My profession: From begin to Finnish 

Ben ended up in Finland in 2007, after leaping on the probability to affix an EU NEST venture, the goal of which was to make synthetic mnemonic reminiscence capabilities. Having additionally lived in different cities in Europe, Ben ultimately settled right here and solid a life and profession for himself, first as a researcher and now as a workers scientist. Along with his every day work specializing in uncooked supplies, metallurgy and electrochemistry, Ben is a part of a concerted effort by Finland to place itself as Europe’s main hub for batteries.

However, as you little doubt could have heard, life in Finland will not be all about work. Taking on snowboarding and turning into a connoisseur of Finland’s burgeoning craft beer scene are however two of his hobbies. Finnish summer season has additionally turn out to be one Ben’s favorite issues about residing right here, because of the mixture of ample mild and the extreme colors of nature.

How I acquired my present job is… I used to be working as senior researcher within the college of chemical engineering at Aalto College once I noticed a place for a workers scientist marketed and thought I’d apply. As an Aalto researcher, I had been concerned in a various vary of matters that various from microemulsions by the creation of cellulose-metal oxide thermoelectric supplies to being one of many venture leads on an environmental and round financial system venture associated to battery metals – so, loads of expertise! Luckily for me, because the calls for for a workers scientist require the power to take care of an assorted array of chemistry and materials-based challenges, the information that I’ve acquired from quite a few analysis jobs throughout Europe since commencement proved to be invaluable, and I used to be fortunately appointed in 2017.

Ben enjoys his worldwide working surroundings and has colleagues from Europe, South Africa and the US. Picture: Ben Wilson

The Finnish phrase that greatest describes working right here is… luottamus (belief). In Finland, there’s a excessive stage of belief you could get the job performed to the perfect of your talents, but in addition that ought to any difficulties come up that additionally, you will search assist or recommendation on the way to resolve the issue.

Working as a researcher in Finland is… general a really constructive expertise as there may be loads of scope to develop your self both by involvement in several tasks that require your personal explicit information or through the numerous alternatives for important profession growth usually supplied by employers, which in my case embrace pedagogical and venture administration expertise.

Like many locations across the globe, the power to generate analysis funding is essential. Though, superficially, when first attending to know the choices for funding in Finland, along with the EU there seems to be solely two predominant nationwide sources – Academy of Finland and Enterprise Finland – it quickly turns into clear that there are an entire host of foundations that settle for purposes for every part from small sums to attend worldwide conferences to considerably bigger quantities for high-level, formidable strategic analysis. For instance, I’ve been lucky to obtain funding from the Future Makers programme funded by the Know-how Industries of Finland Centennial Basis and Jane and Aatos Erkko Basis for a venture named BioPolyMet, which investigates the usage of biorefinery wastes as sources of sustainable anti-corrosion coatings for metals.

Ben Wison waves at camera

In accordance with Ben, the explanation Finland is ready to entice international researchers is the standard of life on provide each professionally and out of doors the work surroundings. Picture: Ben Wilson

Furthermore, as worldwide collaboration is generally an integral part of many purposes – each the Academy and Enterprise Finland typically have funding calls with worldwide companions – being in Finland I’ve had the pleasure of working with individuals not solely from Europe, but in addition additional afield together with at present South Africa and the US. 

The primary variations in working life in Finland in comparison with different nations the place I’ve labored are… that in Finland there’s a typically a much less formal however nonetheless hard-working strategy to on a regular basis work life because of the flat hierarchical construction in comparison with someplace like Germany. Any such setup engenders a way of equality, range and inclusivity that encourages extra open dialogue of analysis matters as individuals at any stage know that their contributions will probably be taken severely. Moreover, there may be extra emphasis on being accountable for your personal analysis that enables for the creation of revolutionary options to challenges quite than ready for some route from the boss. For me, this was definitely a refreshing change from both the top-down or compartmentalised-by-topic strategy that I’ve skilled elsewhere in Europe.

people standing and posing

The flat hierarchical construction of the Finnish office engenders a way of equality, range and inclusivity, says Ben (second from left, pictured with representatives of Enterprise Finland and the Ministry of Financial Affairs and Employment). Picture: Ben Wilson

Finland has a possibility to be the main hub for batteries in Europe as a result of… because the Monty Python tune says, “Finland [almost] has all of it”. Being that the nation has a wealth of major uncooked supplies (together with cobalt, nickel and one in all Europe’s largest lithium mines), together with world-leading technical experience in supplies processing and recycling. The fact is that in distinction to many nations which can be contemplating key elements of the worth chain like elevated electrical automobile use or European primarily based battery manufacturing, like its Nordic neighbours, Norway and Sweden, Finland follows a extra long-term holistic angle to the entire battery worth chain and totally different battery chemistries.

