The Finnish Centre of Expertise Programme (OSKE) was a temporary special Government programme, which directed activities at focus areas of national importance. The idea behind the programme was to promote the utilisation of internationally top level expertise based on regional strengths. OSKE was carried out as during three programme periods over a total of 20 years (1994−1998, 1999−2006 and 2007−2013). In the final period, cluster-based cooperation was developed in 13 different areas of focus. The nanotechnology cluster programme was one containing specialised themes of nano- and micro-systems and future materials.
At the start of the programme, the focus was on identifying the strengths of areas and on deepening development work between the public sector, companies, institutes of higher education and research institutes. The city regions of Tampere, Vaasa and Jyväskylä participated in the programme from the outset, and later on the centres of expertise from Seinäjoki and Satakunta also joined. It is estimated that the programme disseminated a significant amount of innovation, and brought benefits particularly to small- and medium-sized companies in the urban regions. It is considered successful that it was possible to spread the network of expertise all over Finland and to initiate innovation cooperation between urban regions.
OSKE’s nanotechnology cluster was divided into almost 20 micro-clusters, localising the focuses of expertise of different cities. Expertise was identified in the themes of Aerosols, Surfaces and Coatings, Photonics, Printed Intelligence, Applications in Built Environments, Chemical Industry, Electronics, Forest Industry, Machinery, Marine Industry and Metrology, Nanoparticles, Green Nano, Clean Nano, Human Nano, Lean Nano and Safe Nano. The nanotechnology cluster was coordinated by Jyväskylä Innovation Oy and Culminatum Oy under contract to the Ministry of Trade of Industry (currently Ministry of Employment and the Economy). Tekes also acted as a close cooperative partner. Regional activation was led by local science parks.
OSKE has been described as a pioneer in smart specialisation that created new ways of starting development projects and programmes as cooperation between different organisations. Experimentation with new funding models enabled fast reaction in changing market situations. Decision-making and administration that took place in the programme was adapted to correspond to the expectations of the business community, which promoted the commitment of companies to the strategic goals. The operating method proved to be effective, and some of the projects were established as permanent structures. Over 250 development projects, 36 new companies and 126 new jobs were born in the Nanotechnology Cluster Programme in 2007-2013.
OSKE was a Finnish social innovation, which proved widely interesting and also served as a benchmark in the start-up of the EU’s regional smart specialisation strategy. Particularly pioneering was the fact that the focus was on strengthening already strong clusters of expertise, instead of solving the problems of the weaker areas. The programme was also an effective channel for directing structural funds. For the Finnish innovation system, OSKE created good practices and brought together skills-based networks especially between research and business. In general, people were quite satisfied with the results. But from a point of view of innovation policy, it was felt that there is a need to move on from cluster-based programmes. From the “cluster stretch”, it was moved towards support for the demand- and user-centred innovations of cities (INKA) and the promotion of multidisciplinary RDI environments.
During OSKE, technological skills in the fields of nanotechnology matured and scientific research was commercialised. Good cooperation and cross-cutting with other centre of expertise themes were also considered successes for the nanotechnology field of OSKE. Cross-disciplinarity is still being highlighted in the development tools that have succeeded OSKE. During the programme, association-based operating models and cooperative networks were created, and they can still be exploited, for example when seeking research funding and forming consortia.