In autumn 2023 Eu-SPRI was delighted to welcome a new organisation to the network – the InnoLab at the University of Vaasa.

We caught up with Helka Kalliomäki, Associate Professor at the School of Management, University of Vaasa, and member of the InnoLab research platform.

Can you tell us a bit about the InnoLab, its research focus and how you came to join the Eu-SPRI network?

Would be happy to! InnoLab – Innovation and Entrepreneurship research platform – is a phenomenon-based, multidisciplinary open research platform at the University of Vaasa in Finland. We are a young platform, established in 2019, but within a short period of time, we have been successful in creating an authentic network of collaborative partners who represent science, society and industry in a versatile manner, nationally and internationally.

Our research is organised in three thematic clusters: society and systems, transformational innovation, and consumer and user-centric innovation. In these clusters, we aim at capturing innovation activities at all levels. In all areas we have a constantly evolving externally funded project portfolio, which enables us to combine internationally ambitious research with high societal and practical relevance.

Within our university, we are a multidisciplinary group of about 30 researchers, having our disciplinary homes at one of the four schools (management, marketing and communication, accounting and finance, and technology and innovations) and joined together by our interest in innovation and entrepreneurship studies. In addition, doctoral students are a key part of our community and participate actively in our activities, often as project and grant funded researchers. We also continue to host 10-15 international visitors, with whom we collaborate actively in externally funded projects, education initiatives and joined writing projects.

We heard about the Eu-SPRI network few years ago, and immediately noticed that the forum is very relevant for us in terms of our strategic goals and research areas. After participating to our first Eu-SPRI conference in 2021, we started exploring the network more closely and decided to pursue the membership. 

How is the work of the Innolab relevant to the Eu-SPRI? What opportunities are you hoping will open up due to Vaasa joining the Eu-SPRI network?

Our core research areas are directly related to the focus areas of the Eu-SPRI, and we of course hope that our membership will be mutually beneficial for both us and the Eu-SPRI network members. Our ambition is to become internationally recognized for our research in the broad area of transformational innovation, and we believe our work on innovation systems and eco-social transitions to deliver sustainable transformation through public policy will set us apart from other institutions. Related to our ambition, we wanted to join the Eu-SPRI network to become an active member of this interdisciplinary science and innovation policy studies community in Europe. We believe that we have a lot to offer for the network through our versatile international workshops and events, as well as our expertise in transformational innovation. In the future, we increasingly wish to join forces with European colleagues in research topics of joined interest, hopefully leading to new collaborations also in EU funding bids.

Great opportunities for our young researchers was also one of the main reasons for us to pursue this network membership. In an internationally recognised research university it is necessary that our doctoral researchers and early-career scholars can build their capacities and networks in an international research environment and learn from the best. We believe that the membership opens many doors for that.

How do you hope to participate in the agenda of Eu-SPRI?                     

We want to be part of building the SPRI research agenda in the forthcoming years. We look forward to working with our colleagues across Europe on strengthening this important research area through joint research initiatives and events, also related to supporting the next generation of scholars. In addition, I am personally very interested in studying and developing new forms of dialogue and interaction between researchers and policy practitioners, so I am also excited about the stakeholder engagement mission of the network and wish to contribute to that in the future. We have good models in Finland that I believe are worth spreading and developing further in collaborative European arenas!

Which activities are you planning to engage in and what kind of events would you hope to organise (on your own or with other partner organisations)?

The first thing on our to do list this autumn was to submit a track proposal to next summer’s Eu-SPRI conference, which we just did together with our VTT colleagues from Finland. The proposal is related to inclusion as an innovation policy objective, which we have been exploring in several research and development projects recently. After this, we plan to contact Eu-SPRI colleagues concerning summer school organising next year. Next, I believe, we should also start planning for hosting the annual conference some time soon!

Finally, where do you see STI research headed in the coming decade and what are the most pressing challenges the field is looking to address? How do you see InnoLab in collaboration with the Eu-SPRI network address these challenges?

Obviously societal transitions and ways of successfully implementing transformative and mission-oriented approaches to STI policy require a lot of attention from our research community in the forthcoming years. InnoLab will participate to those efforts with our ongoing and future research projects, hopefully increasingly in collaboration with our Eu-SPRI colleagues. Currently, for example, we are studying mission-oriented innovation policy and its connections to systems of use, exploring ways to build connections between top-down agenda setting and bottom-up agency. Altogether, the versatile expertise of InnoLab members in the area of transformational innovation is very well connected to the key topics of the Eu-SPRI network, offering a good basis for collaboratively addressing key challenges together with Eu-SPRI colleagues.


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