Silver screens and sustainable solutions: Introducing FAME

The Research Council of Finland’s Flagship family has been strengthened with a world-class expertise on applied mathematics and physics. With a keen interest in broad-based collaboration with the society, industry-oriented training, and engaging science communication, the new Flagship begins its journey with great ambition.

Since 2018, the Research Council of Finland has funded the Finnish Flagship Programme as part of the Finnish Government’s research and innovation goals. As a unique way to organise and facilitate research, development, and innovation (RDI) efforts in Finland and supported by long-term funding, the Flagships facilitate close collaboration between research institutes, society, and business sector.  

The Flagship Programme covers fourteen Flagships, with the four newest ones being selected by the Research Council in late 2023. These most recent centres of excellence included FAME – Flagship of Advanced Mathematics for Sensing, Imaging and Modelling, a multidisciplinary consortium focusing on benefitting the society through cutting-edge research in applied mathematics and physics.

Ambition meets commitment

After being hard at work during the first months of 2024 to set the organisational groundwork for its future endeavours, the FAME Flagship held its official kickoff event on 16 May at the iconic BioRex Lasipalatsi cinema. Being part of the Helsinki city centre’s street scene since 1936, this historical and architectural landmark provided an inspirational and exciting venue for its newest visitors, comprised of research and administrative personnel across eight partner institutions as well as representatives from the industry. And all committed to and ready for the tasks ahead.

“Imaging and sensing challenges are encountered in various applications in society and industry. Our vision is to provide sustainable solutions and methodologies for these challenges to the benefit of both the Finnish economy and global wellbeing as a whole”, says Prof. Tanja Tarvainen, Director of FAME, from the University of Eastern Finland.

From advanced and cost-efficient applications for improved and accessible healthcare to non-destructive testing of materials for the process industry and monitoring solutions for environmental applications to combating and adapting to the climate change, there is an ever-greater need for novel technologies and broad-based scientific collaboration.

“With the Research Council of Finland’s long-term commitment and support, we are well-placed to utilize our research teams’ know-how and scientific curiosity to the fullest extent. We are deeply grateful to the Research Council for this opportunity”, Prof. Tarvainen stated.

Cultivating collaboration and future expertise

In pursuing these ambitious goals, the Flagship will closely co-operate and interact with its partners in the industry, business, and society. FAME’s current stakeholders include actors from, for example, healthcare and health technologies industry, education sector, civil society, clean industry, and components manufacturing. The Flagship will also actively work to broaden its existing network.   

“Over 30 collaborators provided their support letters during the Flagship Programme’s application process”, says FAME’s Vice Director, Prof. Nuutti Hyvönen from Aalto University. “That number has only grown since then, as we are constantly exploring new avenues for potential partnerships and synergies.”

One such avenue for the Flagship is to cultivate new expertise and provide high-quality scientific and industry-driven training to new scientists. As part of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s initiative to pilot new practices in doctoral education, FAME will work closely with the new Doctoral Education Pilot for Mathematics of Sensing, Imaging and Modelling (DREAM). Starting from August, over 100 new doctoral candidates will start in a multidisciplinary setting to bring novel technologies and mathematical innovations into productive industrial environments in the future.

“Since the recruitment of doctoral candidates is not finalised yet, there are still some open questions on how to best marry our fresh talent with the needs of the industry. However, by being proactive and forthcoming partners to our stakeholders, we will increase our chances to do our part in helping to realise the potential of the next generation of researchers and experts”, says Hyvönen.

Encouragement through engagement  

However, taking the next generation of science professionals and enthusiasts into account needs to start way before one’s doctoral studies. One of FAME’s central goals is to reach children and young people on the importance of mathematics and natural sciences. To this end, the Flagship has taken heavy interest in the development of science communication strategies that help produce easily understandable and captivating narratives on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics.

“As our societies grow increasingly more digitalised and supported by new technologies, understanding the relevant sciences and procedures will also become more important”, notes Prof. Samuli Siltanen, FAME’s Second Vice Director, from University of Helsinki. “By engaging young audiences on STEM related themes using ways that they will find interesting, we have an opportunity to encourage children and young people to face the world around them with curiosity.”

Together with its media stakeholders and partners in education sector, FAME will begin to make material captivating for general audiences, including both young and continuous learners. In the long run, these efforts may help to raise a new level of interest in science across the society.

“Our natural world surrounding us is way too interesting of a place not to try to communicate about it to as many people as possible. And while undoubtedly there are many challenges facing us across the planet, scientific curiosity is one of the resources that will drive future solutions forward. Hopefully, we can help to foster not only the younger generations’ fascination about the world, but also their optimism”, Siltanen concludes.       

Photo: Markus Juvonen