Dear Mrs. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen,
In 2008 we might have thought that the beginning of the financial crisis was a critical point in global economy. But especially in Europe, we are not only facing a temporary economic downturn. Complex structures built for earlier realities in the business life and also in other sectors do not function in the current situation. Forward-looking innovation and courage are needed to change and renew these structures. Actually, it is the only way to survive in the global competition.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Finland is a small innovation-led economy and society. We have made many good decisions and realized actions which have made us one of the innovation leaders in the European Union. Our strengths include high investments in R&D and long tradition of keeping research and innovation policy as a priority. We have highly educated people and a good education system and have developed an easy access to public R&D funding. The knowledge transfer between universities and businesses has always been a criterion for the Tekes – The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation – funding. We can easily create a Living Lab environment, where users, companies, researchers and public institutions join forces to form problem-solving communities. We also want to maintain the safety of our society and our clean environment. In Finland we can say without any hesitation that our society simply works.
Many reforms in the Research and Innovation sector have recently been realized in Finland: for instance modernization of universities and research institutes as well as establishing the Strategic Research Funding Instrument. Tekes’ TUTLI-funding concept is intended for the commercialisation of research results from research institutes and universities.
The uncertainty of the global economy and the structural changes especially in the sectors like ICT and paper and pulp give us, however, great challenges. We have lost tens of thousands of jobs and we will lose them even more in the future. Because of the global competition the so-called old jobs won’t come back. That is why the ability of businesses to renew is vital. The competitiveness of existing companies and the birth of new companies must be ensured. Many efforts are needed to get foreign investments to Finland and to make our companies, universities and research institutes more international. In global context material and energy efficiency, water-cleaning technologies are the megatrends that can provide us more business opportunities as well. In Finland we have world-leading expertise in these kinds of cleantech-solutions and cleantech will be in our main focus for the upcoming years.
When looking for the solutions we believe that innovation, research and education form the only sustainable way to renew the economy and to improve the Finnish and the European competitiveness. It is most important to get more impact of our research, development and innovation activities and to better use the results for the benefit of the economy and the society. Radical innovations, public innovative procurement, sectoral cooperation and focusing and prioritization are of great importance both for Europe in general as well as for Finland.
Europe has world-class science base and technology leadership in strategic sectors. However, efforts are needed to improve innovation performance at the EU and the national level. The Commission’s newly published indicator to measure performance in innovation output is an important initiative. Evidence-based policymaking needs measurements to evaluate the impact of innovation and the legitimacy of public action and the use of public funds.
The needs for change and renewal were taken seriously when the new Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, was planned. It will be very different from the previous framework programmes acting to create new growth and jobs in Europe.
The key elements of the Horizon 2020 – A strong challenge-based approach, integration of research and innovation and increase of impact of science and technology – make it different compared to its predecessors. In addition to the needs of the basic research and industrial competitiveness, the Horizon 2020 will also be addressing great societal challenges and will gather new groups of participants into the projects. In order to successfully implement these new activities and renew the existing instruments, a paradigm shift is needed both at the Commission and in the Member States.
As an innovation-led economy and society Finland considers intensification and integration of European research and innovation very important. We share the ambition that the Horizon 2020 should make a significant contribution for Europe to exit the current economic crisis while promoting basic research. . In addition, I strongly encourage the Commission to make sure that the new program will be implemented in a customer-based way. From a Finnish point of view less bureaucracy is more funding to the actual projects.
The European research co-operation has been and will be most useful to our research community both in private and public sectors. For a small country it is important to be part of bigger entities. Therefore international contacts and networks, future markets and knowledge received through European collaboration and projects are proved to be even more important than the funding.
Finnish organizations have been participating in more than 1400 projects and have received about 700 million euros from the 7th Framework Programme according to the current statistics. Compared to the size of Finnish population our participation has been at a good level, but when the participation is proportioned to the research intensity of the country, we are not doing too well. This means that we have not used the European funding opportunities in full. Another concern for me is that Finnish companies have not been very active in the Framework Programme. We have to consider carefully the reasons behind these facts and find out means to do better in the Horizon 2020.
Dear Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen,
The Finns strongly believe in innovation-led growth and in research and development as its prerequisites. Therefore we warmly welcome the new approaches of the Horizon 2020. Its success depends on the implementation. In the programme there will be great opportunities for universities and research institutes as well as dedicated measures to leverage and boost engagement of industry, including SMEs. Finnish companies should find out whether their strategies could benefit from the European collaboration. They could also participate more actively in creation of strong technological platforms supporting European industry in its global competition. New groups of participants – cities, hospitals, civic groups and citizens – are needed in the projects looking for solutions to the societal challenges.
I strongly encourage all of you to find out the opportunities of the Horizon 2020 and to consider participation in the European collaboration for the benefit of our continent and our own country.