Innovation hubs and RDIL thinking show promise in bringing strategic goals to life
In Metropolia Strategy 2030, Metropolia strongly focuses on RDI activities, which are implemented ecosystems functioning across the entire organisation. This significant change compared to the previous organisational model is clear proof of a learning organisation. Metropolia has boldly set out to reform its organisation in the direction of phenomenon-based learning and a solution-oriented approach. The key players in the development are staff, students and companies in the sector.
To strengthen Metropolia’s capability to build research, development, innovation and learning (RDIL), the HEI has started creating a preliminary roadmap for RDIL development. The goal is that RDIL is linked to degrees and forecasting capabilities. The audit team praises that Metropolia has gotten off to a good start in systematically identifying the key roles and actions needed for the roadmap. In the interviews, the staff felt the phenomenon-based teaching to be inspiring and motivating, but at the same time, the change to a new mindset is perceived as time-consuming. In addition, staff has manifold tasks to perform, and new structures need resources that are not necessarily sufficiently available. The audit team anticipate the possible risk of conflicts due to resources shared between RDI, especially the innovation hubs and teaching, which should be observed carefully. No change is ever quick, and this is something to bear in mind with RDIL reform. In interviews, staff often mentioned that they see Metropolia as an agile organisation. This opens up good opportunities to drive innovation in an agile way within the organisation. The audit team noted and agreed that the new positions of innovation directors still need further definition.
According to interviews, the innovation hubs structure supports Metropolia’s strategic goal to be a bold innovator of knowledge and a builder of a sustainable future. The audit team encourages monitoring the strategy implementation and following staff feedback as the new organisational structure is implemented. Feedback can be reflected in ready-made channels, such as impact reviews and leadership forums. This allows the whole community to participate and enhances Metropolia’s achievement of its strategic goals.
Student-centredness is a part of the phenomenon-based learning
Innovation hubs provide a good development platform based on innovation and ecosystem thinking. Students are well integrated into the reform and have the opportunity to learn in authentic learning environments, such as HyMY Village, Smart Lab, Helsinki XR Center, Turbiini, Metropolia Proof Health, Urbanfarmlab, Robo Garage etc. The students participating in authentic learning activities are in direct contact with everyday customers. This feedback opportunity should be systematically utilised.
Visits to learning environments showed that students are given responsibility and work relatively independently on some projects. The importance of good supervision becomes even more critical as the student’s responsibility increases. As such, working-life skills, as in the HyMY village, are very much at the heart of learning. Students will get a good starting point for working on research projects and working-life projects. This pedagogical starting point gives them a sound basis for working in the future working world, using a solution-oriented approach.
Metropolia is a multidisciplinary and artistic community. This also provides an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas across sectoral boundaries. Metropolia also plays an essential role in society as a mediator of open science through its new openings.
Metropolia’s strength is development through interaction
As a learning organisation, Metropolia uses early involvement of broad expertise and opinions in its decision-making processes. The leadership forum mentioned earlier exemplifies Metropolia’s striving for interactivity. Another is the ‘Parru’ platform (internal dialogue and sparring). The participatory service focuses on dialogue and co-creation and is used for planning and goal setting. According to the self-evaluation report, the service supported five strategic development projects. For example, in 2021, approximately 50 participatory planning events, some of them with external stakeholders, were arranged. The ‘open science’ approach also extends to individual projects, where sharing resources and results are encouraged. Metropolia uses ad-hoc task forces for specific tasks and problem-solving.
Semi-annual personal development discussions include the whole staff and hopefully provide the organisation with relevant information on the staff’s well-being, motivation and satisfaction level. The workload and individual energy (work/leisure) balance needed special attention during the pandemic and constant continuous attention.
The lifelong learning concept includes continuous learning for not only the students but also the organisation itself, e.g. through close interaction with alumni. This offers another new perspective on Metropolia’s opportunities for the future. Metropolia recognises that the alumni interaction should be more diverse. Today, it still seems to work on a case-by-case basis rather than with a systematic approach. Lifelong learning needs to be thoroughly established and communicated in innovation hubs. It could also be a source of renewal ideas and actions.
Learning in the long run
The RDIL road map to 2030 is based on a ‘Complex adaptive system framework’, a variation of the PDCA cycle. The core question is how to bring new elements into the existing system. Improvement through new rather than incremental elements sets a higher demand for learning. This is an ambitious goal. The RDIL road map to 2030 includes several actions which require fundamental learning of new elements. The ‘Campus Incubator’ programme, a cooperation with Aalto University and the city of Helsinki, is one example of this. The aim is to be able to start 100 new companies per year by 2030.
The reform is off to a good start and has great potential. The audit team encourages further innovative reform.