The endowed professorship in the economics of Baltic Sea conservation is already an established form of cooperation between the municipality and the University of Helsinki. Since 2011, the City of Helsinki has supported the research work of the University of Helsinki on the Baltic Sea with an endowed professorship. The professorship focuses on the cost-effectiveness of water conservation, the blue economy, as well as ecosystem services and effects on well-being.
Climate considerations and nature conservation are important for the City of Helsinki. The city has, among other things, brought forward the goal of carbon neutrality to 2030, and the new city strategy also emphasises responsibility for the Baltic Sea and its condition.
“In addition to the conservation of the Baltic Sea and nature conservation, the professorship in the economics of Baltic Sea conservation also reflects other goals important for Helsinki. Active cooperation with higher education institutions and scientific communities is a key priority for us, and the University of Helsinki is, of course, one of our important strategic partners. An active and internationally respected scientific community in Helsinki increases innovation and generates new entrepreneurship, brings visibility to the city and attracts international experts,” says Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen.
The City of Helsinki emphasises knowledge-based management of the city and aims to rely on the best independent researcher expertise in decision-making. Climate responsibility and nature conservation create opportunities for innovation and new business operations in Helsinki. It is important for Helsinki to promote the blue economy in a sustainable manner, while taking into account the sensitive and valuable marine environment. The blue economy is based on industries that make use of the marine environment, such as coastal tourism, shipping and fishing.
Baltic Sea Action Plan as the backbone of cooperation
At the City of Helsinki, the Baltic Sea cooperation with the University of Helsinki is coordinated by the Baltic Sea Challenge. In addition to Helsinki’s Baltic Sea Action Plan, it is responsible for stakeholder work with organisations working for the conservation of the Baltic Sea. Close cooperation between the Baltic Sea Challenge and the University of Helsinki has enabled, among other things, the use of research data and expertise by the city, educational and teaching cooperation and the joint Urban Environment seminar series, which highlights current themes related to water conservation.
Kari Hyytiäinen started as the professor of the economics of Baltic Sea conservation in October 2013. The professorship has produced numerous wide-ranging and politically relevant studies as well as economic and socio-economic analyses of the prevention of eutrophication and invasive species, Finland’s Marine Strategy, oil spills, uncertain effects of climate change and HELCOM’s action plan, among others. The professorship has also enabled a significant increase in research funding in the field and has produced a large number of theses and practical project courses for master’s programmes.
“Many water conservation measures that nurture the Baltic Sea, inland waters and groundwater also promote climate and biodiversity objectives. There are also synergies in the other direction: many measures applied to combat the loss of biodiversity and slow down climate change also work in favour of the water systems. During the coming professorship period, my goal will be to seek solutions and instruments related to land use, consumption habits and new technologies that will allow the best possible realisation of these three goals,” says Hyytiäinen.
The professorship in the economics of Baltic Sea conservation is jointly funded by the City of Helsinki and the University of Helsinki. In the period of 2021–2026, the funding by the City of Helsinki amounts to a total of EUR 500,000 and that by the University of Helsinki to EUR 78,750. For the City of Helsinki, the funding plan was approved by the Environment and Permits sub-committee of the Urban Environment committee on 28 October 2021.
In the year 2007, Helsinki and Turku initiated the Baltic Sea Challenge that coordinates the Baltic Sea Action Plan of the cities and the international network of organizations that have committed to protect their local waters, and to build and implement their own Baltic Sea Action Plan. More than 300 organizations have already joined to the free and open to all international network.
The University of Helsinki is Finland’s largest and most multidisciplinary hub of research and teaching focused on the Baltic Sea, with related research and teaching carried out in almost all of its faculties. The University has compiled a list of the Baltic Sea specialists working under its auspices on its website. In addition, research topics related to the Baltic Sea are presented in the University of Helsinki’s Research Portal.