Convincing performance from SHOK Centres

The SHOKs, or Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation, that serve the research needs of companies have proven their usefulness. Tekes has been involved in promoting SHOK activities, the aims of which include industrial renewal and boosting Finland’s competitiveness.

Without new business and expertise, we cannot keep our heads above the water in international competition. One way of keeping up is offered by the high-quality research conducted by the SHOKs, which serves the needs of companies, thus speeding up the exploitation of research results in business. As an evaluation published in February confirms, the SHOKs have helped to soften the blow from the current recession.

The majority of Finnish export companies take part in SHOK cooperation. In 2008−2012, nearly 500 companies and some 30 research organisations participated in Tekes-funded SHOK research programmes. The programmes cover all six sectors the SHOKs represent. Cooperation between the SHOKs is currently being intensified, and the first cross-sectoral joint programmes are under way.

Tekes grants funding to SHOK research programmes in line with its normal funding practices, carefully weighing its impact. Not all SHOK research programmes are beneficiaries of Tekes funding. In the same vein, funding for programmes already underway is granted in instalments, making fast changes of direction required in a rapidly changing operating environment possible in research projects.

Tekes provided funding amounting to a total of EUR 373 million to SHOK research programmes in 2008–2012.

SHOK activities spur business investments in research

The basic concept of the SHOKs is to encourage companies to engage in research cooperation aiming for breakthrough innovations, both with each other and with research organisations. These activities are well underway in the longest-running SHOK, or the Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster FIBIC. The first SHOK, which originated as the Forest Cluster, contributed to redefining a sector that plays a major role in the Finnish national economy.

As the SHOK evaluation showed, companies are happy with this operating model. Another indication of their satisfaction is the financing shares they put up: companies fund 40 per cent of the costs incurred by SHOK research programmes. Without clear benefits, the companies would not make such large investments. The partner companies of the Finnish Metals and Engineering Competence Cluster  FIMECC, for example, expect the work conducted in the research programmes to spin off business amounting to some EUR 3 billion in total. The estimated business potential is based on new business as well as growth and increased efficiency in current operations.

”The FIMECC programmes have enabled Outokumpu the expand its research portfolio towards basic research to a greater extent than what the company’s own resources would have allowed. The long experience of Aalto University’s research group in the interaction of hydrogen with materials has been a vital addition to Outokumpu’s competence profile. Thanks to this cooperation, we have gained access to important research instrument resources”, says Juho Talonen, Manager, Research and Development at Outokumpu Stainless Oy.

The Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation in the Field of ICT, or TIVIT, has announced that participants in its Cloud Software research programme have as much as tripled their turnover. The programme has succeeded in devising new ways of rapidly generating new business and accelerating the growth of the entire sector in Finland, as well as creating a new ecosystem that focuses on the most profitable cloud services.

Evaluation points the way to the future

The independent SHOK evaluation published in February 2013 produced valuable information on the SHOK concept’s strengths and development targets. The evaluation concludes that SHOK activities should be continued and that they could be turned into an even more efficient instrument of innovation policy. The recommendations of the international evaluation are addressed to the Research and Innovation Council, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the SHOK management team, Tekes, the Academy of Finland, individual SHOK companies and participants in SHOK research programmes.

”The SHOKs carry out long-term work for our industrial renewal, and only a small part of their real results are visible as yet. Additionally, this is a completely new type of operating model, and doing something new always has its risks. Tekes feels that the SHOK evaluation was a very useful exercise, and Tekes is prepared to change its operating methods in order to ensure that the SHOK concept will perform even better”, says Teija Lahti-Nuuttila, Director,  from Tekes.

The SHOK Management Team chaired by Stig Gustavson will submit its proposals for developing the operating model by late spring.

For further information

Teija Lahti-Nuuttila, Director
Tel. +358 50 5577 873

Further information on the SHOK evaluation 

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