Research and science have always been key to Finnish welfare. In a country like Finland, somewhat remote and with high labour costs, sustainable finances call for investments in
- state-of-the-art expertise and competence
- people’s wellbeing
- science-friendly national policy.
Getting the public economy back in balance, we either need more income or fewer expenses. Continuous savings eat away the welfare and so we must turn the focus on income.
How can we generate more of the desperately needed income and improve our international competitive edge?
The Finnish future can no longer be built on national resources. Our high labour costs do not allow for mass production. Geographically, our location in the far corner of Europe is not the most advantageous. Therefore, Finland must look for new sustainable growth sectors to replace the twilight industries.
Growth through competence and research
The key to competitiveness is competence – well-educated people. However, this is not enough to guarantee a sufficient number of innovations, ideas and design which would make us a successful competitor on the international markets.
In addition to competent people, we need an environment to support research and innovation, constituted by
- regulations that encourage research and development
- a new form of co-operation between the scientific community and commercial innovation actors.
Research and science do not increase the income flows overnight or solve the current financial problems. The acute problem is associated with a need for structural change in the economy, and science and research can play a decisive role in this respect. When we invest in research and in the conditions promoting research, we will have sustainable solutions that improve the economy.
Pharmaceutical branch has untapped potentials
Despite its significant investments in research, the pharmaceutical industry and research have been far from the core of Finnish innovation policy. National decision-making has not exploited the potentials of the pharmaceutical industry to improve the effectiveness of Finnish business policy and healthcare.
There are several sectors in Finland, with top notch research and science by global standards, including certain specialities in medicine. Medical research and innovation are characterised by the particular fact that they promote business but also benefit people’s wellbeing and health. A further advantage, the demand for medical expertise is global and growing.
Towards the end of 2012, both a survey by Pharma Industry Finland PIF and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy found that
- the Finnish medical competence has been exploited to a minor extent from the employment and economic growth perspectives
- the national decision-making related to the pharmaceutical industry has been steered by views other than those promoting innovation operations.
However, we are looking forward to a positive change is this respect.
Growth strategy for improvement
The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry of Education and Culture have together undertaken to improve the conditions of the health sector research, development and innovation operations. The Ministries collaborated with various stakeholders to draft a Growth Strategy for health sector growth and innovation. The strategy highlights the importance of pharmaceutical industry as a branch that generates economic growth.
The growth strategy defines the health sector comprehensively and in a balanced manner. It includes both the pharmaceutical industry and health technology research and innovation operations. The work for the strategy crystallised the various actors’ shared view on issues requiring improvement.
The preparatory work was coordinated by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation TEKES, and the group is charge of the preparations also included key persons from the Academy of Finland and the Ministries of Social Affairs and Health, Employment and the Economy as well as Education and Culture. The group was supported by a comprehensive and extensive expert group which also included a solid representation of Pharma Industry Finland PIF. The Advisory Board for Research and Innovation (TIN) directed by Prime Minister Katainen adopted the strategy (In Finnish only) in March 2014.
In addition to competent people, we need an environment to support research and innovation.