Business Finland’s AI Business program helped Finnish AI companies to double their exports and staff and introduced completely new kinds of services. During the program, digital B2B services have turned into a significant Finnish export product.
Artificial intelligence is one of the most promising and versatile technologies in the world, and it is used in a wide range of applications from industry to health care. In 2017, there were fewer than 20 AI startups in Finland. Increasing this figure was one of the objectives of Business Finland's funding campaign for AI companies. The second objective of the campaign, which was launched in the same year, was to strengthen the competitiveness of Finnish startups by utilizing artificial intelligence and data.
Demand for the AI campaign was significant, and it was expanded into a program in 2018. By 2021, the AI Business program (2018–2021) funded 347 projects by Finnish companies and research institutes or projects involving innovative public procurement with a total of EUR 235 million. Nine of the companies also received funding for young innovative companies. The combined exports of the SMEs involved in the program increased by more than 2.5 times, to a value of around EUR 280 million over four years, and the companies' staff doubled.
- The export of digital B2B services is becoming a strong pillar for Finland. For example, more than half of the exports to the United States are service exports. So far, games have been the most important segment of service exports, but B2B exports are growing and, as digitalization progresses, the growth accelerates. Traditional industrial companies are also exporting digital services more and more, shares Business Finland's Outi Keski-Äijö, who led the AI Business program.
AI Business made new kinds of services available to companies and research institutes. As part of the AI Business program and with the help of the AI Computing Grant, SMEs and startups received free computing capacity from the CSC – IT Center for Science for their major research projects. This also paved the way for the utilization of the capacity of the LUMI supercomputer in companies' AI development projects. Read more
Almost 100 Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects were funded between 2017 and 2021. In PoC projects, SMEs and midcap companies were able to test modern AI technologies to solve their customers' problems. The companies could continue their PoC projects with their own funding or Business Finland's product development loan until the productization of the solution.
The AI Business program also provided training for SMEs on the use of data and artificial intelligence and the introduction of new business models. Furthermore, the program networked Finnish companies with global partners, presented Finnish AI expertise to international media, and collected Finnish AI expertise into brochures for international target groups, such as companies and investors.
- Making full use of AI is not just a technological issue, but requires companies to prepare a data strategy and commit to data management and ethical AI processes. This requires companies to make long-term cultural and managerial changes and develop their competence extensively. Based on the experience of the AI Business program, we encourage companies to use artificial intelligence and data more actively. We are currently preparing a data economy program and a quantum computing campaign to solve significant sustainability problems, Outi Keski-Äijö explains.
Head of AI Business
outi.keski-aijo (at) businessfinland.fi
+358 50 5577 663