Refugee Aid Logistics in Finland and Germany, Saarland. International Innovation Project

An eager group of 15 students of the International Business and Logistics (IBL) degree in Metropolia Business School conducted their second year Innovation Project this spring with six German students from partner university  of applied sciences htw saar in Saarbrücken. This international project was very topical and important – logistics of refugee aid. The main target of the project was to analyse and compare the whole process from when refugees first cross the border to their initial reception, registration, temporary housing and finally either obtain asylum in Finland and in Germany or are deported.

The idea and implementation of the project was the result a few years of co-operation between Metropolia Business School and htw saar. Some lecturers from both universities have established close relationships during the past few years and Senior Lecturer Kaija Haapasalo from MBS and Professor Thomas Bousonville from htw saar with help of Ms. Anne Steinhaus decided to deepen this with a common student project which turned out to be very successful although there were of course some challenges too.

The main challenge was to overcome the different semester timing in Finland and in Germany. However, with help of very motivated teachers and students who were willing to stretch project work beyond their official semester, the Germans in the beginning and the Metropolia students at the end, and with modern technology the project kicked off in January 21st. First the MBS students planned the project, designing and testing its technical environment and tools. Since they were a large group they conducted a lot of preliminary research on the topic e.g. background and statistics of the current crisis in Europe, forecasts for the future, legislation and governmental perspectives in both countries.

The first webinar with the German students was held on March 17th when all their students were able to join in. After that, students on both sides worked intensively both with the literature and field research on the refugee reception, registration, temporary housing and asylum and deportation processes. The students organised themselves into five smaller sub-teams containing team members from both universities. The project management team worked very professionally and independently to keep the large multicultural student group motivated and under control. To communicate with each other and to follow the tasks and progress of each sub-team both in Finland and in Germany the students used a free project management tool called Freedcamp. Development of the project was reported to the supervising lecturers regularly and they were able to follow documentation like meeting memos, project plan, research draft papers etc. also in Google drive.

InnoProj1The second webinar on April 14 summed up the research done so far. Students were very active during March and April collecting primary data by conducting several interviews in the refugee reception centres and the Red Cross in both countries and even in the Ministry of Interior in Finland.


The culmination of the project was during May 9th to 13th when eleven MBS students met and worked together with htw saar students in Saarbrucken during their Europe Week. The four students who remained in Finland participated via internet during the week and in the third webinar May the 12th. In this last webinar the students presented their work and main findings.

A more detailed and specific project report was written as a joint effort and finalized by the end of May.

Jonathan Gaddis, Saara Ojanen, Michele Zucca from MBS and Helena Barachino from htw saar, who were the managing and coordinating the teams, highly recommend this kind of co-operation in the future:

 “This project was a new, interesting and rewarding learning experience within the field of logistics, as it involved aspects of the supply chain which are not often discussed or analyzed. The project was at times challenging as information and procedures were constantly changing. Both Finnish and German students were very motivated and communicated well with each other producing together good research. Also Europe Week was a remarkable experience combining work and social life: the Saar staff and students were welcoming and friendly and made us feel like home. We felt that the project as a whole was a success and we are hoping that this kind of co-operation in form of international innovation projects will continue.”


For more information, please contact

Kaija Haapasalo, Senior Lecturer
Photos by Astrid Karger and Kaija Haapasalo