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“The most interesting sector in the world”

The newest TUT Industry Professor Ari Ahonen took up his five-year appointment in the Laboratory of Civil Engineering in September 2017. His research interests focus on real estate development. One of his goals is to promote industry employment among doctoral graduates.
Newly appointed TUT Industry Professor Ari Ahonen.
Newly appointed TUT Industry Professor Ari Ahonen.

Homes, schools, work places, shops and services – the built environment permeates our lives.

“Urbanization is an immense force: one million Chinese migrate to towns and cities each month. Thanks to ICT, teleworking is becoming increasingly common. How can we modify future and existing buildings and houses to meet our changing needs? How can we create a living environment that is pleasant but also helps us increase productivity?” TUT Industry Professor Ari Ahonen describes the challenges of real estate development.

“Construction and real estate development is a highly multidisciplinary field. It requires diverse technical expertise but, at the end of the day, it’s about people. It think it's the most interesting sector in the world.”

Building a research group

Ari Ahonen, who has a long history of working in the construction and real estate industries, at the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes, and at the Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOK), actually took up two new appointments this autumn: as CEO of the Technology Academy Finland TAF and as TUT Industry Professor in his alma mater, where he now holds a 30 per cent appointment.

“My goal as TUT Industry Professor is to set up a research group and ensure that topical issues and needs concerning the real estate industry are reflected in the education provided at TUT. In my opinion there are too few doctoral graduates working in real estate development. One of my goals is to increase their number,” Ahonen says.

“I’m very pleased that DTech Jukka Puhto, who has been active in the CoreLab forum, has joined my team. I’m sure we’ll get a lot done together.”

Back and forth between academia and industry

Ari Ahonen has worked as a researcher at TUT while preparing his Licentiate thesis and has held an adjunct professorship at TUT for nearly seven years. Having one foot in academia and another in industry, Ahonen has a front-row view of the different needs and strengths of both worlds. 

“It bothers me to hear the often-quoted claim that people who have pursued an academic career cannot make the transition to industry or vice versa. I rebelled against pigeonholing already as a young man, and so I’ve moved back and forth between the academic and industrial spheres,” Ahonen says.   

Ahonen wrote his dissertation on services marketing and made the leap from academia to industry right after graduation to put his research into practice.  

“My first-hand experience of how science can benefit business life is a definite advantage in my position.”

WHO?
Ari Antero Ahonen, 60 years

Education:
Master of Science (Technology), TUT, 1980
Licentiate of Science (Technology), TUT, 1986
Doctor of Science (Technology), TUT, 1993
Numerous courses on business management

Career:
Extensive career in building consultancy, as a researcher at TUT, in a construction company, as a property developer, and later on in a building management company and at Tekes. Has been involved in founding several start-ups

Family and hobbies:
Wife, three adult children and five grandchildren “My hobbies are being a grandfather and renovating.”

Industry collaboration gives a head start

Ari Ahonen hopes to bring a modern perspective to the development of industry collaboration in his field.

“Despite being sorely needed, university-industry collaboration I my field of expertise has been somewhat scarce everywhere. Fortunately, TUT offers multiple avenues for pursuing this kind of collaboration,” Ahonen says. 

Ahonen adds that the fact that the inhabitants of Finland could basically fit into one big city is also a plus in terms of real estate development, because here it is easy to get to know colleagues and build networks.  

“New bold research openings can also bring us a head start at the international level. A proactive approach is the key to successful real estate development. The traditionally reactive industry is now waking up to this fact. It is great that leading companies in the field have established this endowed professorship at TUT. It shows that the industry is looking to the future,” Ahonen says.

News submitted by: Anna Naukkarinen
Keywords: science and research, working at tut, image and communications