Keeping Finland's innovation home fires burning
A panel of experts put together at the behest of Finnish national research funding agency issued a stark warning to Finland's political and business leaders: keep up efforts to stimulate innovation or risk losing ground to global competition.
A panel of experts presented its findings this month, entitled ‘Making Finland a Leading Country in Innovation', which include 27 concrete recommendations for what Finland should do to create, in its words, “a dynamic innovation environment that will attract experts and investment”. The report was commissioned by the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development (Sitra), as part of its Innovation Programme launched last year to promote pioneering spirit in the country.
The ideas in the report range from recommendations on tax and immigration reform to more effective networking among companies and universities, to the setting up of regional innovation centres to act as research hubs stimulating activity in the area. The 27 proposals for action in the report are divided into five themes: structures corresponding to the challenges; top-level education, research and development; globally competitive and interactive enterprise; attractive ‘internationalised' regional centres; and motivating competent individuals and generating an atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurship.
The paper cites Finland's existing strengths, such as its education system and good infrastructure, and gives credit for the past decade of growth and success where it is due. “Most of Finland's international and economic success has been based on innovations and high technology, especially information communications technology, after the deep recession during the early 1990s,” notes economist Tuovi Allén of Sitra, adding a special mention of Nokia's contribution.
Finland has consistently been rated the world's most competitive economy by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and regularly ranks among the highest in Europe's Trendchart innovation benchmark figures.
“Recent economic and societal development in Finland has largely been built on developing high technology, its effective utilisation and determined efforts to increase exports. This has significantly improved Finland's position in international competition,” notes Trendchart. All this might suggest Finland's innovation is at the top of its game. So why should the country be on guard?
Allén downplays such rankings as opinion-based and not necessarily forward-looking. “I don't take these [WEF] competitiveness indices so seriously,” she says. “They measure different aspects of the economy and competitiveness and are mainly based on the opinions of business managers – it's good if [we] rank in the top ten.”
When it comes to R&D, Finland must broaden its scope to maintain its competitive edge by investing more in design and marketing, not just technology, she suggests. This kind of thinking is strongly reflected in the EU's innovation targets underpinned by the Lisbon Strategy of making Europe a knowledge powerhouse in the global arena.TEKES