Finnish chemistry research wins positive reviews
The Academy of Finland has conducted an international evaluation of publicly funded chemistry research in Finland. One of the evaluated units was the Laboratory of Chemistry operating within the Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering at Tampere University of Technology.
Professor Helge Lemmetyinen heads the applied physical chemistry group at the laboratory. According to the evaluation report, his research group holds considerable competence especially in the field of supramolecular photochemistry and has produced excellent results during the evaluation period that covered the years 2005 - 2009.
A panel made up of international experts evaluated the chemistry research conducted within 40 academic research units and one unit based at a research centre. The evaluation focused on research quality, funding, infrastructure, internationality, societal impact, different subfields as well as the units in general.
The panel positioned the chemistry research undertaken at TUT within the field of physical chemistry. This field is at a very high scientific level in Finland, in particular as regards the groups working on high-resolution and ultrafast spectroscopy, which is at the core of TUT's photochemistry research.
Findings of an international panel:
- Chemistry research in Finland is at a very good international level overall, with some research units placed at the international cutting edge.
- The research covers all significant aspects of chemistry and caters well to the needs of Finnish chemical industry.
- A number of chemistry research units and laboratories are of subcritical size. Universities should take this into consideration when planning structural changes.
- Some of the research units do not actively engage in national and international collaboration, which the panel members considered a serious weakness.
- The quality of the research infrastructure is very high, but maintaining it at the current level would require a national investment and upgrade plan.
- The overall funding of chemistry research is at a satisfactory level, but the panel members were concerned that the amount of basic funding granted to universities is too limited compared to the amount of competition-driven funding.
- The focus on industry-related, short-term research projects may put basic chemistry research at jeopardy.
- The international evaluation panel consisted of Professors Kenneth Ruud (Chair), Claudine Buess-Herman, Jennifer Green, Helena Grennberg, Søren Rud Keiding, Torsten Linker and Directeur de Recherche Gabriel Wild.
Praise for publishing activities and internationality
Considering the resources available, the publication output of the applied physical chemistry group is at a very good level, owing to Professor Lemmetyinen's extensive international networks and collaboration with international well-recognized research groups in the field of supramolecular photochemistry. Thanks to his contacts, the proportion of papers with international co-authors and the number of foreign PhD students is very high. The report points out that the group is well established in the international photochemistry community. The professors have given numerous invited talks at international meetings and been featured in leading photochemistry publications.
The panel noted that the number of patents received by the applied physical chemistry group is quite low but understandably so, because fundamental research constitutes 95 percent of the group's research activities.
"Of course we are aiming to translate research into practice. We apply our research results, for example, to the development oforganic solar cells," says Lemmetyinen.
The panel members thought that the physical chemistry group's long-term strategic goal to shift its focus from studies of assemblies in solutions to studies of assemblies deposited on surfaces is timely and should be actively pursued. They considered chemistry a key topic in several of TUT's priority areas and a central element of several educational programmes and strongly advised the University to maintain and further develop competence in experimental physical chemistry. Competence in industrial and analytical chemistry should also be strengthened.
Small but functional
The evaluation report states that the research infrastructure at the Laboratory of Chemistry is excellent and fulfils the needs of the current research. However, laboratory space limits further expansion of the unit and hampers daily interaction between the research groups within the laboratory.
The development efforts of Finnish universities should especially focus on structural development. The panel particularly found that the chemistry units at the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Oulu and Tampere University of Technology are of subcritical size.
The evaluation report has been published in the publication series of the Academy of Finland. The report is available in PDF format on the Academy's website. The report is written in English.
Chemistry Research in Finland 2005 - 2009 (www.aka.fi)