Meet the InnoLabbers: Leena Kunttu


Image: “I spend a lot of time outdoors, picking berries in the autumn and skiing in the winter. Visiting national parks is our family’s favourite pastime.” 

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Leena Kunttu.

What are you?

Over the years, I have had, and still have, many roles both at work and in personal life. For example, I am mum, wife, friend, sister, teacher, and an expert in several areas. It is hard to explain it thoroughly. Some kind of summary about me is that I am interested in many things and topics. I try to understand the whole picture and it is also important that there is something fun, meaningful and interesting. I am peaceful in nature, and I try to walk on the positive side of life.

So, what is your title anyway? Moreover, what do you even do?

I have a dual role at the University of Vaasa. I am senior specialist in innovation and belong to the new team focusing on innovation and business development. My second role is more related to Innolab, since I am a project manager in the ELVIS project. I have just started in my new roles, but I am very happy to work with these two great teams.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

I have been working with innovations in both academia and industry. It is really motivating that I can utilize industry experience in research and vice versa. As ELVIS focuses on innovation policy impacts, it is very interesting to extend my expertise into new areas of innovation research. In general, strengthening the innovation mindset at university research and education is one central goal in my work. I look forward to working with students and researchers who are interested in innovation development and commercialization.

All right, but how did you end up where you are now?

Before starting this job, I did my PhD thesis on the topic of university-industry relationships in University of Vaasa, so this way the university is familiar to me from before. Before that, I worked at Nokia Corporation as a senior manager in innovation. Because I have background in both engineering and business, this new role suits me well. This encouraged me to apply for the job.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

I hope for a call from a person who can positively affect on solving serious global problems, for example lack of education, inequality, and environmental problems. Together with this person we could work for improving collaboration to increase positive attitude and atmosphere to solve the problems without conflicts. It is really important that all kids are able to go to school in a safe world. I would like to participate to these kinds of projects and goals.

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

Related to the previous question: Already now, we can influence by making responsible choices, respecting each other, and seeing different cultural aspects as strengths. On practical level, there are great international organizations such as Plan, Red Cross, Unicef and many others through which we can give our helping hands. Together we can make a big difference. It is really great that UN has several programs that take environment, economy, and humans equally into account.

Noble causes! But you need to think about yourself, too. What would you like to learn more about?

I would like to learn more about other cultures and their history. Especially art and music are close to me, and I would like to participate to new art and music projects, for example. It is great to create something together.

Sounds interesting. Is that something I, too, should give a go?

Collaboration and doing things together is essential in innovation and in many other fields of life. Creating new knowledge is a refining experience when done together. In the university world, I encourage all to interact with companies and external organizations both here in Finland and internationally. I especially recommend multi-disciplinary teams that can bring in experience from many different fields.

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

If you want to familiarize yourself with different cultures worldwide, one good thing to have is an internet radio. You can do this also via your computer or phone. You may reach thousands of radio channels all over the world and listen to the music even if you do not understand the language. In general, I recommend everyone to read or listen to books on a large range of topics. It is fun and really stimulates your imagination. I also like to play board games with my family and friends, it is something you can do face-to-face.

Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

Make clear time schedules for your tasks, but keep them flexible if the unexpected happens. We have two ears, two eyes, two hands and one mouth. It is important to listen to people and observe your surroundings to understand the whole picture. We have two helping hands to give, yet only one mouth to opine with.

From the perspective of Leena’s colleagues: What qualities make you value Leena as a coworker?

“Leena is a determined scholar with valuable insight stemming from her previous education and work experience in industry-academia collaboration. She has a lot to offer to our university’s innovation activity, and I’m very happy to have Leena join us!”

“Leena is trusthworthy, calm, and a rock-solid professional – a pleasure to work with!”

“Kind, helpful, thoughtful, Leena is a good team-worker who is slow to speak and quick to listen.”

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