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Finland has launched a research and development (R&D) ecosystem which will support developers of the latest IT, including internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
The project, which is being managed by the state-run innovation agency VTT (Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus/State Technology research centre), forms part of the Finnish government’s plan to reposition Finland as a leading developer of advanced innovations across mobile communications, AI and digital technologies.
Prime minister Juha Sipilä’s government implemented a range of reforms to stimulate innovation and investment in new technologies shortly after his centre-right coalition took power in 2015. The scaling-up of state support for the indigenous technology sector has become a hallmark of Sipilä’s staunchly pro-business administration.
The Finnish government’s reinforced commitment to supporting new technologies’ development has also increased the resources and funding available to state-controlled innovation organisations like VTT and the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (FFAI).
The R&D ecosystem developed by VTT is customised to bolster the competitiveness of Finnish IT, electronics and technology enterprises. For both the VTT and government backers, the objective is to use the ecosystem as an innovative tool to strengthen Finland’s position as a developer of advanced IoT devices, AI technologies, sensors and digital applications.
The ecosystem provides access to VTT’s technical support, expertise platforms and advanced knowledge channels. Participating Finnish firms will also benefit from access to VTT’s modern research infrastructure tools that can be exploited to support new innovations development in IoT, digital and AI areas, as well as more specialised sectors such as applied research into semiconductor and photonics technology platforms.
“The innovation ecosystem fits in to our goal to create a durable and long-term operational plan for producing globally exclusive added value through our research,” said Mikko Merimaa, VTT’s vice-president of research of knowledge. “This can be done in close collaboration with our corporate ecosystem partners.”
Applied research projects
The main pillars of VTT’s ecosystem will consist of applied research projects. In the case of semiconductors and photonics, the underlying ambition is to establish a particular focus to refine technologies to a pre-commercial stage.
The ecosystem is especially attractive to small-to-medium sized IT enterprises with restricted R&D budgets. Participation enables firms to utilise technological developments gained from the ecosystem in their own R&D-related activities.
VTT’s ecosystem has been constructed and structured to meet the R&D needs of SMEs. VTT subsidiary Memsfab has been tasked with supporting the overall collaborative approach of the project to enable tech firms to achieve optimum value and advantage from utilising VTT’s verified technology platforms and processes.
“The value of having VTT Memsfab involved is to improve the opportunities for companies to minimise the time, costs and R&D risks involved in the development of new products,” said Howard Rupprecht, VTT Memsfab’s CEO.
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Finnish innovators within the IoT, AI, digital and machine learning domains can look forward to an even higher level of state support in 2019-2020. The government’s draft budget for 2019 delivers on the promise of enlarged state spending on R&D-led innovation across all primary IT sectors.
The main spending benefit for innovation in 2019 is outlined in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s (MEAE) budget, a spending framework plan that is more robust innovation support and jobs strengthening within the IT and digital technology sectors.
Finland’s IT industry will also be pleased with MEAE plans to boost funding for the government’s newly launched Talent Boost programme.
The potential impact of a skills shortage in the IT professionals sphere remains a real concern for the government and industry leaders, who fear a shrinking pool of technical expertise could derail the strong exports trajectory and Finland’s hard-won economic growth path post-2008.
The Talent Boost programme’s mission is to source the international talent the innovation side of the Finnish economy will need to develop and expand. To fulfil its role, the programme will work with industry leaders and firms to ensure enterprises have sufficient labour and expertise at their disposal to drive their internationalisation efforts.
Software development is one area of Finland’s IT sector that is experiencing a chronic shortage of professionals. The MEAA has allocated €5m to the Talent Boost programme for 2019.