We continued to carry out high-quality research despite the Covid-19 pandemic forcing an abrupt transition to remote working in the spring of 2020. With the exception of the full lockdown lasting for a couple of weeks, our research activities continued relatively unscathed in compliance with the necessary safety precautions. We continued to carry out research in our recognised areas of expertise, which include physics, materials science, environmental engineering, automation technology and mechanical engineering. We continued to coordinate the Finnish Flagship on Photonics Research and Innovation (PREIN), which is funded by the Academy of Finland, and joined the Atmosphere and Climate Competence Center (ACCC), a new flagship coordinated by the University of Helsinki.
The majority of our new research projects are funded either by the EU or the Academy of Finland. Other notable funding providers include Business Finland, companies and foundations. We launched 14 new projects funded by the Academy of Finland and 15 funded by the EU. Our new EU-funded projects include BL2F, a consortium project that develops biofuels from the chemical industry’s side streams, and MORE, a doctoral education network that trains future professionals in next-generation heavy mobile machinery.
We maintain a broad range of laboratories and research infrastructures that are a prerequisite for conducting world-class research. We coordinate the photonics infrastructure FinnLight, which was selected to Finland’s national roadmap of research infrastructures in late 2020.
Two new tenure-track faculty members in chemistry joined ENS in 2020.
Our academic staff published papers in international peer-reviewed journals with a high impact factor and actively attended virtual conferences.
The sudden shift to remote teaching due to the pandemic went relatively well, although the teaching of laboratory-based courses online posed occasional challenges. Our teaching staff and students proved to be remarkably flexible and resourceful, having been suddenly thrown into the world of online learning.
The number of applicants to our degree programmes increased, on average, by 10% in the spring of 2020. Of all our Finnish-language programmes, the degree programmes in science and engineering, industrial engineering and management, and mechanical engineering were especially popular among applicants. The first call for applications to the new Master’s Programme in Environmental Engineering attracted widespread interest.
We expanded our educational portfolio by splitting the English-language Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Science and Engineering into two tracks, one focused on natural sciences and mathematics and the other on computing and electrical engineering. The programme has been developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences. In addition, we established a new Bachelor of Science programme intended for education export in the autumn of 2020. This programme will include a specialisation in aviation, to be planned in cooperation with key external stakeholders and other faculties at Tampere University. Our Faculty has also been an active member of FiTech, the Finnish online institute of technology, and made courses in, for example, industrial robotics, automation technology and materials engineering available through FiTech.
Despite Covid-19, the processes of profiling our degree programmes and creating a competency-based curriculum for the years 2021-24 moved forward. For example, the specialisations and study paths in materials engineering were completely rethought. As for mechanical engineering and automation technology, we agreed on a two-year curriculum for 2022-24, which will continue to be refined in 2021. Alongside the development of curricula, we took steps to develop online teaching and digital pedagogics.
We convened regular meetings with the student guilds and conducted a well-being survey among our first-year students in the autumn of 2020.
We invested in increasing the national and international visibility of our degree programmes. Marketing efforts were carried out in cooperation with the other technology-oriented faculties at Tampere University, the Admissions Office, and Communications and Marketing.
In 2020, ENS set out to strengthen strategic partnerships and expand its collaboration with research institutions and companies. However, the pandemic made it difficult to carry out projects on the usual scale in this area. We and Tampere University’s Innovation Services and Partnerships maintained continuous dialogue with industry and business. We mapped out the skills that will be needed in the future world of work and devised new operational models that will help students to graduate within the target time.
One example of our research activities that deliver impact for society is the cross-disciplinary Urban Platform for Circular Economy (UPCE), which is related to the competitive funding that the Academy of Finland awards to Finnish universities to support their efforts to create stronger research profiles. UPCE operates, for example, in the living lab environments in Hiedanranta, Tampere, where a range of environmental technologies and solutions are being tested and research is being conducted in cooperation with other faculties at Tampere University and the City of Tampere. Tampere Microscopy Center, which analyses the microstructure and chemical composition of materials down to the atomic scale, also carried out high-impact activities.
Following the FiTech network’s initiative, we launched the AUDI2X project in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland to offer education leading to a master’s degree in technology in Eastern Finland. Our role in the project, which has received funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture, is to provide education to students majoring in intelligent automation and to oversee the planning of the programme. The first students will enrol on the programme in 2021.
ENS is home to four professors of practice, and they have made important contributions to promoting further university-industry collaboration in research and education. For example, the professor of practice who specialises in digital design and manufacturing and is based in the Automation Technology and Mechanical Engineering Unit, maintains close collaboration with the University Consortium of Seinäjoki, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and companies in the surrounding region.
In 2020, our staff filed 31 innovation disclosures. Our Industry Professor Tero Joronen, who in 2020 either invented or co-invented ten inventions that improve the efficiency of energy production, received the University’s 2020 Inventor of the Year Award.