Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Finland - just too successful

A new, fiestier attitude to research and development projects could be on the agenda in Finland following a run of success in projects. But rather than this leading to self congratulation, those at the head of the success have been stung into further development.

At TEKES, t...
A new, fiestier attitude to research and development projects could be on the agenda in Finland following a run of success in projects. But rather than this leading to self congratulation, those at the head of the success have been stung into further development.

At TEKES, the national agency for research and development projects, it is well known that the Finnish government, among others, monitors the agency's hit rate of successful projects. Having reached a level of 75% of projects ending with a product reaching the market, some claimed, incredibly, that this must mean that the agency had been dealing with too many 'safe'projects. More risk was needed, they protested.

But Mr Kari Tilli, director of telecommunications and electronics at TEKES, explains what really happened and what the agency plans to do for the future. His idea will mean catering to these concerns but while also not placing any significant danger to TEKES.

For Mr Killi, the fact that success in these cases was measured in getting a product to market was where the critics misunderstood. He clarifies that a lower success ratio would have been recorded if commercial exploitation had been the criterion for success. 'In future, TEKES will probably have a small number of high risk projects. You must remember that we not have sufficient resources to funs all the projects, only the best,' he said

Clarifying exactly what TEKES does is an important element of Mr Tilli's job. He reinforces the need for a consistent rather than a kneejerk reaction to projects. For example, it is the consistency of the product at the end of the project rather than its 'sexiness' during it that remains important. Mr Killi uses the example of the recent dot com mania. 'We do not support content production as it does not create permanent technological or business opportunities. But we do support the creation of tools for content production.'

The value of working with TEKES is not restricted to the smaller, budding companies - there is also a benefit for larger firms. Mr Reijo Syrjalainen of Sonera Corporation, one of Finland's biggest cutting edge technological firms, has had a successful working relationship with TEKES. 'There are a lot of very new activities and it may be that certain ones are not done without them [TEKES]. It is a forum to innovate,' he said.

One of the major areas where benefits can be seen is in cooperation. As Mr Syrjalainen explains, there are no restrictions on who cooperates. 'The idea is that everyone cooperates. We are also cooperating with the universities so that we can attract the best people.'

The structure of cooperation also exists between TEKES and the Academy of Finland, which specialises far more in basic research. TEKES is geared to advanced projects, taking in research institutes, universities and industry, many of which have market potential. Presently, this comprises more than 60 programmes worth over 18 million euro.

Mr Tillli emphasises this point, and goes on to highlight how Finland's particular circumstances make this spirit of cooperation practicable. 'The thing is that everyone knows each other in Finland because there are so few people in the country!'

Human resources are a key element of many new economy businesses. This could be expected to provide a particular concern for Finland as it has both a small population and is relatively isolated. TEKES has been tying to ensure that the country, through both its domestic and its international projects, can maintain a skills base that is appropriate to these high-tech projects.

So far, everyone seems happy with the arrangement except Finland's universities - because some of their students don't return! Researchers have been working with staff of major companies and some prefer to stay on to work with the company. In addition, more recently researchers have been setting up their own companies.

As for the future developments at TEKES, Mr Tilli is currently working on a group of new telecommunications programmes which will be unveiled in September.


Source: TEKES conference
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