Pekka Soini: Are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

8/11/2015

Finland's strengths consist of innovativeness and expertise, particularly ICT expertise. In an innovativeness comparison during the summer, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Finland first. Points came flowing into Finland for having the world's best cooperation between universities and companies, and the most able researchers and engineers.

But now we are engaged in diminishing these strengths and giving our competitors a head start.

The Government Programme proposes cuts of EUR 138 million in Tekes grants. Companies and the research community are stunned by the aiming of cuts at Tekes funding; after all, a range of studies have confirmed the widespread positive effects of Tekes innovation funding.

It has taken years to hitch large companies, SMEs and universities together to follow mutually beneficial practices. Tekes programmes have provided an excellent platform for such cooperation. Through its funding, Tekes has shared the risks of R&D aiming at world-class achievements.

The idea behind the Government Programme was to cut business subsidies for large companies and to wind up the SHOK research programmes and Innovative Cities or INKA programme. However, most funding granted to large companies and SHOK programmes is channelled onwards to universities, research institutes and SMEs. This means that, in practice, the cuts will hit universities and public research organisations the hardest. They will lop off around 1,700 person work years from public research organisations.

The cuts will also take a large bite out of the fruits of innovation funding. Their implementation will mean that around 200 new products and services and 250 patents will never see the light of day.

At Tekes we have already given thought to the new operational models based on which innovation funding would be of most benefit to Finland. Such models would require the input of companies and public research organisations of all sizes. Large companies are drivers of networking and creators of expertise, while startups are the seeds of bold growth and SMEs are agile internationalisers.

From the growth perspective, the Government Programme is a good plan focused on strengthening sectors that are critical to Finland. We have made fresh proposals on how Tekes can put the Government's spearhead projects into practice on the basis of new activities.

The gap opening up in innovation funding must be plugged soon, if we are to prevent it from damaging Finland's private sector growth and competitiveness.

Pekka Soini
Director General, Tekes

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