RENT 2021 in Turku

Credits: Friederike Welter

Credits: Friederike Welter

RENT 2021 Conference succeeds in the middle of the pandemic

In 2018, Professor Ulla Hytti and Professor Jarna Heinonen from the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of Turku decided to apply to host Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business 2021 (RENT), the most significant European research conference in entrepreneurship. The timing seemed appropriate, as Turku had hosted the conference once before in 2001, led by Professor Emeritus Antti Paasio, and this 20th anniversary could be celebrated at the 2021 conference.

Then the pandemic broke out and also interrupted the normal schedule of annual events related to research in entrepreneurship. RENT 2019 was implemented onsite in Berlin in November 2019, with the theme ‘Embracing uncertainty’, which foreshadowed what was to come. The plan was to hold the 2020 conference in Naples, but the conference was ultimately held virtually from Brussels, with help from Italian researchers.

Decisions were made based on facts instead of assumptions

In June 2021, the three parties responsible for the RENT conference, namely ECSB, EIASM and entrepreneurship researchers from Turku, decided to conduct a survey to determine the probability of entrepreneurship researchers travelling to Finland if the conference was held onsite in Turku. The survey not only asked about researchers’ willingness or eagerness to participate but also whether their employers would permit them to travel. The results were promising, and most intended to travel.

Another survey was conducted in August 2021, and as the results were still encouraging, the decision to hold the conference in Turku was made at a joint meeting of organisations and chairpersons at the end of August. After the summer, the infection rates in Finland were encouragingly low, and it was also estimated that the vaccination of the population would progress effectively. The reservations of the conference and dinner venues were confirmed, and negotiations were launched regarding the organisation of the welcome reception offered by the City of Turku.

“EIASM, the organisation that owns the conference, also strongly supported the onsite implementation, as experiences of hybrid conferences had shown that people would resort to online participation at the last minute. Of course, an event held onsite is more profitable business,” states Professor Ulla Hytti.

“Personally, I felt that organizing a hybrid conference would have caused double the amount of work for us. A hybrid event would also have caused additional costs to the organisers. From the start, I thought that it was an either-or situation – the event should be organized either on location or fully online. Once the decision had been made, we simply had to take care of the arrangements and keep our cool,” Ulla Hytti says calmly.

RENT 2021 was held at Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel in Turku from 18 to 19 November 2021 with the pre-conference day held at the Turku School of Economics. Turku welcomed 240 delegates, of whom 200 came from abroad. The nationality with the most representatives was Germans.

All is well that ends well

The RENT conference was eventually held successfully in Turku, in the middle of the darkest November. Based on the feedback survey, the arrangements went very well, and the researchers were inspired by the chance to meet up with their long-term cooperation partners after a longer break in conferences. The conference and accommodation took place mainly in the premises of Radisson Blu Marina Palace, and the hotel’s wide range of services and conference catering received also excellent feedback.

“The most difficult part about the whole project was the last-minute uncertainty about whether people would actually show up or whether they would cancel their trip at the last minute,” Ulla Hytti recalls.


Text: Sari Ruusumo