2014 was a watershed in the history of innovation policy. Rather than resulting in the activation of research and innovation, our industrial sector's long-standing struggle for a new competitive edge led to cost-cutting, which also affected investment in R&D. Fortunately, there were some exceptions to this!
Last year was also historical in the sense that public sector investment in competences, technology and innovation was redirected towards an evaluation of societal phenomena which are, to be sure, important in themselves. However, it is not easy to see the connection between these phenomena and the competitiveness of the business sector. The solutions implemented have led to the major restructuring of research organisations, with the permanent loss of significant competences. Only time will tell whether these solutions were the right ones.
Last year was an exceptional one for VTT as well. Our era as a government agency, which began in 1942, came to an end. We can now face the future as a more streamlined organisation. I am certain that VTT's transition from agency to limited liability company represents a major step forward for the entire Finnish innovation system. Even if it does not change VTT as an innovation player, this new arrangement will enable greater flexibility. In the beginning of 2015, the amalgamation of VTT and the Centre for Metrology and Accreditation MIKES – the national metrology institute of Finland – brought a nice addition to our expertise.
VTT will remain a research organisation which needs significant budget funding in order to break new technological ground. A well-functioning scientific research organisation must be prepared to take risks. The roles of research facilities and equipment are also emphasised in our selected focus areas. The share of budget funding must remain at a healthy level i.e. 40 - 50% of all of our funding. Of course, our collaboration with the private sector is a key metric of the impact of our operations. But what share of our activities can be accounted for by company-driven services? Although there is no right answer to this, around 30% of overall funding sounds about right.
The future looks bright for VTT. Positive signals are emerging from our customer base and major new opportunities have presented themselves. We are building a better tomorrow based on cooperation between various parties, which embraces both the university and private sectors.
Erkki KM Leppävuori,
President & CEO