Research, development and innovation

Research, development and innovation are among the cornerstones of our business.

Our vision is to be Europe’s most valued campus developer. To achieve this objective, we actively invest in research and development. We aim to understand the increasingly rapid changes happening in the world and their effects on our business, and make the latest opportunities available to our customers.

We want to be like our owners: we research and develop, we study and teach, and we influence the development of the property and construction business in a broader sense.

In 2018, we contributed total funds of EUR 400,000 to 16 research and development projects. Taking into consideration the contribution of Business Finland and other partners, the total impact of these projects was approximately EUR 8.5 million. Together with our partner universities, we also invested about EUR 540,000 in six demo projects with a combined value of approximately EUR 1 million. Eight partner universities participated in our projects.

Seven projects were completed during the year and six new ones were started. Seven projects continued into 2019. The focus area of our own completed projects was digitalisation from the perspective of business and property services. We also investigated topics such as indoor positioning systems and conducted a preliminary assessment related to demand response for electricity.
Our operations are significantly influenced by changing views on learning as well as the servitisation and digitalisation of the property business. This involves a shift from lecturing to phenomenon based learning and learning by doing. The goal is to make classrooms, lecture halls and other learning spaces even more capable of promoting learner activity, increasingly multi-purpose and smarter than before. At the same time, the perception of learning environments is broadening. Spaces such as lobbies, corridors and restaurants can be utilised in increasingly diverse ways as environments for learning, work and services.

Significant digitalisation

The significance of digitalisation in the future of our business became increasingly clear during the year. The VIRPA C (Virtual property services C) research project was completed in the spring. However, we will continue our work in the area of digital service development in the VIRPA D (virtual user services D) ecosystem project, which will see us work together with nine businesses and eight research teams to develop new digital user services. One of the themes is the restaurant of the future, which we will pilot in the newly constructed Medisiina D building in Turku in partnership with Sodexo.

Networking and internationalisation are emphasised in ecosystem projects

Increasing focus on networking and internationalisation

Business Finland emphasises the significance of various ecosystem projects in collaborative business development between researchers and their partners. Networking increases innovation. For us, this also includes international networking through research projects.

Among our international projects, the RESTORE project is focused on sustainable development. The project examines how the built environment could be carbon negative, biodiversity-promoting and even productive and regenerative.

In the IN-LEARN project, we support our customers’ initiatives aimed at exporting education to developing countries. As part of this project, we have engaged in the joint development of learning environments on campuses and schools in Namibia. The Fusion Grid project incorporates new sustainable digital solutions to this development effort
We have engaged users in the planning and design of premises in our alterations to learning and working environments on various campuses. The tools we use to monitor the success of our alteration projects include the international Leesman survey.

Demo projects make it easy to pilot new solutions

We test the effectiveness of new solutions on people’s actions and experiences in the demo environments that we have built. This also supports the practical implementation of new solutions.

Demos involve making small-scale changes to existing environments that can be implemented within one calendar year. They facilitate testing the effects of new spatial solutions, service solutions and digitalisation on the users’ actions and experiences. The effects are measured before and after the changes are implemented. We actively collected feedback on demos with respect to indoor environment conditions as well as user experiences.

We invested more than EUR 500,000 in a total of six demo projects in 2018. For example, at Ylistönrinne at the University of Jyväskylä, a dated and underused auditorium was converted into a modern multi-purpose teaching space. We worked with the University of Eastern Finland on the Multi-Location Classroom demo to connect the Joensuu and Kuopio campuses digitally. The demo involved creating wall-sized video feeds between two rooms located in different cities to give the users the sense of sharing the same space.

In previous years, we have worked on our joint development operating model in workshops in cooperation with our partners. Training related to the operating model began in 2018 with Co-SYK training taking place in five cities.

We have analysed the development stages of research, development and innovation activities in our organisation and streamlined our operations. As a learning organisation, we also aim to continuously take advantage of the expertise of our customers, such as universities. The SYK Academy, which started its operations in autumn 2018, will serve as a multidisciplinary forum for the Group’s future RDI activities. The purpose of the forum is to make the entire personnel more familiar with the Group’s valuable R&D investments as well as serve as a platform for increasingly multidisciplinary development areas and needs in cooperation with universities. The core team of the Academy includes members representing each of our administrative teams. As SYK Academy Ambassadors, they help maintain an effective dialogue between research and business.

We test the effectiveness of new solutions on people’s actions and experiences in demo environments.

SYK’s own research, development and innovation investments and their leverage effects

SYK’s demo investments