Conference Day 1: Panel discussion about Innovation policy in Finland – Challenges of the past, possibilities of the future

In such an international event, learning more about the host country, Finland, is an important part of the experience, even after the circumstances led the event to be moved online. This session, moderated by Professor Markku Sotarauta of Tampere University, presented an overview of Finland’s Innovation Policy, with a description of past innovation policies, some of the more recent challenges that emerged in the past decade and alternative scenarios for the future.

The session began with Professor Sotarauta presenting a brief history of Finish innovation policies. Sotarauta showed how Finland has generally been characterized as an innovation leader, with high expenditures on research and development (R&D). He pointed out that the favourable scenario has been changing since 2010, and the country’s R&D expenditure began to decrease. At that time Nokia, the technology company began to face severe difficulties and this had an important impact in Finnish innovation, since the country was highly dependent on this company and its R&D laboratories.

The panelists Tarmo Lemola and Mikko Möttönen then proceeded to present their views on the more recent innovation policies in this new, less favourable scenario. Lemola was particularly critical to the recent innovation policies in Finland, referring to the last decade as the years of stagnation for Finland’s research and innovation policy.  He emphasized that one of the biggest losses in Finland innovation policy was the loss of platforms for cooperation and partnerships, which he believes was one of the main strengths of the country. Möttönen, who is the founder of a quantum computer company IQM, shared some of the ideas presented by Lemola, but added a more optimistic light affirming that the system in Finland has a lot of potential, even though it needs restructuring. He also added that the frequent change of decision makers in innovation policy is also a challenge in Finland.

Panelist Tarmo Lemola, Managing Director at LC Group Ltd.

During the final minutes of the session, the panelists discussed the role of finish universities in the development of the country, and they all shared mostly a positive vision of the university’s performance. The panel also discussed, how Finland, despite having great universities, does not usually stand out in international university rankings. The panelists shared a critical view of those rankings, and Möttönen urged universities to think about their shared goal of promoting science and innovation, as to not cave to extreme competition with each other in an obsessive pursuit of rankings. The session ended with this note of recognition of the importance of universities in the innovation process, and left a lot of inspiration to think about how Finland can do better in its innovation policies, and learn from its successes and challenges.

Text and photos: Flavia Soares De Oliveira Colus