

The speech was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Markku Sotarauta, professor of regional studies. The panellists comprised Professor Etzkowitz, Professor, Vice Dean Johanna Kujala, Creative Director Jere Wessman from Demola, and Programme Director Seppo Haataja from the Smart Tampere Ecosystem Programme.

Both the keynote speech and the panel discussion addressed the importance of social sciences and humanities in regional development, particularly in supporting business development. There is room for further exploration of the potential of these so-called soft sciences in the field of business.

However, enhancing soft science perspectives in regional innovation can be challenging. For example, it may be difficult to measure the engagement of soft sciences in business development while it also takes time to build trust among the triple helix actors of universities, industries and governments. Trust is essential in the realisation of such engagements.

It was also emphasised that the role of higher education institutions is not simply to serve business needs, but also to address the challenges of the societies of which they are a part.

President Mari Walls and Professor Henry Etzkowitz
President Mari Walls welcomes Professor Henry Etzkowitz at Tampere University.

Text: Gaoming Zheng
Photos: Jonne Renvall