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Jukka Gustafsson on Finnish strategy

Jukka Gustafsson, Minister of Education and Science at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

What is the Finnish government’s strategy for investing in and developing the life science industry in Finland?
“The Finnish State Council has invested in the life science sector heavily since the 1980’s. Given the size of the country and the moderate size of the companies in the field even in the broad sense, most of the support has been directed towards concentrating the research and innovation environments in the higher education institutions (mainly universities) and research institutes. Utilization of research results in either already existing or start-up and spin-off companies has been fostered and some successful examples exist. In particular 10 years back, several start-up companies in diagnostics, drug development, the food industry and industrial biotechnology were established by the support of Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, which gets its funding directly from the state budget.”

“Currently, the government has an emphasis in knowledge-based competitiveness, which consists of multiple skills of educated citizens and a problem-oriented view to research and industry in all fields. There are practically no traditional discipline foci in the government program. It rather concentrates on enabling multifaceted collaboration and the sharing of work that results in green growth in the business sector. To enhance collaboration between the private and public sectors, Finland founded the concept of Strategic Center for Science, Technology and Innovation or shoks. These are platforms where public and private partners can, in pre-competitive research develop ideas together further and enable the application and utilization of research results in a more fluent manner than traditionally. There are six shoks currently and one of them is concentrated in the field of healthcare and wellbeing and another one in the forestry. Both have approaches towards the life science sector. shoks are funded by public funding organizations with funding from the state budget.”

How will Finland become more competitive on the global market?
“By profiling its priorities in a more selective manner, by developing new products and services of higher degrees of processing in the traditional fields of smokestack industry, by gathering national forces more actively and by acting globally together both with peers and competitors.”

How will the government work in order to promote research in Finland?
“Intensified horizontal collaboration between the administrative branches in the national context, but also more and more in global education and science policy and diplomacy reflects the wish of the government to condense the research and innovation system. The aim is to enable seamless, problem-oriented working conditions for all players. One of the actions taken is the goal of opening to all users an access to research data produced with public funding. Even during the economic crisis new means to fund and support research have been created, e.g. to support national and international research infrastructure coordination, founding and maintenance.”

What is the biggest challenge for the life science industry in Finland?
“That would be broadening the company base and having more big companies that could contribute to the development of a blooming sme (small and medium-sized enterprises) sector. This is tightly connected to renewal of the sector.”