Mika Lautanala: What convinced IBM and Rolls-Royce to invest in Finland?

Everyone knows that Hollywood is the place to be if you want to be in the film industry. If your sights are set on the automotive industry, Bavaria in Germany, or Japan, would be your choice. What would attract people, or investment, to Finland?

It is unrealistic to think that Finland can attract capital or companies if we can't offer them world-class skills and competencies. We excel in the gaming industry and in 5G technology. We have the world's best javelin throwers and orchestral conductors. In these areas, we have a strong and wide competence base, not just one company or one individual. Together, they produce an ecosystem with cumulative expertise.

IBM opened the IBM Watson Health Center in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki this week. IBM chose Finland as the hub for its health care-related AI applications development. What brought them here?

In terms of health data, Finland is a unique country. Data is readily available in accessible format and the preparation of legislation on ways of using such data is under way. In addition, we boast state-of-the-art medical research in fields such as cancer care, and offer better access to the IT competencies required for AI development and to skilled workforce than our competitor countries.

About a month ago, Rolls-Royce announced it was going to establish an R&D centre for remotely controlled and autonomous ships in Turku. Strong shipbuilding expertise combined with the ICT competencies required for autonomous maritime vessel traffic was one of the key requirements. Finland has a large number of SMEs in this sector, and a strong research base.

The IBM and Rolls-Royce cases taught us that competence, internationalisation and cooperation with the authorities were major pull factors. Cutting-edge development work requires global networking and the ability to attract leading experts.

In both cases, Finland was able to offer the world's best experiment and development environment, consisting of companies and researchers supporting development work, legislation that supports practical trials, cooperation between the authorities, and the physical environment – or, in the case of IBM – the data required.

Authorities can create a favourable environment for innovation activities. What attracted IBM to Finland was the legislative process under way regarding health data, while Rolls-Royce's decision was influenced by the positive atmosphere created in Finland – under the leadership of the Finnish Transport Agency and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority – for innovative maritime transport development. This is demonstrated by the rapid permit-granting process for a test environment for unmanned maritime systems in the Raumanmeri offshore area.

We need more foreign investment to promote employment and wellbeing in Finland, and most of all, we want them to focus on areas requiring high expertise. To achieve this goal, we must be able to offer the best development environments in the world.

Mika Lautanala
Executive Director, Tekes
Twitter: @MikaLautanala