International studies on Finland’s innovation system show relatively strong developments. Finland’s investments and results are on par with other OECD countries. R&D intensity is the highest in the world. This is true in particular for R&D staff numbers and for cooperation between firms, universities and research institutes. However, serious questions can be raised about the estimated impact on our economic competitiveness. High-tech exports have collapsed, and exports are mainly focused on the forest industry, even though the engineering sector has successes.
The current government has ordered R&D cuts but the impact of the cuts has, however, been exaggerated. Operational efficiency can be improved and the adoption of new practices will result in little damage and few redundancies. Key R&D projects will in fact receive additional resources. Finland still has significant untapped innovation potential. Impressive results can be achieved by focusing on some of the most important projects, in particular, the following:
Service innovations. The service sector employs many, but innovation has been limited. Promising areas are related to health and welfare services, which combine health information, sensors and mobile services. Service design innovation voucher could be used as a form of support whereby companies could buy design services.
SME sector reform. Innovation within the SME-sector and the micro-sector is without support, even though they represent 99 % of all companies. Many fall into bankruptcy. Their innovation activities can be supported by micro-financing without cumbersome bureaucracy and reporting. Coaching and mentoring is needed in abundance – student resources could be used for this.
Spontaneous innovators. Many future innovations are created outside established companies, in informal networks and workshops. Current forms of support do not reach these “spontaneous innovators”. Microfinance is one alternative support, as is the provision of municipal community workspaces, for low-cost space to develop and test ideas, to use the 3D-printing and receive peer support. This is an efficient way to nurture latent innovation and create new growth companies.
The commercialization of research results. More efficient utilization and commercialization of university research results needs new incentives and approaches. Universities should encourage commercialization by increasing funding based on social impact. Co-creation operating models with business and universities should be developed systematically.
The development of innovation ecosystems. Innovations need to be born in a dynamic and interactive ecosystem where companies, universities, financiers etc. shall co-operate. At the moment, no one has the responsibility to build local innovation ecosystems. Development funding for ecosystems need to be put in place to create networks and build platforms for cooperation.
The era of digital innovation policy. Innovation policy is mainly shaped by pre-digital era from 1990 to 2000. Digitalization is now moving forward rapidly with technologies that were unknown 5 to 10 years ago: cloud services, service platforms, big data, the internet of things, robotics, AI. New innovations emerging from digital platforms, open and big data and network based collaboration require research and analysis.
Antti Hautamäki, PhD, now a professor emeritus, was in years 2009-2013 a research professor of service innovation and the director of Agora Center at the University of Jyväskylä. Before that he was in years 1996-2008 the research director and the executive director of innovation program at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. He has been an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Helsinki from the year 1987. Hautamäki has published and edited about thirty books and published over two hundred articles about philosophy, cognitive science, innovation ecosystems and innovation. Hautamäki has developed a new concept of sustainable innovation in his book Sustainable Innovation, A New Age of Innovation and Finland’s Innovation Policy, 2010.
Currently he is working at his firm Consulting Sustainable Innovation providing services related to innovation, sustainability, regional development, innovation ecosystems, societal change and renewing of universities.