Finland is a pioneer in developing and deploying the digital solutions that are set to transform industries, services and societies in the coming decades. Finnish companies are already at the leading edge of this ongoing transformation. A pocket-sized technology superpower, Finland has also established itself as one of the most attractive digital R&D hubs in the world, bringing in companies like GE, Google, Huawei, IBM, Intel and Rolls-Royce, among many others.
This has not gone unnoticed. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index 2017 (DESI), published by the European Commission, Finland has the second most advanced digital economy in the EU. In particular, Finland scored highly for its Human Capital/Digital skills, Integration of Digital Technology and Digital Public Services.
“Finnish digitalization know-how goes deep and wide. It includes connectivity, Big Data, Small Data, sensoristics, data collection, crunching and analytics, blockchain technology, cyber security and critical communications, digital healthcare, IoT and Industrial Internet, AI, ARVR, fintech, retail tech, sports tech, and location technology,” says Hanna Marttinen-Deakins, Director, Head of Industry, ICT & Digitalization, Finpro.
Digital success stories
Finnish companies offer innovative digital solutions and services across a wide range of sectors, including connectivity, education, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics.
“Many digital success stories are created in Finland. For example, Nokia is at the forefront of 5G network technology development. Globally successful Finnish gaming companies like Supercell and Rovio have developed superior user experience and rendering software expertise. Konecranes can remotely monitor the usage of equipment and components on the other side of the world, and analyse the real time data to optimize service life and productivity. Finnish cyber security companies are also technology leaders and trusted global partners, coming from a neutral country between the East and West,” says Marttinen-Deakins.
Enablers for digital success
According to Marttinen-Deakins, behind the individual success stories and sector-specific expertise there is also something much broader: Finland’s unique combination of the enablers necessary to deliver on the promise of digitalization. The first enabler is Finland’s education system which is consistently ranked among the best globally. High-quality education is the cornerstone of Finland’s forward-looking society and its skilled and innovative workforce.
Another important enabler is Finland’s dynamic innovation environment, underpinned by some specific characteristics.
“In Finland we have a strong tradition of working together towards a common goal. This is also visible in our innovation environment which harmoniously brings together both big and small companies with the public sector and academic institutions. You can see this in action in almost every research, development and innovation project as well as in many business cases and ecosystems,” explains Marttinen-Deakins.
“Finland also offers a world-class, compact research environment with the required laboratories, pilot projects, ecosystems as well as opportunities to test things in public spaces.”
Pragmatic problem solvers
Pragmatism and a readiness for problem solving are the defining traits of Finnish technology expertise.
“The digital solutions developed in Finland are driven by very concrete goals and even stem from the developers’ personal needs, such as the Mobility as a Service solutions designed to help ageing family members to move around and enjoy life to the full,” says Marttinen-Deakins.
“Finnish digital companies also get the big picture. They have the ability to understand the challenges facing the end customer and focus on finding solutions, rather than just banging on about how their own product can do this or that.”
Finnish startups make waves
Another digitalization enabler is Finland’s fertile growth platform for startups that includes several business incubators and accelerators. With Slush, the leading startup and tech event as its shining North Star, Finland’s lively startup scene is attracting increasing international interest. In 2016, the total amount invested in Finnish early stage companies was EUR 383 million, up by 42% from the previous year.
“During the past decade, a younger generation of bright minds has really made its mark on how Finnish companies innovate, utilize technology, market and sell products and services. It’s no surprise that Finnish startups are now making waves internationally,” says Marttinen-Deakins.
Ecosystems support digitalization
Finland’s many business ecosystems are at the leading edge of R&D&I in sectors involving digitalization, and they are also open to foreign companies. For example, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia are the key industry partners in 5G Test Network Finland. Finland is expected to be the first country in the world for the commercial deployment of 5G in 2019. One of the latest ecosystems to be established in Finland is the One Sea autonomous maritime ecosystem led by Rolls Royce.
“Everything from digital healthcare to IoT, we probably have an interesting ecosystem for it. For example, Finland can now offer foreign companies interested in AI and vehicles – whether on land, sea or in the air – a full testing and research environment as well as enthusiastic end users who are ready to test all kinds of products. A company with niche expertise that can be utilized in many end customer segments can participate in several useful ecosystems,” says Marttinen-Deakins.