Rolls-Royce has decided to place its new research and development centre focusing on remote-controlled and autonomous ships in Turku. The goal is to set the new centre in full operation lat-er this year, and it will continue to expand in the future.

“This is great news. The fact that a global technology company, such as Rolls-Royce, is placing its research and development centre in Turku is a big victory for us and the whole of Finland. Above all, it is yet another recognition of Finnish world-class expertise,” says Aleksi Randell, the Mayor of Turku.

“Turku thanks Rolls-Royce for its trust, and the city will fully play its role in ensuring that the region’s business, innovation and education services support the company’s establishment in the most appropriate way.

This is a new, remarkable link that adds to the ongoing positive growth phase in the structural change in Turku and Southwest Finland. The placement of the centre in Turku makes it ever more necessary to receive growth investments from the state. Several proposals have already been made to the national government in order to make use of the strong growth in Turku and Southwest Finland in a way that benefits the whole of Finland.

We have also proposed that the Finnish maritime industry cluster’s national strategy for competitiveness should be quickly updated. Today this proposal is even more topical as the Finnish marine industry is becoming more diversified and starting to win over yet another globally growing technology and business area.

Thirdly, we must emphasise the crucial importance of developing expertise. The wide development package in the field of education, which has been presented by the Turku region to the state, is now becoming more and more justifiable and should be implemented urgently,” Randell points out.

“We would appreciate the participation of the state and Tekes in the implementation of the investment that is important to the whole country. The decision made by Rolls-Royce offers a unique opportunity and a big challenge to us in Turku Science Park Ltd as we are the ones building cooperation between the networks, companies and research communities,” says Niko Kyynäräinen, CEO of Turku Science Park Ltd.

The research and development of remotely controlled and autonomic ships become important factors in the Maritime Excellence development concept that is being built in Turku under the surveillance of the city of Turku, Turku Science Park and Turku University of Applied Sciences.

“This decision means that there is a growing need in the Turku region for the establishment of a business incubation centre in the fields of technology and ICT. We have already started to make plans for the business incubation centre,” Kyynäräinen states.

At present, growth in the Turku region is boosted by the excellent success of the business sector: the strong growth prospects of the marine, pharmaceutical and technology industries in particular are increasing trust and fuelling a boom in other industries. One example of this is the Tampere-based software company Vincit Group Ltd, which announced last month that it will set up an office for 100 employees in Turku. The presence of a qualified workforce in the Turku region was one of the crucial factors when determining the location of the office. There are open positions for software developers and other highly qualified specialists in the unit.

Master’s level education in technology must be introduced immediately

In terms of education, the strong growth phase particularly highlights the need to find a sustainable and permanent solution to Southwest Finland’s key challenge relating to competence: the serious lack of master’s level technical training and research. According to the estimations of technology industries, the region’s estimated recruitment requirement for workforce with higher level education will nearly double in 2017-2021. By that time, the yearly need is estimated to be around 850 employees.

“Now, more than ever, is the time to start master’s level technical training in the University of Turku to serve our region’s strong marine and manufacturing industries as well as the increasingly demanding future needs for expertise in construction and other industries,” says Mayor Randell.

“We must remember that Southwest Finland is one of the most important technological production hubs in Finland and the third most important export region in Finland. It is also the most rapidly growing export region in Finland. Nowadays there is a wide gap between the needs of the industry and the regional supply of education, and this gap will only widen in the coming years. The introduction of university-level education in technology means that research and product development are strengthened in the region. This would directly benefit the product development efforts of companies, thereby benefiting the entire Finnish export industry,” Randell continues.

The wide education reform, which was issued under the lead role of the city of Turku and forwarded to the government at the end of 2016, includes all educational levels. The proposal focuses on the capacity and quality of the education system and seeks to raise them to meet the level and needs of the region’s leading companies, the marine industry, the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry. The goal of the reform is to ensure and increase resources in order to meet the education needs of the manufacturing industry as widely as possible, and to secure expertise in both the short- and long-term.

The development needs specified in the proposal are currently being analysed by an investigator set by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Today (8 March), institutions of higher education in Turku and Turku Science Park Ltd have published a letter of intent, which strengthens cooperation in higher level technical education in a significant way.