Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

​​

A birthday gift from us to ourselves

Matti Apunen | 16.6.2016

​​The figures make grim reading. The state will axe a total of 1.2 billion euros overall from education and research by 2019. That means a reduction of around 9 percent compared to last year.

At the same time, the state is sitting on a huge pile of money. Finland is not hopelessly poor, but joylessly stingy. The country treats its economy like a piggy bank, lacking imagination and over-rating the wisdom of doing nothing.

I am inclined to believe that the Finnish economy is a chronically ill patient, which can only improve its condition by getting onto its feet. But what would constitute an energetic, reasonably rapid solution with a dash of creativity?

You've probably guessed already. We need to look for it in those large piles of money.

"Let's put our balance sheets to work," says Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. This is absolutely right and this would be the time and place to do it.

The Finnish state has exceptionally large assets by international comparisons. In a recent report titled Lazy Giant, Hannu Leinonen, retired chief editor of the Finnish business publication Kauppalehti, estimated that the state could find 20 billion euros simply by privatising and selling off companies under its ownership.

There are many reasons why reducing state ownership would be desirable. It is crazy that the state is bearing the risks of individual companies instead of overseeing the market. Business risks should not be covered by taxpayers.

Even if we do not sell off all of our state-owned assets, the state could monetise around three billion euros of its holdings relatively painlessly. This would avoid the need to weaken its portfolio of strategic holdings.

My suggestion would be as follows: Build a new Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund) quickly. It could be a fund set up in honour of the forthcoming centenary of Finland's independence, whose proceeds would be directed at meeting the needs of research and higher education.

This would not add up to selling off the family silver, but a more strategic allocation of the proceeds from state holdings. If the commercialisation of research and innovation is as valuable as is claimed, why not give ourselves a hundred-year birthday gift in this form?

Creating such a fund would pose no political problems. Since universities form part of the fiscal accounts, it would not breach the EU rules on public finances: transferring assets only registers in this sense when they constitute an increase in expenditure.

The autonomy of universities and research institutions is illusory in part. They have decision-making power over their own affairs, but without better funding they are autonomous on paper only.

If the initial capital for the fund were around 2.5 billion euros and we assumed a return on that of around four percent, it would mean a 100 million euro shot in the arm for research. With this, we could buy equipment or know-how, state-of-the-art instrumentation for engineers, or world-class researchers to propel our universities forwards.

To ensure that the money does not sink into the bottomless pit of general expenses, it should only be disbursed in return for major structural reforms. Finnish universities are currently full-service supermarkets, with frequent overlaps in teaching and research based on inadequate resourcing.

Our universities will only succeed against the international competition if they are clearly divided into research and teaching universities – the latter are no less valuable than the former. In other words, what if we provided a EUR 100 million carrot to try out a clearer division of tasks – an arrangement which has borne fruit in the market economy over the last two or three hundred years? 


