TalTech has historically been very tightly connected to Estonian industry. There were a lot of industrial innovations already back in the 1960s and 1970s. Inspired from the same ideas and trends, already a few years ago we at the IT faculty set as an objective to be a good partner to the private as well as the public sector in Estonia. A good few years ago, we launched the first industry cooperations financed through various measures targeted at clusters.
The support measures for smart specialization in recent years have only strengthened this cooperation. We see very clearly that Estonian companies may not have the investment capability to engage in R&D using their own resources, but thanks to the top-up financing schemes we have reached the point where businesses have big interest in and need for more complex projects that they work on daily.
We have several interesting examples of this. We can mention the smart workwear project from a few years ago, but also the more recent cross-border customs declarations filing project. These have all had very practical applications. Businesses have seen that they are not able to take this on alone, but in cooperation with universities, where the universities are strong partners for the company, and not development partners, but first and foremost knowledge bearers. I think that as a university we have helped such businesses a lot.
At the same time, we must not forget that being a development partner, engaging in implementing everyday projects is not the core business of a university. Our main strength lies in consultancy that we provide to businesses, sharing the knowledge that has been accumulated at the university over the years. This is where our role lies.
We are keen to see businesses also as partners in the development of work force of the future and in trainings. Long-term cooperation with Telia is a good example of this – they finance the studies of several PhD students, thus reinforcing a specific research area – a professorship – in this case on 5G. We have similar examples among other companies, which contribute to keeping learning and teaching as well as development at the university state-of-the-art and all the latest technologies represented.
At TalTech we try to integrate different disciplines. Whether we succeed better or worse, we are determined not to get stuck in our silos. The School of Information Technologies is a good example of this: we combine electronics on the one hand, health on the other, topped up by data. Based on these we are creating both captivating study programmes and R&D projects. Different disciplines collaborating – this also reflects the global trend. The question being who can accomplish this best?
At TalTech we put a lot of emphasis on developing a modern urban environment. This brings together a range of technologies. IT, engineering, logistics, economics, architecture etc. As we speak, we are building a model small town combining various services and platforms on our campus. For the School of Information Technologies what is fascinating is that we shall also create our own private 5G network here, which shall act as a testing platform for anyone developing urban services in the future. Here they can develop exactly the same kinds of services that will be in the future be deployed wherever in a different environment.
One of our strengths is our links with hospitals. We cooperate with the North Estonia Medical Centre, East-Tallinn Central Hospital, Ida-Viru Central Hospital. Pärnu Hospital has shown great interest. All this brings together doctors, technology experts, why not economists here at the university. And as a result of this, new interesting solutions emerge starting from e-health to intelligent orthoses as well as scores of examples from cardiology, nephrology and other fields.
I think this is one of the obvious strengths of TalTech – we contribute to maintaining the health of the society, but equally to the society as a whole. Service to society is one of the roles of a university. And we try to be as good at it as we can.