Finland is recognized as one of the innovative countries in the world today. As early as the 1990s, Finland had established an innovative mechanism suitable for its own economic development. Today, the system is still being improved in practice. It has now formed a complete set of innovation system from investment in education and R&D, technological innovation in enterprises, innovation in venture capital to promotion of enterprises’ innovation ability in export.

The 1990s was an important period for Finland to accelerate the transition to an innovative economy. In the early 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the drastic changes in Eastern Europe brought a serious recession to the Finnish economy. GDP dropped as high as 10%. However, the share of high-tech industries in the entire industrial structure has increased rapidly. This has made Finland more determined to rely on technological innovation and achieve economic restructuring.

In 1990, Finland took the lead in introducing the concept of a national innovation system in its policy report. Since then, the concept of a national innovation system has become the basic framework for its development of innovation policies. In the framework of the theory of national innovation systems, the linkages between the production, diffusion, and application of knowledge and the interactions among social subsystems were given an important meaning. Under the guidance of this basic idea, in addition to continuing to maintain its steady growth in R&D investment, some major measures have been taken by Finland to enhance the development of the national innovation system in a coordinated and efficient manner since the 1990s.

Develop higher technical education

In 1991, Finland started to develop a higher vocational and technical education system based on secondary vocational education—Polytechnics. Unlike academic-oriented universities, polytechnics are predominantly career-oriented, with the main goal of developing highly skilled personnel. By 2004, the number of technical institutes in Finland had reached 29, with 32,692 students registered. The number was about 1.5 times higher than that in universities. There has been a total of 130,767 students registered and 10,703 enrolled for non-degree open courses. At present, the polytechnics has become an important part of Finland’s higher education, sending a large number of high-level technical personnel to Finnish enterprises.

Strengthen the construction of systems offundamental national knowledge, technology platform, and innovation support and create a superior environment for innovation

In Finland, a well-developed education and training system and a high level scientific research are considered a basic precondition for an innovative country. In order to build a strong national knowledge base, in 1995, Finland launched the “Center for Excellence Studies” program at the world level. With a six-year term, special funding is given to outstanding research centers or new research centers in universities and research institutes. The current plan is now in the third phase. Since the 1990s, TEKES has funded and organized more than 100 technological projects, and there are currently 25 technological projects under implementation. Finland has also set up or perfected a series of public funding agencies that work together and link up with each other in the light of the characteristics of different innovative activities and stages of innovation so as to form a complete chain of innovative support. At present, Finland has a full range of three- dimensional innovation support system with rich sources of funding, various funding channels and various forms of funding, public venture capital and private venture capital. Its support for innovation activities covered comprehensively from fundamental research to technology development, and from commercialization and industrialization to the entire process of internationalization.

Promote the formation of industrial clusters and regional innovation system based on regional development

In order to promote the regional development and strengthen mutual cooperation, Finland has implemented the regional development plan of action since 1994. As an important part of the plan, 15 regional T&E centers were established to provide financial support and expert advice to local SMEs. In addition, industry cluster programs and the Centers of Expertise (CoE) programs have been implemented. These plans, as well as the widespread distribution of science parks and incubators in different regions, have led to the gradual development of various regional innovation systems with local characteristics and advantages, and became an integral part of the entire national innovation system.

Promote industry-university research cooperation through technology plan and scientific park

In the 1970s, partnerships between universities and private sectors were found to be underutilized in Finland with the estimation of undermining university goals. However, cooperation between universities and enterprises was not only allowed but also encouraged after the 1980s. Especially since the 1990s, Finland’s cooperation in production, education, and research has been strengthened and its development trend is considered to be the best among all countries in the world. The main reason for this shift is that the public policy has changed its understanding of research and scientific purposes. Under the concept of a national innovation system, the application value and economic benefits of research are emphasized. Therefore, encouraging and helping production, education, and research cooperation as much as possible has become an important strategy in Finland. For example, production, education, and research cooperation are particularly encouraged in TEKES-funded technology programs. Near most universities, scientific parks, and incubators have helped some SMEs and start-ups to grow. As a result, external funding for universities and public research institutions increased significantly in the second half of the 1990s. By the end of 2002, the proportion of universities’ external R&D funds in total funds reached 57%. Finnish cooperation in production, education, and research is believed to have played an important role in the development of its innovative economy. Through a series of measures, Finland gradually established a distinctive and efficient national innovation system in the 1990s. In this system, networking among various components as well as cooperation and coordination has been given great significance. Government-industry-academia departments gradually formed a mutual promotion and mutual support three-helix relationship, and the formation of such a relationship undoubtedly provided a guarantee for the further development of Finland.

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