A picture of Jouni Juntunen

Meet the InnoLabbers: Jouni Juntunen


Photograph by Mortti Saarnia.

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

What does it say on the label?

The title says Associate Professor, Innovation Management, School of Technology and Innovations. If you look at the organizational matrix, I also work in InnoLab.

So two hats for one head! But what exactly do you do?

The most important thing I do is educate future changemakers. I teach in various courses, and I supervise students. I teach user and open innovation in InnoLab’s module, and I teach master students in industrial management. On top of that, I lead two research projects, T-Risk and DigiDecarbon. T-Risk examines how aviation and shipping companies manage transition risks in value chains. In DigiDecarbon we study energy communities and the presently emerging collaborative business ecosystems related to them. I’m also active in the university’s third mission, societal impact. Finland is a small country, and expertise is needed in various places. This means working together with various stakeholders to transfer academic knowledge to help resolve societal challenges.

You sure have a lot on your plate! Is it worth it?

In all jobs, there are two sides: the exciting side and the less exciting one. The balance varies over time and between jobs. I’m very privileged and lucky, and I think my work has always been quite interesting, and there have been plenty of possibilities to develop myself.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I spent a year without going to work. I traveled the world during my sabbatical year in 2004-2005, and it changed my perspective on work and motivation quite a bit. Once you freely choose not to work, you start to see better what work really means to you, and it changes your motivation to work.

That year also opened my eyes to sustainability, or lack thereof. I have since then wanted to work with topics connected to this planet’s wicked problems. I’m not able to solve those problems alone, but I want to be part of creating solutions, educating people to create new solutions and collaborating for a better future.

Noble goals! What, exactly, made you such an idealist – and why choose InnoLab?

I came here from the corner of a cowshed in Kainuu. Well, something happened in between Kainuu and Vaasa though. I studied industrial management in Oulu during the early 1990’s. Then I worked for Nokia Mobile Phones for about 15 years in various managerial positions, mostly in Oulu, shortly in Tokyo, few years in Beijing and, in the end, also a few years in the company’s Espoo headquarters. The sabbatical year, which I mentioned earlier, changed my track and I just searched for the right time to jump into my second career. So, I studied a PhD at the Aalto School of Business and continued at Aalto until I came to University of Vaasa. Since my PhD studies my research topic has been user and open innovation and the energy sector. Can you think of any better place to research that in Finland than Vaasa?

I can’t! Now, imagine you run into a group of prominent politicians, business leaders, and media moguls at your favourite pastime. This is your chance! What kind of an idea do you pitch?

For background, I love old forests and I study energy transition. So my thinking typically goes to taking humankind beyond the age of fire and also reducing our usage of biomass. That way we could preserve old forests, not only here but globally.

In Finland, forests have always had a special role in doing business.  We have transitioned from tar to paper and packaging. Currently we seem to be very satisfied with using wood as a renewable material to create, for example, cardboard packages. Although this is a big business for Finland and the Finnish industry, in my opinion we should look at creating disruptive innovations in the field. How to make more durable packaging, which can be recycled as-is in a closed loop – i.e. not shredding it into recycled raw material or burning it after each use.

In other words, I would suggest cutting back on material consumption in a radical way, also for biomaterial. This would need significant standardization in reusable packaging and also the development of systemic solutions for scaling up the process. In fact, next autumn I will be teaching a new course with our new Professor of Practice, Glenn Edens. The course is called Transformation Design, which looks into creating this type of disruptive innovations. We shouldn’t wait for someone to disrupt us, it’s better to disrupt our own business before others do!

Well spoken! You gave them some valuable ideas and they reward you with any one ticket of your choice – where do you go?

That’s easy, it would be Jokeri Pokeri Box magic show tickets. I would take our six-year-old to the show.

A true classic and one lucky kid! Can you recommend me something?

I constantly think about the situation in Ukraine now. I recommend supporting people there somehow. My old Ukrainian friend from our PhD summer school times is now a professor in Spain and shared many suggestions for helping the cause, like donating to NGOs (e.g. the Finnish Red Cross), helping Ukrainians who have crossed the border or even becoming a host for Ukrainians escaping the country. There is a lot of information on how to help online, so there’s no excuse to do nothing!

I’ll be sure to look into doing my part. Will you be around if I want to have a word?

I’m mostly working from home still. In Vaasa I work on the School of Technology and Innovation’s premises, Fabriikki F434. Send me a message and let’s go for some coffee!

From the perspective of Jouni’s co-workers: What makes you appreciate him as a colleague?

“Jouni has a good sense of humour and is very easy to get along with. His broad working experience from both academia and industry is visible in all his doings. He quickly grasps the most relevant aspects of complex entities and thus is able to efficiently contribute with his expertise in different work tasks.”

“Jouni has an exceptional background for an academic, and some people used to doubt his motivation because of it. He has always proved them wrong. Jouni has an exemplary work ethic, and he’s a good, reliable team player in any project you could imagine.”

“Jouni is a great colleague who is always available whenever needed. His collaborative and leadership skills make him really different because he’s a good listener. I am really happy to know Jouni and I think he’s a great addition to InnoLab.”

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