The Changing Role of Public Authority and the Potential for Steering Society (STEER)

Research under this programme will seek ways and tools of steering social development in contemporary societal settings. The role of public authority and technology are changing and developing very rapidly. In these changed settings, it is necessary to re-evaluate public authority and responsibility and the opportunities and tools available for steering development so as to promote long-term social goals, such as people’s health and wellbeing, equal access to high-quality education and culture, and socially, economically and ecologically sustainable development. Multilevel governance where authority is exercised by public, private and third-sector actors in a global context, is nonetheless blurring the boundaries of public authority and clouding the division of responsibilities. The theme will centre on the significant changes already visible at the interface of the public and private sectors and in the interaction between the two.

Changing practices are placing new demands on steering tools and on the conclusion of agreements. Research is therefore required on such topics as forms of competitive tendering and cooperation, the significance of preventative action, and the potential for steering by information and technology use. Research-based foresight is also required on various scenarios involving public authority and its role and their impacts on people, the environment, and the conditions and reliability of the economic system.

Processes and agreements should be examined from the viewpoint of public bodies, private companies and other actors. Furthermore, the research may address changes in international treaties that are increasingly affecting national decision-making. Focus should be given to studying topics such as the effects of incentives, the challenges and opportunities of impact assessment, competition and problems arising from asymmetric information. As things stand now, it is reasonable to suggest that new technologies will be particularly significant and that their use will often require changes in steering tools and the organisation of activities. Steering undertaken by society and the changing relationships between private and public authority can be examined from a social, economic, medical, legal, political or historical perspective, for example.

Important research questions under this theme include topics such as public procurement, land use, corporate subsidies, competition and innovation policy, energy and climate policy, and policies and regulation concerning individual sectors such as the telecom, electricity, pharmacy and pharmaceuticals markets. Questions of social steering and responsibility should also be examined in the context of service provision, such as growth and vitality services and social and healthcare services, care services for older people and people with disabilities, and early education and education and training.


Ethical AI for the Governance of the Society (ETAIROS)

Consortium PI Jyrki Nummenmaa, Tampere University
Responsible for interaction activities: Antero Karvonen, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd

Consortium composition: Tampere University, University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, 4FRONT Oy, University of Jyväskylä, University of Turku

Smart land use policy for sustainable urbanization (SmartLand)

Consortium PI: Seppo Junnila, Aalto university
Responsible for interaction activities: Aija Staffans, Aalto University

Consortium composition: Aalto University, University of Helsinki University, University of Turku, Finnish Meteorological Institute

Towards EcoWelfare State: Orchestrating for Systemic Impact (ORSI)

Consortium PI: Liisa Häikiö, Tampere University
responsible for interaction activities: Erkki Mervaala, Finnish Environment Institute

Consortium composition: Tampere University, Finnish Environment Institute, Aalto University, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd

More information

  • Programme Director Mika Nieminen, Principal Scientist, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Milja Saari, Senior Science Adviser, tel. 029 533 5123, firstname.lastname(at)

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