Digitalising production processes and using new technologies helps improve the competitiveness of industry while bringing industrial jobs back to Finland. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment directed EUR 2 million of additional funding to VTT, which will be used to make Finnish industry more progressive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how vulnerable the industrial subcontracting chain is; one problem is that production has been increasingly moved to China in previous years. Industrial companies are now turning to the global market for new subcontracting possibilities and assessing the benefits and risks of the new chains that would be created. For Finnish SMEs, this opens up opportunities in the development of export products.
“With this additional investment form the Government, we want to promote digitalisation in the manufacturing industry and boost the competitiveness of companies in the post-COVID business environment. Bringing the subcontracting chains of production back to Finland can be economically viable, but it requires a significant increase in automation and using artificial intelligence, robotisation, and 5G. It will require closer cooperation between companies and research organisations”, says Pirjo Kutinlahti from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
“This investment is expected to encourage companies to invest in innovations that support renewal. The SME sector needs more export products that it can offer to the global supply chain. VTT has tools to help companies accelerate the digitalisation of their production and operations. We also invite companies to our 5G test environment so that they can test AI solutions in practice, including remote controlled robotics, real-time traceability of the supply chain, and the cooperation of people and machines”, says Karoliina Salminen, Vice President of the Cognitive manufacturing industry research area at VTT.
Export products of the future are being developed now
Finland already has an internationally high level of expertise in technology and digitalisation, which must be utilised more efficiently in manufacturing companies.
“Finland needs a common national vision of what to do next. It will help smaller companies take action and find new opportunities for cooperation with large companies and international networks. This is the roadmap work we are doing together with industry. We want to increase companies' awareness of the expertise potential that VTT and higher education institutions have to offer in the development of future export products”, emphasises Salminen.
Another new initiative pushing this cooperation forward is the Sustainable Industry X (SIX) cooperation network between VTT, the Tampere University and companies. The initiative serves as a cooperation platform for projects between research organisations and companies, and for development work that is relevant to industry. SIX is also the foundation for a new innovation hub for the manufacturing industry in Finland, drawing in skilled professionals and international enterprises.