"Good business cooperation is a win-win-situation" says Sasu Tarkoma at Yliopistolainen- Magazine
A data security institute that can research and publish freely and is funded by Intel operates at the Department of Computer Science. The funder’s only requirement is that the research be among the best in the field.
Good business cooperation is a win-win-situation.
“We benefit in the form of research problems, data, funding and publications. The company, in turn, gets support for its business,” explains Sasu Tarkoma, Professor of Computer Science.
However, the goals of companies differ from those of academic researchers. It is best to ensure that all parties get what they want out of cooperation.
Business funding is familiar to the University’s computer scientists. In addition to theoretical investigations, the Department conducts a great deal of applied research, for which the industry often provides the research questions and data. This leads to various forms of cooperation.
The Department also houses an Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Secure Computing, ICRI-SC, which employs two to three researchers and is run jointly with TU Darmstadt. The University of Helsinki focuses on mobile information security and is currently studying how laptops and wearable mobile devices, such as smartwatches, can communicate securely.
“Intel gives us free rein to research and publish. Our ideas have been incorporated into the company’s products, and we hope that our good results will enable us to further build up operations.”
But it is far from easy to secure business funding, as Tarkoma well knows. International competition is tough, so you must invest in visibility and make sure your achievements are noticed.
The risks involved also differ from those of other funding. The company’s interests may change, and funding may be channelled into another field midway through research. Such a short-term approach scares researchers.
Publicity is no problem
Sasu Tarkoma’s team also receives funding from the Academy of Finland, Tekes and the EU Horizon 2020 programme, in addition to which it engages in subcontracting projects directly with companies.
“What often happens is that basic research is conducted in Academy of Finland projects, the results are further refined in Tekes projects, and applications are sought in companies’ subcontracting projects,” Tarkoma explains.
According to him, companies understand that researchers want to do good research and publish their material. The results of subcontracting projects may not be published without permission from the company management, but to date the Department has had no real problems.
“We have presented hundreds of papers to management groups and have never been prevented from publishing them as such.”
Occasionally, business cooperation is based on existing research results: some have been licensed and others have led to the establishment of start-ups.
The field of computer science continues to evolve. As Professor Tarkoma tells his students, a good idea may change the entire field, and a single person may influence the future.
Companies can help ideas getting launched. One of the ideas of Tarkoma’s group was incorporated into a product and now benefits millions of users.
Text: Reetta Vairimaa
Photo: Linda Tammisto