Students at Summer School

Networking and developing new business ideas – Summer School is a successful experiment in cooperation

The first University of Vaasa Summer School on International Entrepreneurship and Innovation took place on 22–26 August 2022 at the Wärtsilä Sustainable Technology Hub.

– I am pleased with how successful this summer school has been in bringing together students, academics and practitioners from different parts of the world. We all made new connections and welcomed world-leading experts to learn about 'born globals' and how to develop start-ups and new business ideas in an international environment. The summer school has been a resounding success and we are already looking forward to next year, rejoices Vice-Rector Martin Mayer

Miquel has enjoyed the overall experience of Summer School, meeting new people and getting new knowledge related to her thesis. 

Students attending the course are also very pleased.

– For me, Summer School is a great opportunity for networking and meeting new people. We are onsite at the company and getting new knowledge by experts, says Miquel, a master’s student from the University of Vaasa.

– I can say this is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my studies so far! There are students from different fields with various experience and the professors are very knowledgeable, says Eeki, a bachelor’s student from VAMK University of Applied Sciences.

In addition to students from local universities, ten students from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK also attended the course. Global & Academic Partnerships Portfolio Lead Dr Jules O’Dor travelled with them.

Jules O’Dor enjoyed greatly the University of Vaasa campus. – The university has a beautiful setting, one of the best settings you could have for a university – right next to the sea – it’s glorious! The campus feels friendly, approachable and comfortable. All the things an international student would want to have!

– This is an excellent opportunity for a number of reasons. One is for the students to come and experience a new educational environment in the lovely setting of Vaasa – which is beautiful – and also experience the culture in Finland, the way things happen, the way business is done, the way innovation is done. All these things will help to broaden their horizons and to improve their employability when they get back to finish their course, explains Jules O’Dor.

He followed the course during the week and praises especially the practical examples of innovation work in the afternoon, leading to the students pitching their innovative new business ideas on the Friday.

– The students’ feedback from the week has been wonderful. It really got them thinking about business ideas and how innovation plays into the entrepreneurship agenda.

Theory and practice in the heart of a sustainable technology hub

Associate Professor Dr Selina Liting Liang has been coordinating the Summer School with her colleagues.

– The summer school is a successful experiment in cooperation for teams across the university as well as external academics, innovation experts and international entrepreneurs, which enabled us to integrate academic theories and industrial practices in our learning activities, describes Selina Liang.

The students find the multidisciplinary approach on the course very helpful.

– For example, we had a problem that we looked at from a business student’s perspective. One professor with a technical background gave us a more mathematical approach to it. We saw immediately that yes, this is how it’s solved! We wouldn’t have come up with it ourselves, Eeki explains.

The collaboration with Wärtsilä is another very interesting element of the Summer School.

– In 2019, the University of Vaasa was chosen as one of Wärtsilä’s first cooperation partners for the Smart Partner Campus concept at the Wärtsilä Sustainable Technology Hub, which is a unique cocreation gateway for Wärtsilä innovation, Selina Liang explains the background of the collaboration. And then she particularly thanks Philipp Holtkamp from the innovation office of the university for his facilitation of the collaboration with Wärtsilä.

The atmosphere at Wärtsilä has been welcoming and the students have had opportunities to engage with Wärtsilä employees during breaks.

As soon as the summer school students arrived at the Sustainable Technology Hub, they were warmly welcomed by Kenneth Widell from Wärtsilä. During the programme orientation, he introduced Wärtsilä’s sustainable strategy and the Sustainable Technology Hub as a new type of integrated centre for research, product development and production to  the students.

– Students believe that the collaboration with Wärtsilä has made the summer school unique and has raised their awareness about sustainable transition, says Selina Liang.

Meeting new people and teaming up

Eeki is glad he has been able to practice his English skills and work with like-minded people from different parts of the world.

Both Miquel and Eeki find that one of the best things about the experience has been meeting new people and finding a connection with their group members. To form groups, the students had to choose a problem they’re interested in.

– It’s quite good to collaborate with different students from various places. Sharing ideas with group mates and feeling that, yeah, we all want to accomplish the same thing and we have the same visions. Of course, we all provide different ideas, but somehow that leads to one conclusion, Miquel describes.

Eeki has already become friends with his group members.

– Since we chose the same problem, people with very similar interest came into my group. They’ve already invited me to visit their hometown. We’re sure to stay in touch. Who knows, maybe we’ll work in the same company one day! Or if one of us starts a company, we already have this international network ready, Eeki says smiling.

More course options coming up in the future

– In the future, we hope to expand the summer school programme by offering a variety of course options and attracting more international students based on the successful cooperation model. In the meantime, there are planning activities going on at the university for extending the short-term education programme on international entrepreneurship and innovation to a master’s programme, explains Selina Liang.

Summer School 2022 is a part of the Talent Boost programme of the university, and it was organised in cooperation with the OpenInnoTrain project.

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