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Strategic partnership between Åbo Akademi and Bayer – collaboration between universities and industry more important than ever

Åbo Akademi University and Bayer Finland have entered into an agreement on strategic partnership. The goal is to strengthen the long-term research co-operation between Bayer and Åbo Akademi University and to increase the relevance of education to working life through a continuous dialogue.

– Bio- and pharmaceutical sciences is a research focus area at Åbo Akademi and is part of our strategic research profile Solutions for Health. Åbo Akademi has co-operated with Bayer for a long time, but with the strategic partnership, doors are opened to new and more long-term efforts, says rector Mikael Lindfelt.

Manja Ahola (left), Head of Drug Carrier & Depot Systems at Bayer, Mikael Lindfelt, Rector, and Tomi Penttilä, Head of Bayer’s Product Supply Center in Turku.

– Co-operations like these are also extremely meaningful for our students. They help students develop working life skills and competences and open up opportunities for work after their studies. Working life relevance and collaboration with industry and other social actors in our educational programmes are strengths and things we intend to get even better at in the future. This agreement is an expression of that aspiration, emphasises Lindfelt.

According to Manja Ahola, Head of Drug Carrier & Depot Systems at Bayer, co-operations are particularly important given the broad skills shortage that exists today.

– We at Bayer are convinced that the innovations in future drug development and technology for drug delivery, as well as the best care for patients, arise through collaboration. The strategic co-operation with the universities also helps ensure that those who graduate from the universities have the kind of knowledge and skills that companies need, and that we maintain our position as a forerunner in the international business environment, says Ahola.

One student who benefited concretely from the co-operation between Bayer and Åbo Akademi is Ida Tarko, who did her thesis in chemical engineering at Bayer. Tarko’s thesis contributed to increasing Bayer’s own understanding of targeted drug delivery, says Ahola. As of this autumn, Tarko works as a quality control specialist at Bayer.

Ida Tarko (right) on her first day at her new job with Manja Ahola. Tarko’s thesis in chemical engineering contributed to increasing Bayer’s own understanding of targeted drug delivery.

– The co-operation between the university and the companies helps students develop the skills and preparedness required in working life and build bridges to future workplaces. I am a concrete example of this myself in that I got my first work position in the industry via my thesis and summer job at Bayer. It was also rewarding to see that my thesis on targeted drug delivery has added value to drug development, says Tarko.

– Ideally, the co-operation leads to the emergence of innovations that can help us maintain our position as a forerunner in global competition. The bar is set high because the goal of the innovations developed in Finland is global impact. The results of Ida’s thesis have already been presented to management in Bayer’s global research and product development organisation, which is indeed a significant incentive and a learning experience for students as well, says Ahola.