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Top 10 Nordic stories of 2023

Known for its advances in digital technology, the Nordic region continues to pioneer the startup sector while making serious waves in Quantum computing and artificial intelligence

The Nordic region is pioneering digital technologies through its rich ecosystem of startups and leading educational establishments. The region is perhaps better known for its startup sector, with financial and gaming apps known worldwide.

But the region is also advancing research in deep technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. For example, in this review of Computer Weekly articles about tech in the Nordics, we feature a look at a project in Sweden to further the use of AI in the Nordic region through the creation of a large language model for the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese. A language model is used by machine learning to learn a language and solve processing tasks. Much of the work on these models uses English, so Nordic organisations are eager to create their own.

Likewise, in quantum computing, Finland’s government is investing in ensuring the country keeps pace with an emerging technology that promises to mark a leap forward in computing capability far greater than that from the abacus to a modern computer. A Finnish government-backed project has announced the completion of Finland’s second quantum computer, which uses 20 superconducting qubits. This is a step on the roadmap to build a 50-qubit machine by the end of 2024.  

But no review of Nordic IT stories would be complete without a look at the thriving startup sector in the region. In this top 10, we feature an article about the place where it all began for some of Finland’s most renowned tech startups, Helsinki’s Aalto University.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 Nordic stories of 2023. 

1. Sweden is developing its own big language model

Artificial Intelligence Sweden is leading an initiative to build a large language model not only for Swedish, but for all the major languages in the Nordic region: Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese

In 2019, a group of researchers at AI Sweden received funding from the Swedish Innovation Agency (Vinnova) for a project called Language Model for Swedish Authorities. The goal was to produce language models that could be used primarily by the public sector and made available for use by the private sector. 

2. Finland shows off its 20-qubit quantum computer

VTT recently announced completion of Finland’s second quantum computer, which uses 20 superconducting qubits. The work, accomplished in partnership with IQM Quantum Computers, is another step on the roadmap to build a 50-qubit machine by the end of 2024.

The government set out with that end goal in November 2020, when it launched a project called “The Finnish quantum computer development action” with a total budget of over €20.7m.

3. High tech meets agriculture in Denmark

Greenhouse growing is an important part of the economy for Nordic countries, where the climate is less than optimal for growing food. It’s therefore natural to expect much of the innovation in greenhouse production to come from the Nordic countries. This is certainly true for Denmark.

The country has seen investment in new technologies to bring down energy consumption in greenhouse production.

4. Sweden is ideal breeding ground for a direct-to-consumer unicorn

In an era when people are craving personalisation, digitisation and trust from the brands they use, the direct-to-consumer proposition makes perfect sense. And for Swedish technology companies, those three characteristics just happen to be three of their most prized assets, too. 

5. Skype’s legacy and the rise of the ‘new Nordics’

The focus on tech startup development across the Nordic region has intensified in recent years, thanks to a glut of global success stories. And yet, just a stone’s throw across the Gulf of Finland sits a Baltic nation that rarely hits the headlines, despite a current unicorn count of 10 from a population of just 1.2 million.  

6. Aalto University: The startup’s starting place

Helsinki’s status as a prominent tech breeding ground is well established, with an alumnus contingent that includes Rovio, Supercell, ICEYE and the world-renowned Slush event. Every startup needs a starting place, however, and for many Finnish innovators, their stories began at Aalto University.

7. NATO membership to drive Nordic cyber security sector growth

The impending accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) holds the potential to drive market growth and consolidation in the Nordic region’s cyber security services sector.

The membership path of the two military-unaligned states to NATO is already producing unprecedented levels of mergers and acquisitions activity across Nordic borders.

8. The Finnish Food Authority uses AI to accelerate research

The Finish Food Authority (FFA) is using artificial intelligence technology to dramatically reduce the time it takes to complete critical research as it strives to prevent potential public health crises. The FFA’s Interdisciplinary Risk Assessment Unit works on scientific risk assessment projects, including the effect of avian influenza on food safety.

9. Norwegian data privacy experts sound alarm over generative AI

After being trained on publicly available data, ChatGPT, DALL-E, Bard and other AI models were unleashed to an eager public. The rate of adoption of this technology far surpasses the speed with which legislative bodies can pass the laws needed to ensure safety, reliability and fairness. 

10. CIO interview: Petra Tesch, Vizrt

Six months into her role at real-time Norwegian graphics and live production service provider Vizrt, Petra Tesch is enjoying challenges old and new. The Stockholm-based chief information officer is an exponent of plain speaking when it comes to getting the message across.

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