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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Criterion 6 Socio-economic functions

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Research, training and education in forestry (B.11)

 

Trends

Because of the great importance of forests for Finnish society, Finland has invested in forest research and forestry education and training. The forest cluster is one of the most important national clusters of expertise. Finland also aims at becoming an international cluster of excellence in the forest and wood sector.

Field experiments such as forest seed collection for measuring the annual seed crops are necessary for studying forest regeneration processes.

In the last few years, particular focal areas of forest research in Finland have been changes in the operating environment of the forestry and forecasting. The purpose is to direct the research from forest ecosystem-based research with main focus on growing tree stands and forest management towards a more customer-oriented research approach that serves the business sector. It is estimated that for the forest sector, the best future potential for success lies in bioeconomy based on renewable natural resources. Based on this vision, research has been increased especially on forest bioenergy and new opportunities for the use of wood.

The role, structural aspects and position of sectoral research institutes have been studied in a working group on sectoral research. With key expertise in natural resources and environment, the Consortium of Natural Resources and Environmental Research (LYNET) has been set up to provide a new operational model. This consortium is formed by research institutes under the administrative sectors of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of the Environment, and its members are the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, the Finnish Geodetic Institute, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (RKTL), and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The institutes will harmonise their data policies and environmental monitoring. Moreover, operations of the member institutes are improved by combining and centralising operations and services.

The Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOKs) are innovative Finnish partnerships whose main goal is to promote cooperation and communication between companies, universities, research institutes and funding organisations operating in Finland. The actors commit themselves to the objectives of the Strategic Centres and target their resources to strategic, high-quality, long-term research and development projects which are internationally important. The Strategic Centres correspond to the thematic Joint Technology Initiative projects defined in the Seventh EU Framework Programme, such as the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform for the forest sector.

Currently, there are three forestry-related Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation in Finland. One is Forestcluster Ltd, which focuses on three fields: intelligent and resource- efficient production technologies, biorefineries which utilise wood in various ways, and customer solutions for the future. Forest is also linked to the operation of Cleen Ltd., the energy and environment competence cluster. Its objective is to promote business and internationalisation of companies in the energy and environment sector. Of its strategic research areas, distributed energy systems are connected to forest bioenergy and related development of technology. Finnish Wood Research Oy promotes research on the mechanical wood-processing sector. The national Centre of Expertise Programme 2007–2013 is also under way. Among the programme’s 13 competence clusters, there are three clusters in which forest research plays an important role. These clusters are Energy Technology, Forest Industry Future and Living Cluster Programme.

The successful functioning of the system of expertise clusters means that practical research needs are communicated to research without delay, and that the new information and expertise produced by research is put to use efficiently. The interaction between researchers and actors in the field is enhanced, above all, by improving procedures and structures and increasing the usability of information services.

Research organisations and actors

There are about 650 researchers in Finland working on subjects involving forest and wood. About 300 of them work at the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), distributed among four regional units (Southern, Western, Eastern and Northern Regional Units). Forestry research is also conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Helsinki, which have about 100 forest researchers along with forestry education.

Research teams working on subjects closely related to forestry and wood sector are also found at Aalto University, at the Universities of Jyväskylä, Turku, Oulu and Lapland, and at the Tampere University of Technology and the Lappeenranta University of Technology. There are also a number of small research units in forest issues in establishments such as the TTS (Work Efficiency Institute), Pellervo Economic Research PTT and Metsäteho Oy.

The strongest concentrations of research in forestry and its environmental impacts are in the Helsinki region and in eastern Finland.

Mechanical processing of wood and paper and pulp manufacture are studied at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and at several universities of technology. The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment operating under the Ministry of the Environment also conduct surveys and studies on forests and research serving the administration.

The headquarters of the European Forest Institute (EFI) is located in Finland. EFI is a network organisation whose purpose is to compile information for forest policy and forestry decisionmaking in Europe. In addition to the headquarters in Joensuu, EFI has six project centres in different parts of Europe.

Research funding

The principal source of funding for forest research in Finland has for decades been the annual appropriations in the central Government budget. In the last ten years, however, the share of other funding has grown to about 30% of all research funding today.

The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes is the tool of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy for implementing the national innovation programme, and it also funds forest-related research programmes and projects independent of the Strategic Centres. Funding from the Academy of Finland is mainly targeted at basic research, and it is an important funding source for university researchers in particular.

Increasing numbers of Finnish forest researchers participate in international research projects and projects funded by the European Union, as well as in network cooperation, such as COST (Cooperation in the Fields of Scientific and Technical Research in Europe). EU-funded research projects focus on themes important from a European perspective, but they often have a great significance nationally as well. Also the number of research and development projects implemented in cooperation with developing countries has increased, including, for example, forest resource inventories and carbon sequestration assessments. Bilateral research cooperation is carried out with, for example, Russia and China.

Education and training

Modern harvesters are highly developed products were the steering of fellings is done by a driver from the cabin with the help of computers. There is a cap of skilled harvester drivers in Finland and internationally. Therefore campaigns to get young people interested to start an educational harvester driver training are needed.

A competent workforce is a central factor for success in the forest sector. The integration of the qualitative and quantitative goals and future needs of education calls for continuous interaction between forestry and forest industry businesses and those making plans for education.

Education in forestry in Finland is provided on three levels: universities, universities of applied sciences and vocational colleges. The degree of Master of Forest Science, M.Sc.(Forestry), can be completed at the Universities of Helsinki and Eastern Finland. In 2012, the University of Eastern Finland will start an international wood science programme, which is a new degree parallel to the forest science degree.

There are eight universities of applied sciences providing education in forestry. The forestry degree that may be completed there is Forest Engineer. In the labour market, Forest Engineers work within the forest sector and related organisations in positions that involve planning, consultation, management, education, training, marketing and research, and as private entrepreneurs. The three-year Vocational Qualification in Forestry includes a wide range of fields for specialisation. Students can choose to specialise as a e.g. forest worker, a forest machine operator or a forest ecosystem worker.

About 1,500 people study subjects in the field of forest industry annually. The majority take an upper-secondary degree, leading to a career in the mechanical wood products industry and the pulp and paper industry. A university-level degree in wood processing technology is completed annually by about 60 students.

Further and Specialist Qualifications based on skills testing focus on the student’s actual competence in mastering the special tasks of the profession. Further Qualifications are available in the fields of multiple use of forests, forest work, forestry entrepreneurship, operating forest machines, timber lorry transport and peat utilisation. Specialist Qualifications are available in nature surveying, multiple-use of forests, operating forest machines and forest advice.

Some further professional training is provided by employers, the rest is supplied by education institutions and universities providing forestry education.

The need for further education has grown constantly along with changes in the operating environment and priority areas in the work.

 

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  Updated: 27.02.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback