The future of Finland’s education exports lies in small enterprises and large ideas

The concluding seminar of Tekes's Learning Solutions programme shed light on the sector's figures: according to a study, Finland's education exports were EUR 268 million in 2014. Experts in the sector also shared their thoughts on the future of education exports.

The concluding seminar of Tekes's Learning Solutions programme was held in the Finnish Science Centre Heureka in Vantaa, Finland. The seminar and the demo area attracted a large number of representatives of stakeholders and companies that participated in the programme.

Panelists from right to left: Aape Pohjavirta, Vesa Perälä, Timo Ylikangas and Sanna Lukander. The event hosted by Andre Chaker.

Exports worth hundreds of millions waiting to be discovered on the micro level
"Micro businesses are the most eager to grow. They are also very numerous. A recent survey commissioned by Tekes reveals that education export start-ups will need EUR 26 million in capital investments in the next two years, and for example a hundred export experts," said Programme Manager Suvi Sundquist.

"Finnish references would boost the international growth of start-ups. Digitality will revolutionise the education sector, worth EUR 7,000 billion. But is the Finnish education system up to the challenge of becoming the engine of renewal?" she asked.

The current situation and outlooks of education exports were crystallised in survey results published at the event. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2015 by 15/30 Research.

The survey results revealed that in the sector, secondary school pupils were the most popular target group of learners (46%) while digital learning materials were the main product. The majority of respondents were microenterprises with high potential. Microenterprises and SMEs aim to increase exports from EUR 13 million to EUR 162 million by 2017. In addition to returns, the number of employees will also rise: in the near future, the sector will generate hundreds of new jobs particularly in small enterprises.

Asian trade also attracts increasing interest. Finland's education export turnover in 2014 was generated by exports to some 60 countries. The most important target market was Europe, followed by North America and East Asia. The focus of exports is expected to shift eastwards, particularly to the Middle East, and East and Southeast Asia.

Greetings to the government: let's maintain Finland as the model country of education

The seminar was concluded by a panel discussion between four education experts, bringing together thoughts and ideas to increase education exports. The idea of a new class of public servants sparked great enthusiasm.

"We should have an Official Experimenter, whose official duty would be to try new things and get excited about them," suggested Aape Pohjavirta of Funzi. In the very core of the IT industry, he has found a model for increasing the number of references:
"The legislation in Silicon Valley used to make sure that a certain portion of public procurement had to be purchased locally. Could this also work in Finland?" Pohjavirta asked.

Serial entrepreneur Vesa Perälä encouraged entrepreneurs to boldly go global.

"I don't think any sector is more difficult than the next one. It is easier to sell new solutions abroad than in Finland," he said.

Sanna Lukander of Rovio reminded the audience that the government must also react if Finland is to remain a global forerunner in the field of education.

"We can no longer rely on PISA studies because memorising things is not the way of the future. The new government has the important task of ensuring that the 'reference Finland,' the model country of education, will also remain functional in the future," said Lukander, concluding the panel.

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The Learning Solutions programme ran from 2011 to 2015 and aimed to generate new commercial solutions to meet the needs of the revolution of learning. About 100 Finnish companies, research organisations and educational institutions participated in the programme projects.

Heini Karppinen presented the results of the sectoral survey to a large audience.

Text: SST Viestintä

Pia Mörk
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