2.1 Managing the societal engagement and impact

Assessment of the audit team

Strongly strategy-driven management of societal engagement and impact

LUT’s objectives for societal engagement are guided by its mission, given a strong direction by its strategy and further specified in LUT’s strategic action plan 2020–2025. As mentioned in the self-assessment, LUT’s strategy, ‘Trailblazers 2030’, with the strong focus on sustainable development and science with a purpose is, per se, aiming for societal impact. The three action plans 2020–2025 further define how LUT attempts to reach its strategic goals, responsible parties for the implementation, and indicators for measuring achievement. The strategic development of LUT has been a long-term project, in which the two previous strategies and the current one have built on each other.

Based on the LUT quality manual, the key impact indicators and strategic objectives for societal engagement to be reached by 2025 are:

  • 10 showcases of research excellence
  • 15% annual increase in citations (Scopus)
  • 100% of publications open access
  • € 5 million annual funding by the European Commission
  • € 5 million external revenue from education annually
  • Graduate employment rate tops that of other universities
  • Leading partner in industry cooperation in Finland
  • Carbon negative LUT in 2024.

LUT manages activities that promote societal engagement and impact in several different ways. These activities are tightly knitted into everyday research and education. As described in the documentation, the university sees societal engagement as rooted in research and education but at the same time facilitating the other two missions. This is also reflected in LUT’s operations management and follow-up of societal engagement and impact, which at the operational level is focused on indicators of research and education. The influence of the performance indicators of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) is apparent. The MoEC performance indicators are also internal funding indicators and form the basis for the annual performance targets set for schools and are linked to incentives and the salary system. The indicators are monitored closely and openly reported within the university community. The statistics concerning the indicators are put together by the university services for the management committee, schools and departments, and the results are reported at every management committee meeting by the deans of the schools.

The MoEC funding indicators, as such, do not give a sufficiently comprehensive overview of monitoring data on the societal engagement and impact of LUT’s activities to support the achievement of its strategic objectives. Therefore, the audit team commends LUT for its strategic action plan, which includes a much wider spectrum of quantitative but also qualitative indicators defined for each action to be taken under the three-part action plans. There are also several indicators related to societal engagement and impact such as IPR transferred to enterprises in research projects to highlight the benefits of collaboration with LUT or following the employment rate of international graduates to improve their integration in society. Based on the interviews and documentation, LUT’s strategic objectives and the strategic actions planned are systematically followed up by a set of indicators at each board meeting. The board’s annual cycle also includes checkpoints when the implementation of the strategy is discussed. In addition, there is a more in-depth bi-annual evaluation of the strategy to follow up achievements, where the institution is heading and if any adjustments are needed. As for other HEIs, one of the university’s main impacts on society is achieved through its graduates as future employees who change companies from within or as entrepreneurs. As mentioned, graduate employment and salary levels are monitored and compared with other universities. The way LUT monitors its impact seems to support the levels where it is aiming for impact. Nonetheless, by integrating some of the key objectives and indicators of its strategic action plans in its annual operations plan, the university could further enhance how the management system supports the achievement of its strategic objectives, including societal engagement and impact.

The overall management responsibilities for societal engagement have been clearly defined in the quality manual. LUT has also identified key mechanisms and processes that pursue LUT’s objectives and support societal engagement, which include alumni relations, career services, continuous learning, external communication, the Firmatiimi business outreach team, innovation and commercialisation of research results, the J. Hyneman Center for rapid prototyping, Junior University and sustainability. J. Hyneman Center and Junior University are examples of excellent enhancement activities (See Section 1.4.).

LUT actively analyses its operational environment

In the audit interviews, LUT top management, board representatives and the deans of schools broadly approached LUT’s operational environment. The interviews confirmed that the University Board and management actively collect and analyse different signals from the operational environment. In this work, LUT uses both external sources such as networks, benchmarking, following international universities and competitors, companies, strategic partners, research institutes and think tanks and experts as well as LUT internal experts such as professors. As an example, the board organises informal meetings the evening before the official meeting where the board meets these experts to discuss topical issues. The audit team considers this a good practice. The interviewed deans mentioned various inputs and fields they followed, depending on the school. The foresight information was discussed at management committee meetings, meetings at faculties and as part of strategic development. LUT also has a separate advisory board consisting of influential stakeholder representatives with broad business and political experience relevant to the LUT profile. The advisory board is used in analysing the operational environment; it was involved in the strategy round with future-oriented discussions. The chair of the University Board is now the chair of the advisory board, creating a link between the two boards. LUT actively evaluates what kind of information it needs and then gathers it. LUT has functioning ways to analyse its operational environment, but some management representatives wished for more foresight into their activities with an emphasis on long-term insight and forecasts.

Overall, the improvement actions related to societal engagement and impact are taken at different levels as part of strategic management, analysis of the operational environment, partnerships and collaboration with customers, as also identified by LUT. The information LUT receives is used to set the direction for its activities. There were several examples of how LUT had used the information as the basis for decisions. The evidence confirms systematic planning, implementation and follow-up, and improvement of activities related to societal engagement and impact. LUT is managed in a way in which the strategy permeates the activities of the institution, the action plans provides a clear direction for the activities, and there are a variety of indicators to measure success in the set objectives. LUT actively engages with its surrounding environment, uses various ways of collecting foresight information but, at the same time, is proactive in its approach and wants to influence its environment so that it would be favourable for its development and funding.