2.2 Research, development and innovation activities with impact

Auditeringsgruppens bedömning

Hanken’s research has a versatile societal impact and contributes to reforming the corporate world and society

Hanken’s research, development and innovation activities contribute to reforming society and the corporate world. This is not least mirrored in the key research areas of strength and high potential, which also translate into an impressive number of scientific contributions. The audit interviews revealed that Hanken and its researchers are well connected, and that the university has expert roles and collaborations in many different areas of society. Most of the researchers provided a clear understanding and various examples of the societal impact of research. These included for instance law-making, working with public sector organisations, consulting policymakers nationally and internationally, participating in national committees and working groups, doing capacity building for NGO’s in emergency areas, company projects and collaborations, and working on research topics that are current and meet the needs of society and the corporate world. While in general societal engagement and impact was seen as valuable and important by interviewees, in some of the interviews the view of it was somewhat traditional and more output-oriented instead of being a two-way stream benefitting all parties involved and with a strategic role and goals.

Hanken follows an Area of Strength policy in its research and not only areas of strength, but also emerging areas of high potential are identified. The areas of strength are reviewed regularly, based on an external evaluation by an international expert panel. Hanken has very high-profile researchers in the area of sustainability and a relatively large share of the university’s research output is focused on this area, which is a strength. High ambition is reflected in how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are linked to research, faculty and research areas, and the overall number of people doing something related to SDGs. This shows the focus on the strategic goal. What is often missing are clearly defined objectives and, in some cases, even a reluctance to set specific targets for societal impact or sustainability. The risk here is that even a good effort and approach is to some extent too reactive. In any case, Hanken seeks to reform and improve society in different ways and examines societally significant issues from different angles.

The Hanken Business Lab has clear objectives for societal impact. It not only aims to generate new business but also serves as a non-profit production studio. The audit team commends this approach. Hanken also has other initiatives that emphasise cooperation with NGOs. Executive Education, for its part, is a channel for disseminating the latest, impactful research knowledge to those already in work life.

Hanken should focus on setting clearer goals, KPIs and data-driven development of the societal impact of research

Hanken communicates its research findings to the media and measures hits in both traditional and social media. Communication should take a strong proactive and data-driven approach, testing different formats and approaches. It emerged from an audit interview that Hanken is very much present in the Swedish-language media and not in the Finnish-language media, even though there is relevance in a broader context and thus potential that has not yet been capitalised. Some of Hanken’s research has a global reach also in terms of international media, and it was recognised in interviews that Hanken is not well enough known in Finland for all the good things they do. Overall, Hanken would benefit from better capturing and communicating its societal impact.

Hanken’s research database HARIS collects information on research publications, projects and other activities. An effort is made to link publications to the SDGs, but this does not necessarily produce or improve societal impact, although it does give an idea of which SDG the research is more or less linked to. Based on the interviews, Hanken has not set clear goals for societal impact beyond the general goal of having an impact. Gathering information from research is positive, but how the information is used and how the societal impact is developed and increased is also important. Some of the faculty also felt that there is a growing amount of data collected from them on societal impact, but it is not always clear whether and how data is utilised. The audit team recommends that Hanken focuses on setting clear goals and KPIs and data-driven development of its societal impact of research. This would better enable the university to follow its own ambition and measure the change, but also make it clearer for the faculty for which purposes data is collected.

Hanken has systematic procedures for ensuring the responsible conduct of research, including Hanken’s Committee on Research Ethics, a Disciplinary Board as well as self-tests on research ethics on the bachelor’s and master’s levels and a compulsory course in research ethics as part of the PhD programme. The audit interviews did not reveal any weaknesses related to responsible conduct of research and research ethics.

The self-assessment report states that Hanken has signed the Declaration for Open Science and Research (Finland) 2020-2025 and has Guidelines for Open Science and Research to guide the implementation and allocation of responsibilities within the university. The audit interviews confirm that the university has goals, services and practices in place to advance open science. All research articles are expected to be uploaded openly for everyone to access, and data is also opened when possible.