Annual Report 2022: HIIT Overview
Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT is a joint research institute established in 1999 by Aalto University (previously, Helsinki University of Technology) and University of Helsinki.
In the two host universities, research on information and communications technologies (ICT) is in the focus of the following four different departments in three different schools/faculties:
- Computer science (Aalto, School of Science),
- Computer science (University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science),
- Communications and Networking (Aalto, School of Electrical Engineering),
- Signal Processing and Acoustics (Aalto, School of Electrical Engineering).
HIIT is a strategic initiative that pools together the ICT researchers of these two Finnish universities together, forming an internationally highly visible research hub, a flagship of Finnish ICT research.
The key instruments HIIT used in 2022 for supporting its mission were recruitment of postdoctoral researchers (on all levels), support for doctoral education, and high-impact short-term activities supporting the local community.
We regard recruitment of high-quality researchers from outside of the host universities as a key factor in fulfilling our mission, since bringing in new talents and new ideas is the best way for enhancing quality and impact, which naturally leads to more visibility. HIIT has been organizing twice a year a massive joint call for the whole ICT research community, to support the recruitment of high-quality candidates. In the most recent call of summer 2022, the call offered several open positions in 35 research projects in the two host universities, and the number of applicants was 178, of which 45 were shortlisted for interviews, leading to 20 offers (of which 13 were accepted). The vast majority (close to 90%) of the applicants came from outside of Finland. Most of the continents were represented in the candidate pool, and of the recruited candidates, 4 were from Finnish universities, 2 from Asian, and 7 from European.
In addition to supporting the marketing of the project-funded positions, HIIT has also offered more strategic HIIT-funded Fellow positions to exceptional candidates working in the focus areas of HIIT: HIIT Postdoctoral Fellow positions for early career postdocs and HIIT Research Fellow positions for more senior candidates. The strategic research focus areas prioritized in these recruitments were in 2022 the following: Artificial Intelligence, Computational Health, Cybersecurity , Data Science and Foundations of Computing. The HIIT-funded fellows 2022 and highlights of their achievements in 2022 can be found in Section “HIIT Fellows 2022”.
In recruitment of doctoral students, in 2022 HIIT facilitated two big joint calls for recruitment of new students funded by the supervisors/projects, and supported marketing of these calls. Unlike in the postdoctoral calls, HIIT did not offer HIIT-funded long-term doctoral student positions, since we have felt that the supervisor-student relationship is so strong that the impact of a single doctoral student is by default rather narrow, and typically affects only one research group, not the community in a broader sense. However, in 2022 we also continued funding of short-term positions for finalization of the introductory part of the doctoral dissertation (“final crunch” funding). We feel that with this type of an instrument the added value is clear, since in the final stage of the doctoral studies, everything may be in place otherwise, but the final bottleneck is often how to find time for putting the pieces together. For removing this final bottleneck, we have offered a 3-month “mini-sabbatical” for candidates who meet the criteria for this funding, and this instrument has turned out to be a great success.
HIIT has also been supporting any initiatives that clearly boost the quality, visibility, impact or collaboration opportunities in the local ICT community, regardless of the research area. Examples of such activities include organization of workshops and other events, researcher visits, and short-term projects creating opportunities for high-impact collaboration within ICT, or between ICT and researchers from other disciplines, the industry or public organizations. Examples of these activities can be found in the Section “Highlights 2022”.
All in all, year 2022 was pretty much coming back to “business as usual” for HIIT, after the somewhat tedious years affected by the pandemic. As a positive sign, despite the extremely competitive situation in the job market, we were quite successful in the recruitment of new postdoctoral researchers, which is after all very much the cornerstone of our strategy. This can be partly explained by the fact that the Board added a new, active strategic focus area in our portfolio, but mostly this is due to the efforts of the HIIT admin team, in particular our coordinator Christina Sirviö, who have managed to significantly improve the recruitment process.
Director of HIIT