kolumni_EVA_Matti_Apunen_3_muok_160x190_pieni_henkilokuva.jpg

Matti Apunen
Director
Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA)​

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Impulse 1/2018https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2018.aspxImpulse 1/2018
Tracking peoplehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Tracking-people.aspxTracking people
A birthday gift from us to ourselveshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-birthday-gift-from-us-to-ourselves.aspxA birthday gift from us to ourselves
Are environmental claims believable?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Are-environmental-claims-believable.aspxAre environmental claims believable?
Matti Apunen: At the core of the solutionhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-core-of-the-solution.aspxMatti Apunen: At the core of the solution
At the digital forefront of mininghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-digital-forefront-of-mining.aspxAt the digital forefront of mining
Automation gives packages wingshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Automation-gives-packages-wings.aspxAutomation gives packages wings
Cell screening leads to new cancer treatmentshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Cell-screening-leads-to-new-cancer-treatments.aspxCell screening leads to new cancer treatments
Challenges conceal opportunitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Challenges-conceal-opportunities.aspxChallenges conceal opportunities
Comfy but energy efficient homeshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Comfy-but-energy-efficient-homes.aspxComfy but energy efficient homes
Finland on its way towards low-carbon year 2050https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-on-its-way-towards-low-carbon-year-2050.aspxFinland on its way towards low-carbon year 2050
VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/MainPage.aspxVTT Impulse
S Group believes in a multi-channel modelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/S-Group-believes-in-a-multi-channel-model.aspxS Group believes in a multi-channel model
We must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/We-must-maintain-Finland-as-an-attractive-target-for-investment.aspxWe must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investment
Business for transportationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-for-transportation.aspxBusiness for transportation
Petri Kalliokoski: Artificial intelligence moves from words to deedshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Petri-Kalliokoski-Artificial-intelligence-moves-from-words-to-deeds.aspxPetri Kalliokoski: Artificial intelligence moves from words to deeds
Digital ecosystems are emerginghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digital-ecosystems-are-emerging.aspxDigital ecosystems are emerging
Converting rags to design clotheshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Converting-rags-to-design-clothes.aspxConverting rags to design clothes
Jari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beatershttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Old-and-new-workhorses-as-recession-beaters.aspxJari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beaters
Transport gets smarthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Transport-gets-smart.aspxTransport gets smart
Same old routine for the next 100 yearshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Same-old-routine-for-the-next-100-years.aspxSame old routine for the next 100 years
A future without wastewater?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-future-without-wastewater.aspxA future without wastewater?
Modelling and simulation facilitateshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Modelling-and-simulation-facilitates.aspxModelling and simulation facilitates
All sights on generationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/All-sights-on-generation.aspxAll sights on generation
Before information gets lost in numbershttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Before-information-gets-lost-in-numbers.aspxBefore information gets lost in numbers
Designers needed in printed technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Designers-needed-in-printed-technology.aspxDesigners needed in printed technology
Health benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food qualityhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-benefits-and-efficiency-without-sacrificing-food-quality.aspxHealth benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food quality
Serious efforts to boost the Finnish economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Serious-efforts-to-boost-the-Finnish-economy.aspxSerious efforts to boost the Finnish economy
The creative force of change managementhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-creative-force-of-change-management.aspxThe creative force of change management
Defence Forces seek a head starthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Defence-Forces-seek-a-head-start.aspxDefence Forces seek a head start
World in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/World-in-2030-answers-to-tomorrows-questions.aspxWorld in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questions
The story of Finlandhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-story-of-Finland.aspxThe story of Finland
It is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growthhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/It-is-the-duty-of-entrepreneurs-to-seek-growth.aspxIt is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growth
Tua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impacthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Energy-production-and-use–smart-choices-an-impact.aspxTua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impact
Media production and housing services are preparing for the 5G networkshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Media-production-and-housing-services-are-preparing-for-the-5G-networks.aspxMedia production and housing services are preparing for the 5G networks
Miniaturising devices to fit on your palmhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Miniaturising-devices-to-fit-on-your-palm.aspxMiniaturising devices to fit on your palm
Developers of the futurehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Developers-of-the-future.aspxDevelopers of the future
Open-source infrastructure in product development for the electromechanical industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Open-source-infrastructure-in-product-development-for-the-electromechanical-industry.aspxOpen-source infrastructure in product development for the electromechanical industry
Pilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pilot-plants-forge-innovative-ideas-into-business-activities.aspxPilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activities
VTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ handshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/VTTs-spin-off-GrainSense-puts-a-laboratory-in-farmers-hands.aspxVTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ hands
Digitalisation in closing the gaphttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digitalisation-in-closing-the-gap.aspxDigitalisation in closing the gap
Intelligence for machineshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligence-for-machines.aspxIntelligence for machines
Matti Apunen: A problem called excellencehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Matti-Apunen-A-problem-called-excellence.aspxMatti Apunen: A problem called excellence
Better beer based on long-term researchhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Better-beer-based-on-long-term-research.aspxBetter beer based on long-term research
From ideas to major innovationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-drawing-board-to-major-innovation.aspxFrom ideas to major innovations
Intelligent transport – a trump card for Finnish exportshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligent-transport-a-trump-card-for-Finnish-exports.aspxIntelligent transport – a trump card for Finnish exports
We cannot afford not to have robotshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/We-cannot-afford-not-to-have-robots.aspxWe cannot afford not to have robots
Return on investmentshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Return-on-investments.aspxReturn on investments
What's going on in Australia?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Whats-going-on-in-Australia.aspxWhat's going on in Australia?