We are happy to introduce another member of the Helsinki Challenge final jury. Sally Mapstone is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education in the University of Oxford, and Professor of Older Scots Literature in the Faculty of English at the university. She is also a Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She was previously Pro-Vice Chancellor for Personnel and Equality in the University, and maintains a strong interest in equality issues. As Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Mapstone is responsible for the University‘s strategy and policies for all levels of teaching, learning, student support, admissions, and employability. Professor Mapstone also serves on the steering group for the League of European Research Universities community of Vice-Rectors for Teaching and Learning.
Professor Mapstone, do you feel that an innovation competition is an effective way of solving grand challenges in society?
“I believe an innovation competition is an excellent way of addressing, if not always immediately solving, grand challenges in society. Solving grand challenges must take time, but innovation will certainly be one way of engaging powerfully with those challenges. However, for English speakers, the use of the term 'science-based' is potentially quite misleading in this particular context. 'Science' implies life and physical sciences. What is great about the Helsinki Challenge is that the solutions presented are scientific in those senses but also crucially involve the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Only by utilising this rich array of approaches to creative thinking will we fully engage with society's grand challenges.”
How should universities claim their place in society during this time of scarce resources?
“Universities must both assert and demonstrate their fundamental and lasting value to society. British universities have the capacity to bring in major external research funding and major philanthropic funding in ways which are less readily open to Finnish universities, and thus the latest Finnish government cuts to the funding of the University of Helsinki look particularly misplaced. I support the public statements which Rector Jukka Kola has made in relation to this. In this kind of context universities need to showcase more than ever that they are powerhouses for creativity, innovation, and problem-solving, and thus the Helsinki Challenge is an especially timely intervention at this particular juncture.”
What do you expect to see from the teams as they present their final competition ideas?
“I expect the competition to be won by the team that has a project that is immediately powerful in presentation, but which has some longevity built into it along with the potential for growth and extension. And it must be capable of being communicated brilliantly!”
Do you have greetings to the teams preparing for the final stretch?
“Be bold, think big, aim high, and always try to do better. You have done wonderfully well thus far. Keep going!”