University of Tartu to build IT centre on Narva maantee

At its meeting of 9 December, the UT strategy committee discussed the location of the future IT development centre. After thorough deliberation of the arguments, it was decided that the preferred location for the centre is the Narva maantee area near Oeconomicum, the academic building of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.

The choice was made between two remaining options—the university’s research campus in Maarjamõisa field and the Oeconomicum area on Narva maantee

According to chair of the strategy committee, UT Rector Volli Kalm, both locations had its advantages and disadvantages. These were considered taking into account the interests of the university, the city of Tartu and stakeholders. The Rector stressed that it was a unanimous decision of the strategy committee; members of the committee valued the future centre’s integration with the university’s cooperation partners, including IT enterprises which have gathered in the city centre, to develop opportunities for practical training and cooperation.

Advantages of the Narva maantee location were good access and the vicinity of student resident halls as well as synergy between the IT centre and the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration. The latter coordinates a national entrepreneurship programme which, along with preincubation developments, is largely related to IT entrepreneurship or interdisciplinary teams using IT solutions.

The advantages of Maarjamõisa field were close cooperation with other university research groups working there, fitting in with the atmosphere of the Maarjamõisa research campus and unlimited options for extension. However, accessibility and public visibility there are not as good as in the city centre. Building in Maarjamõisa would also require establishing transport and other connections to the IT institutions in the city centre as well as solving accommodation and catering matters.

Despite the fact that Narva maantee is the preferred location of the IT centre, the university will definitely continue developing Maarjamõisa field and designing a convenient working and living environment and public space. Focus will also be on improving the coherency of the university’s units in Maarjamõisa field and including new external partners. In this, the Tartu city government has an important part: in order to provide better access, the city has promised to build a light traffic road that joins Narva maantee and Maarjamõisa, and there are discussions regarding a connecting bus route.

Why does the university need the IT centre?

The Estonian IT sector has developed rapidly and if the current training system continues, then in a few years’ time the specialists educated by the Estonian universities will cover only a third of the additional workforce needs of the ICT sector. The aim of the IT centre, which operates on the basis of an innovative concept, is to take the quality and quantity of research and studies and cooperation with enterprises to a new level.

The planned IT centre is a spatial environment which meets modern requirements and best practices and which, on the one hand, provides the optimal place for research and studies for the increasing number of students but, on the other hand, promotes cooperation between different parties (students, teaching staff, researchers, entrepreneurs). This will help realise the IT sector’s potential to improve the economy of Tartu and Estonia.

To build the centre, funding has been applied for from the ASTRA programme. The total area of the future IT centre is estimated to be 13 500 m2.