Nokia Foundation Recognition Award to Finland's pioneer in artificial intelligence, Aalto professor Erkki Oja


The award was granted to Erkki Oja, Professor Emeritus from Aalto University, for his pioneering work in machine learning, pattern recognition and neural networks.

Erkki Oja (l.), Nokia's CEO Rajeev Suri (m.). Photo (c): Nokia Foundation / Mats Vuorenjuuri, Unikuva

For decades, the Finnish scientific community has been strongly involved in the development of machine learning, neural networkd and algorithms.

'Professor Oja is one of the pioneers in the fields, and his scientific merits are significant. He has guided numerous researchers and engineers of this field in their studies and scientific work. Oja is the perfect example for the future makers of technology,’ describes Timo Ali-Vehmas, Chairman of the Board of Nokia Foundation.

When Oja started his scientific career in the 1970s and 1980s, Finnish companies were not familiar with artificial intelligence. Functional methods were mainly developed in research institutes, until Tekes began to systematically introduce artificial intelligence into the business world.

During the 1990s, Oja was involved, for example, with a learning and intelligent systems technology programme that applied neural networks, fuzzy logic and Bayesian statistical reasoning to the problems of large technology companies. In addition to other companies, Oja and his group have cooperated with Nokia for over 20 years.

Finland's strength in artificial intelligence research: cooperation between universities and companies

According to Erkki Oja, artificial intelligence research and its utilisation are in the throes of change. Large technology companies are investing in various artificial intelligence methods and there is huge demand for experts in machine learning, deep neural networks and data science.

‘Only recently have companies and startups emerged in Finland that do not depend on university research. Instead, they recruit skilled people and develop their own applications, which are based on artificial intelligence,' says Oja.

'The world is changing: we see new smart products and services, for example tools for automatic speech recognition and translation, that are already in the markets. Companies improve their operation by targeting advertising with the help of big data and machine learning using vast amounts of collected data.'

The Finnish tradition of artificial intelligence research and cooperation with companies, which dates back to the 1970s, is further strengthened when the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence, established by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, will launch its activities in the beginning of next year.

'The state of artificial intelligence research is excellent both in Aalto and Finland in general – and world class in the new Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence, based on several research indicators. The amount of artificial intelligence research is higher in Finland than in the other Nordic countries and the rest of the world, when compared to other areas of computer science,' says Erkki Oja.