On November 4, 2021, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce welcomed a delegation from Finland, including Mikko Hautala, Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to the United States of America, and Timo Harakka, Minister of Transport and Communications, accompanied by a team of diplomatic officials. Sean Carr, incoming Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), and Francois Baneyx, Director of CoMotion and Vice Provost for Innovation, joined the meeting to discuss areas of mutual interest for Finland and UW.
The delegation visited UW’s Seattle campus, as part of a tour of the Pacific Northwest, focused on building relationships with the region’s governmental officials, academic institutions, and business community. Washington state is home to an active and strongly-connected Finnish-American community, and the Finnish delegation had earlier signed an MOU with the state of Washington outlining future research and technological collaborations.
During a cordial exploratory meeting, President Cauce introduced the UW’s broad-based strengths in academic and applied research, emphasizing the expertise and experience of UW faculty and researchers in various areas such as the study of misinformation. In late 2019, the UW launched the Center for an Informed Public, an interdisciplinary and nonpartisan effort to translate and apply research on disinformation in policy, public engagement, technology, and education. Minister Harakka pointed to the importance of education in shaping the ability of citizens to resist misinformation and manipulation and the need for countries such as Finland to broadly build skills and increase literacy in areas such as artificial intelligence.
President Cauce noted the importance of ‘knowledge diplomacy’ between governments in a time of breakdown of many other forms of diplomacy. Communicating scientific research and information to the general public was seen by both groups as an important role for governance and academia, and an area of common interest and possible collaboration between Finnish institutions and UW.
Ambassador Hautala also underlined Finland’s focus on six US states for potential technological synergy and partnership. Helsinki and Seattle both host thriving start-up communities, and the University of Washington’s CoMotion and the Global Innovation Exchange create environments focused on experiential learning and technological innovation for students and faculty. As the incoming Executive Director, Carr highlighted the strong potential for collaboration in educational ventures with GIX for Finnish universities.
The meeting concluded with expressions of a shared sense of mission and collaboration among the Finnish delegation and UW representatives and optimism towards the many paths forward for collaboration between Finnish institutions and the UW.