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Blog 04.06.2018

Strengthening the EU’s investment in research and innovation is in Finland’s interests

A major increase in research and innovation funding is possible, if a proposal by the Commission goes through. This is great news for Finland, as research and innovation are the keys to productivity growth and innovation. It is imperative to invest at national and EU level.
Author
Pekka Soini

General Director
Business Finland

Twitter:
@psoini

Research and innovation are vital to growth, jobs and well-being

Finland has long been among the leaders in European innovation. But we cannot take this position for granted. To maintain it, the Research and Innovation Council has set the target of raising research and innovation investments to 4% of Finland's GDP by 2030. In sum, this means increasing investments from the current six billion euros to just over eleven billion.

This is an ambitious goal – but a necessary one. Achieving it will require strong will and close cooperation between the research world, and the public and business sectors, both nationally and internationally.

Fast lane to the European market

The Research and Innovation Framework Program, Horizon 2020, is an important European productivity accelerator. The network effects gained from cooperation are very important, in addition to funding gained from outside Finland. Through Horizon, Finns can cooperate with other expert research groups and companies and obtain a direct route from, say, Pieksämäki to the Central European markets.

Finns are already involved in projects worth EUR 7.2 billion, which represents a major increase in knowledge and cooperation with regard to national R&D investments. Finland is a net beneficiary of the program. To date, we have gained EUR 639 million in science and innovation funding. Each euro invested in the program has returned 1.34 fold. The pace is accelerating, and by the end of 2020 it is estimated that Finland will have gained EUR 1.3 billion. It has been estimated that investments in the framework program have a more than tenfold economic impact in the long run.

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that competition for funding is fierce. Success requires national research and innovation investments, in order to build a strong knowledge base and research and innovation capabilities.

Will innovation be a priority in the budget negotiations?

We also have reason to expect great things from Horizon 2020's successor, the planned "Horizon Europe" program. The Commission has proposed a budget of EUR 100 billion for this, which is a significant increase on the current level.

The ball is now in the hands of the European Parliament and, in particular, the Council of Member States. There is no certainty that the budget will remain at the proposed size in these intensive negotiations. Few are fully satisfied with the financial framework as a whole. We now need determination from the government and major efforts in cooperation with other research and innovation-intensive countries to maintain R&I as a priority for Europe.

This is a good budget negotiation goal for Finland as well. It would also send a strong message that Finland wants to be closely involved in developing Europe's long-term competitiveness and prosperity. People pay attention to us in these discussions.

This concerns a choice that will affect Finland and Europe's future prosperity.