EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA

Finnish model tops the ranking

Finland, guest of honour at the forthcoming European Research and Innovation Exhibition, has gambled heavily on the research and development sector. The gamble has paid off: thanks to an innovative and effective research policy, Finland boasts excellent economic health and a standard of education that is the envy of its European neighbours.

Laboratoire  finlandais Medix,  spécialisé notamment en génétique, hématologie, microbiologie et histopthologie. © Tekes, Matias Uusikylä Finnish laboratory, Medix, specialised in genetics, haematology, microbiology and histopathology. © Tekes, Matias Uusikylä
Recherches  biomédicales au VTT Technical  Research Centre, organisme finlandais tourné vers les nouvelles  technologies (notamment nanocellulosiques), l’innovation, le développement de  tests et l’information. © Tekes, Matias Uusikylä Biomedical research at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, an organisation responsible for new technology (particularly nanocellulosic technology), innovation, test development and information. © Tekes, Matias Uusikylä

Apartner in more than 860 of the projects in the EU’s 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, Finland alone has attracted €300 million in research investment. Its national budget is not to be outdone either: the government allocates 3.45 % of GDP to scientific research, that is to say, a total of €6 billion. Enough to boost a fair number of laboratories…

A successful national structure

However, Finnish policy is not limited to releasing substantial sums of funding. Its policy is unusual in that these grants are managed and awarded via an efficient network of public scientific administrations. Launched in 1996, the aim of Finland’s national innovation system was to unite scientific and technology policies that until then had been separate, creating a single entity in which education, research, development and industry would together play the leading role.

Two complementary bodies arose from this political will: the Academy of Finland(in Finnish, Suomen Akatemia) and TEKES. The Academy comes under the auspices of the private firms and the public administration.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry runs the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES), the country’s leading R&D (research and development) and R&I (research and innovation) body. It funds projects emanating from industry and research centres, as well as cooperation projects and projects deemed to be financially high-risk. Without a shadow of a doubt, the collaboration of these and other organisations, each with its own clearly defined role, explains the impressive responsiveness of Finnish research.

Education as the cornerstone

Another key to the success of the Finnish model is the role of training. Finland’s universities are real political stakeholders, enjoying great autonomy and developing their own curricula. The basic research laboratories situated at the heart of university campuses are grouped into 39 centres of excellence that compete for funding for a five-year term.

Applied research is conducted by private firms, as well as by technical universities and specialist centres. They include the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which conducts scientific studies for private and public sector firms to order. The objective is to create innovations and added value for the customer. Independent and with multidisciplinary expertise, the VTT has more than 2 800 employees.

Objective achieved

10 years after its creation, the Finnish innovation system is producing results. In 2006, Finland was the 10th most competitive country in the world (1) and boasted a very healthy macroeconomic environment. With an overall budget of €5.736 trillion earmarked for R&D, the country boasts more than 77 000 employees in the R&D sector and, with its 16 researchers per 1 000 inhabitants, it is the world leader.

Finland is at the cutting edge in the biotechnology, energy and, particularly telecommunications fields, and is now reaping the rewards of its policies. Allying public and private Finnish research and industry.

Marie-Françoise Lefèvre

  1. According to The World Competitiveness Yearbook 2006 of the IMD Business School, Lausanne (Switzerland).

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Rendez-vous at the SERI

Officially launched in November 2007, the 2008 edition of the European Research and Innovation Exhibition (SERI) remains faithful to its original objectives: to assemble all R&I stakeholders to listen to each other’s views, share knowledge and engage in cross-sectoral collaboration. Europe’s leading science and technology showcase, SERI is a trade fair open to the public, which is designed chiefly to spread the culture of science. “In its three years of existence, SERI has become a unique communication tool for each participating entity to present its work and discoveries in the research and innovation field”, says the exhibition’s chief organiser, Catherine Gautier de la Plaine. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research, DG Research, is one of the event’s primary institutional partners. Apart from France, four other EU member countries have now announced their attendance: Finland, as guest of honour, Luxembourg, Hungary and Poland. From outside the EU, Egypt and Switzerland will also be represented. With environment as its main theme, the 2008 edition of SERI, held in Paris from 5–7 June, hosted some 300 exhibitors in nearly 15 000 m2 of exhibition space. The organisers announced around 80 conferences on a variety of issues relating to energy, health, technology transfer and sustainable development, to mention but a few. Some of the conferences were accompanied by English/French simultaneous interpretation provided by DG Research. A television stage on the exhibition site provided a forum for debate, with a capacity of up to 300 people, attended by scientists and politicians. It was also the setting for a number of scientific experiments and award ceremonies. For its third participation in SERI, DG Research focused on European cooperation in research and development. The exhibition presented the new European Research Council. In its threeday cycle of conferences, DG Research presented the priority European research subjects, which included climate change, natural hazards and electromagnetic waves. It provided DG Research with an opportunity to explain the importance it accords to European research into rare diseases. Finally, the issue of “Science and Society”, which is at the heart of European current affairs, was widely debated in the exhibition concourse. The exhibition space included a European Research section, grouping together all the key stakeholders: DG Research, the European Research Council (ERC) and CORDIS. Apart from learning about the ERC, visitors were able to find out all they needed to know about funding opportunities, forging partnerships and researcher mobility. The European dimension was boosted by the presence at the exhibition of the DAMOCLES project (Developing Arctic modelling and observing capabilities for long-term environmental studies), in partnership with the International Polar Foundation. In addition, DG Research invited 15 European journalists to meet researchers attending the exhibition.



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12 topics of dialogue

The SERI Scientific Committee, chaired by astrophysicist, Jean Audouze, has put together a programme divided into 12 major topics. Sustainable buildings and the urban environment addresses issues as varied as energy-positive buildings, silence in cities, new textiles and the revival of forensic science. Living better and longer will highlight the latest developments in health and medicine: biobanks, medicinal products of the future and prospects for neuroscience. Science outreach has not been forgotten either: Knowledge economy and new humanism will focus on such issues as science education for the young and doctoral training. Some of the other topics addressed include: Future of energy, New means of communication and From the infinitely large to the infinitely small. Finally, research itself will be discussed in Governments at the service of R&D and Researchers, citizens of the world.



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