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Knowledge, Innovation, and Internalization

Author: Science and Technology Policy Council of Finland
Published Date: 15 June 2011

Recent economic and societal development in Finland has essentially been based on the development of high technology, its effective utilisation and determined increases in exports. This has resulted in a significant improvement of Finland's position in international competition. According to international comparisons, Finland, recuperating from the recession of the 1990s, has succeeded in combining extensive production and economic utilisation of knowledge and know-how with other aims, such as the promotion of welfare and sustainable development.

The main challenge for economic and societal development, in conditions of growing global competition, is to be able to keep Finland sufficiently attractive to business and jobs and as a living environment in general. Apart from the international challenges, there are a number of domestic issues to be addressed. Faced with an ageing population and the ensuing pressures for taxation, Finland will have to secure welfare services, to curtail unemployment, which is still high in the aftermath of the recession, and to solve other problems relating to human and social development. Employment rates must be raised and regional development balanced.

Towards a national strategy

The sixth triennial review of the Science and Technology Policy Council Knowledge, innovation and internationalisation looks at challenges facing Finland and Finnish science, technology and innovation in the coming years, especially in terms of growing internationalisation. One challenge for Finland is to be able to make the most of globalisation by reinforcing the positive aspects of the trend.

One of the main lessons to be learned from the 1990s was that success in creating innovations is a key factor for the success of both business enterprises and societies. One precondition for this is high-level technological and business know-how. Apart from technological innovations, this requires systematic input into producing social innovations geared to prevent societal and social development from diverging from economic and technological development. The set of actions thus determined will constitute the core of the national strategy in the coming years.

Finland as part of the global community

Behind the internationalisation of science, scholarship, research and innovation lie similar factors as behind globalisation and relevant network-building more generally. A systematic aspiration to create innovations cannot be limited to the national setting and traditional international cooperation. Internationalisation must proceed at the level of the innovation system as a whole, and Finland must be able to internationalise its own operations and its national science and technology institutions.

The challenges work both ways. What Finland needs above all in order to be able to compete for competent researchers and research resources, projects and business enterprise research and development with other countries is quality. On the other hand, Finnish players must be equipped to take part in and make use of cooperation openings.

National development challenges

Success in implementing the national strategy entails determined development measures. Finland's foremost strengths in knowledge – the national competencies – must be developed further. In addition, it is especially important to invest in promising research fields and to achieve a sufficient volume and good quality in them.

Measures must be taken to promote the utilisation of technological and social innovations in business enterprises with a view to accelerating the renewal of traditional industries. Ministries will assume greater responsibility as strategic development organisations and as users of social innovation.

With a view to promoting more favourable conditions for innovation, the resources of the Academy of Finland and the National Technology Agency need to be increased to enable them to take care of the development of new growth fields, research-based innovations and innovation environments.

Research organisations must be developed as active and dynamic cooperation partners for business and industry. University legislation must be amended to encourage universities to develop actively education, researcher training and research and to promote the utilisation of research findings. The Science and Technology Policy Council will evaluate the structures of the public research system by the end of 2004.

Investment in basic information society skills must be continued. The measures for enhancing mathematical and scientific knowledge must be carried on and researchers' career prospects must be improved on the basis of relevant evaluations.

Research and innovation financing must be increased with a view to accelerating the internationalisation of the innovation system and to improving the overall conditions for innovation. There are three main targets: (1) to develop education and career prospects in research and to step up research on a wide front; (2) to strengthen social and technological innovation; and (3) to develop innovation financing flexibly and expertly.

Knowledge at the core of regional development

Regions face the same internationalisation challenges which influence the national level. In order to be able to give a successful response to these, regions need to enhance their own factors for development.

Higher education institutions and local units of research institutes have a particular task in contributing to the regional knowledge capital and to put it at the disposal of users. Relating to this, the anticipation of labour and educational needs must be urgently developed.

The national and international networking of the regions must be intensified in collaboration between public and private players with a view both to utilising knowledge available elsewhere and, especially, to improving innovation services needed by small and mediumsized enterprises.

This abstract was originally published in the report on Knowledge, Innovation, Internationalization from the Science and Technology Policy Council of Finland (2003). It wsa originally posted on the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture website.