This round economy-based strategy maximises Finland’s distinctive mixture of strengths associated to batteries like extra sustainable mining, value-added minerals and metals processing, precursors and energetic supplies, cell meeting, modelling and methods that may maximise the restoration of battery supplies from secondary uncooked supplies and waste streams. A transparent demonstration of this in motion is the BATCircle venture, which has introduced collectively key stakeholders from academia and business together with six universities and analysis centres, eight giant firms, 15 SMEs, and two Finnish cities to create a round ecosystem of battery metals.

Ben Wilson smiles while holding a cup

Ben enjoys the excessive stage of belief in Finland that one can get the job performed to the perfect of their talents. Picture: Ben Wilson

This initiative is already demonstrating how the transition to the circular-based financial system could be achieved and has resulted in Aalto’s involvement within the EU 2020 venture HELIOS, which goals at growing and integrating revolutionary supplies, designs, applied sciences and processes to create a brand new idea of good, modular and scalable battery pack for a variety of electrical automobiles. Extra importantly, primarily based on such success, Finland has additionally been chosen for a number one function within the planning and supply of battery-related points for the European Inexperienced Deal by the European Strategic Motion Plan for Batteries and BatteRIes Europe.

The rationale Finland is ready to entice international researchers is… the standard of life that’s on provide each professionally and out of doors the work surroundings. For myself, the work surroundings is properly funded, has a high-class infrastructure and the research I’m concerned are difficult, scientifically significant and the regionally supported innovation and entrepreneurial tradition permits for a extra direct influence of the analysis findings to on a regular basis life. This, coupled with stage of communal social advantages like healthcare, social safety and training techniques, is very fascinating. Moreover, shut proximity to a nature that’s continuously altering with the seasons means it’s simple to flee city life at nearly any second to search out peace and quiet, whether or not that’s strolling within the forest or having fun with the 2 extremes of the midnight summer season solar or winter darkness at our cottage in Lapland.

The battery analysis group in Finland is… like working in a single massive comfortable household. In Finland there has already been an extended historical past of mutual collaboration between firms and universities for the larger good. This phenomenon has solely elevated in recent times in areas just like the battery group because it has turn out to be clearer that the challenges are one thing that may be solved by working collectively. Luckily, one of many beauties of Finland’s dimension is that there’s sufficient room for complementary specialities to thrive. For instance, the College of Oulu and Kokkola College Consortium Chydenius have experience in precursor and cathode supplies, which dovetails with Aalto College’s expertise in battery cell testing. Different fruitful interactions embrace the work between Aalto’s pyro- and hydrometallurgy teams with Lappeenranta College’s ion-exchange separation scientists, in addition to the move cell battery work that’s ongoing on the newly established supplies engineering division on the College of Turku.

row boat on lake

Ben enjoys the 2 extremes of the midnight summer season solar and winter darkness on the cottage in Lapland he spends quite a lot of time at along with his Finnish companion. Picture: Ben Wilson

The hobbies that I’ve actually loved in Finland are… cross-country snowboarding and studying to turn out to be a connoisseur of Finnish microbrewery beers. Evidently, being initially from the UK my expertise at snowboarding have been non-existent and, though today I could not make the British Olympic Ski staff, I definitely have sufficient competence to not spend most of my time mendacity face down within the snow. As for beer, I’ve all the time had an curiosity in several beer kinds having lived each in Belgium and in Germany for a while, and over the previous couple of years there was an explosion of microbreweries such that there’s something for everyone. Fortunately for me, my residing in Espoo has coincided with it turning into a centre of craft beer manufacturing: there are one thing like 10 breweries within the locality, two of that are solely a brief stroll away.

What I take pleasure in most about the realm that I reside in is… the proximity to nature. I’m at present residing within the Tapiola space of Espoo, which, as one in all Finland’s first backyard cities, signifies that there are many parks and open areas to take pleasure in regardless of the climate! My typical commute entails an nearly traffic-free stroll to work by some meadows. Furthermore, being on this a part of Espoo signifies that the Helsinki downtown, with all its points of interest like a wide array of bars, eating places and wonderful museums, is just a 15-minute metro trip away.

Ben Wilson attending to a grill

The infinite mild and color throughout summer season is way appreciated by Ben. Picture: Ben Wilson

The organisations which have supported my skilled development in Finland are… my employer, Aalto College, which has supplied numerous coaching prospects for private growth by management, pedagogy and most lately range and inclusivity. Moreover, the alternatives supplied by totally different foundations to get funds to attend conferences and out of doors companies like Enterprise Finland with the Ministry of Financial Affairs and Employment to be a part of commerce missions exterior Finland has allowed me to boost my skilled collaborative community greater than would in any other case have been potential.

Integrating into the Finnish analysis group has been… comparatively simple as the vast majority of my colleagues are comfortable to talk English and even those that have been too shy to speak originally might perceive my not-so-Queen’s English. Maybe, the most important problem has been securing a extra long-term analysis place, however that is definitely not completely an issue in Finland. However, in case you are prepared to be versatile and have the boldness to use your information in several fields, there are definitely loads of alternatives to be discovered each in academia and business.

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