On May 28th, 2007 Prof. Yrjö Sotamaa, the former President of University of Art and Design Helsinki, was invited to visit Tongji. After the visit, in 2008, he was invited to be Guest Professor in Tongji University. In October 2009, he took position as the Advisory Dean of the College of Design and Innovation Tongji University. Professor Sotamaa became an active advocate of Aalto-Tongji cooperation.
On November 13th, 2009, President Pei Gang met with Henna Virkkunen, then Minister of Education and Science of Finland. He made two comments for cooperation in particular: start the Sino-Finnish Double Degree Program and build alliances among universities and enterprises from China and Finland. Minister Virkkunen gave her support to further planning of the Sino-Finnish Centre.
From January 8th to 10th, 2010, Vice President WU Jiang visited Finland and attended the Opening Ceremony of Aalto University on behalf of President Pei. During his visit he signed on January 9th the Memorandum of Understanding with President Tuula Teeri of Aalto University about establishing the SFC. This was the first agreement the new Aalto University signed with a foreign University, thus emphasizing the importance of Tongji and China for Aalto.
In February, prof. Lou Yongqi, Who’s currently the Executive Director of Sino-Finnish Centre visited Aalto University. During his visit, the first draft of the Aalto Tongji Design Factory and roadmap was co-created through a joint workshop held in Aalto Design Factory.
Since April, the two universities have started the SFC agreement negotiation. Vice President Dong Qi, Tongji University and his team, Prof. Dr. Li Zhenyu, Director of International Office, Ms Feng Yiping, Deputy Director of International Office, Ms Tao Mingxia, Program Coordinator of International Office contributed their diplomatic wisdom and professional knowledge during the preparations.
Concurrently with the negotiations about the SFC agreement, the concrete doing to establish the first phase of SFC by the end of May, was started with strong commitment from both sides. Design teams from both Universities worked together long days and sometimes also even nights. Shi Yin, teacher of interior design in Tongji University, together with Esa Santamäki, Chief of Spatial Design in Aalto University and Viljami Lyytikäinen, project leader from Aalto University, worked together hand-in-hand to finalize the renovation and design plans during the first three weeks of March.
Thanks to strong support and vision for Executive Vice President Chen Xiaolong, Tongji University, the renovation and design process was completed with remarkable speed and quality. The whole process took all-together only two months. A week before the Opening Ceremony, on May 18th, the design teams moved into the ATDF to finalize the interiors. Impossible had become possible.
On May 25th, on the opening day of Aalto-Tongji Design Factory (the first concrete step towards a broader cooperation between the two universities), the President of Aalto University Tuula Teeri and the President of Tongji University Pei Gang signed the agreement of realizing the Sino-Finnish Centre, a dynamic platform for Sino-Finnish cooperation. The speeches by both Presidents demonstrated well the strong will to have a long lasting and strategic partnership between the universities, and also the uniqueness of the forthcoming SFC. President Pei described the SFC as “one small step for two universities, and one giant leap for both humankind and kind humans. The mission of the cooperation is to build a better world to live in.”
Both Presidents stated the desire to “change the world”.” The 21st century will undoubtedly be a century of design and innovation. The new era needs new approaches of human centered innovation. To achieve this and go even further, international, transcultural and interdisciplinary collaboration is of utmost importance”. The SFC aims to gradually widen the activities to cover Design and Innovation, Architecture and Urban Planning, ICT, Economics and Business Management, Transport, Mechanical Engineering and other major areas of Aalto and Tongji Universities.
On October 20th, Tongji University officially announced the Sino-Finnish Centre.