The knowledge triangle crosses traditional sectoral boundaries

Photo: Sara Djupsund,

The knowledge triangle crosses traditional sectoral boundaries

The knowledge triangle – the interaction between education, research and innovation – was the topic of a knowledge conference held in Turku, Finland, on 23 August 2011. For a knowledge triangle to function optimally, each of the three components must support the others and be given equal weight, and there must be a political policy in place to facilitate this. Many of the conference participants believe that it will also be possible to achieve this at the Nordic level.

The conference was opened by Sakari Karjalainen, a director general at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, who emphasised the importance of implementing the knowledge triangle in practice, for example by using the curriculum as a tool. In general, the education and knowledge sector has a major responsibility for societal development, said Mr Karjalainen. The sector is one of the pillars of the open and democratic Nordic society, and its significance must not be underestimated.  

“This is a particularly relevant topic in a time when world crises are happening in rapid succession. Globalisation and limitations in resources mean that any efforts launched must be as effective as possible. In terms of the knowledge triangle, the benefits of each area are made greater through interaction with the others,” said Halldor Ásgrímsson, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, in his presentation at the conference.

Most importantly, as several speakers pointed out, the interaction between education, research and innovation must be ongoing and systematic. According to Bjarne Kirsebom, a chief adviser at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research, the scope or intensity of the three areas may vary from case to case, but all three of them must be involved.

“There are many activities taking place in the Nordic region that reflect the essence of the knowledge triangle, even if all three areas are not represented,” stated Göran Melin, a senior consultant at the Technopolis Group, who has compared existing activities and strategies within the knowledge triangle in the Nordic countries. He feels that the issue is by and large simply a matter of interpretation.

According to Mr Melin, however, only Sweden actually employs the term the knowledge triangle methodically and repeatedly. Nevertheless, all of the Nordic countries, with the exception of Iceland, have formulated strategies in which all of the three components figure consistently and in a systematic fashion.

Gunnel Gustafsson, Kunnskapskonferansen 2010One Nordic institution in which the knowledge triangle has a key role to play is NordForsk. Gunnel Gustafsson, director of NordForsk (photo), pointed out that political policy must go hand-in-hand with research. She believes that we must be able to translate the rhetoric to a common platform even if the three areas speak different languages. The Top-level Research Initiative is one of the clearest examples of a Nordic initiative in which the entire knowledge triangle is represented and should serve as a model when developing future projects.

Read the report "Kunskapstriangeln i Norden" here (Swedish language)

Read more about the Top-level Research Initiative and other Nordic Globalisation initiatives within research and education here


Text og photo: Sara Djupsund,