Results of the work
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Gaia-X Finland builds one of Europe’s leading data sharing business networks in Finland

Sitra's Gaia-X Finland project focused on the future backbone of Europe's data economy: shared data spaces. The Data Spaces Alliance Finland, launched in spring 2024, will continue the work and strengthen the position of Finnish organisations in the European data economy. The project was implemented between 2021 and 2024.

Writers

Anssi Komulainen

Project Director, Gaia-X Finland

Kirsi Suomalainen

Specialist, Communications and Public Affairs

Published

What was it about?

In 2020, the European Commission published a data strategy. At its core is the concept of data spaces Data space A set of mutually agreed principles and rules for sharing and exchanging data within or between different sectors. Open term page Data space as the backbone of digital competitiveness. About a year later, Sitra launched the Gaia-X Finland project, which aimed to examine the current status of data spaces, explore the business benefits they enable, and ascertain the best way for Finland to ensure the success of domestic players in the European data economy. The main task of the project was to coordinate the local Gaia-X network, or hub, in Finland.

Gaia-X is a pan-European network of actors that initially aimed to connect European cloud computing providers as an alternative to US and Chinese digital giants. The network’s activities were structured around discussions to ensure interoperability at the European level. They also utilized case work within national networks to ensure that shared solutions were tailored to serve the needs of different organisations. During the Sitra coordination period, the Finnish local network consisted of seven sectoral working groups.

Later, Gaia-X joined forces with other European data space networks in the form of the EU-funded Data Spaces Support Centre (DSSC) project. Sitra got involved thanks to its thought leadership on data space governance models and in particular its work on the rulebook.

At the beginning of Sitra’s project, one of the biggest surprises was how few companies in Finland saw the use of data as a key part of their business. To be interested in the data economy, companies need to be able to create value from data or understand how to use data to improve their own operations. In order to benefit from data resources, a company must have a business model that is able to exploit data outside its own organisation. The majority of Finnish companies still have a long way to go.

From an international perspective, the data economy is already a very lucrative area . Inherent in its nature is the fact that the first movers reap the biggest benefits and pull ahead of slower organisations. It then becomes difficult for slower movers to close this gap at a later stage. Finland must act quickly if we want to remain at the forefront of digitalisation.

Contrary to preconceptions, there were hardly any data space projects in Finland at the start of the project.

What did we achieve?

We launched five pilot projects using data spaces through a funding application, which resulted in the creation of data spaces for maritime transport, air transport, agriculture, and human resources development in Finland. These will be linked to wider European developments. The experience of the pilots showed how important the right organizer or orchestrator is for the success of the business ecosystem and the data space it serves.

The coordination work of the Finnish Gaia-X hub illustrated that Gaia-X is in practice a set of technology choices that will become relevant as the data space starts to be built. Finland is not yet that far advanced. Perhaps the most advanced project thus far is X-Road, the joint effort between Finland, Estonia and Iceland, which was developed by the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS). NIIS took over the coordination of the Finnish Gaia-X network in spring 2024.

A more fruitful approach than technology choices is the data space networking approach tested in Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, where a concerted effort has been made to turn national ideas into European success stories. This is how the Data Spaces Alliance Finland, launched in spring 2024 and coordinated by the Finnish Technology Industry and TIEKE, was founded. The aim of the Data Spaces Alliance Finland is to bring together Finland’s key data space actors and ensure the competitiveness of Finnish operators in Europe’s accelerating data economy. Twenty three pioneering public and private sector organisations, including Sitra, are involved.

To remain vibrant, a community needs enough common goals and a common rallying point. Such a rallying point was born in April 2024 in the form of the sold-out Nordic Data Festival (videos of the presentations are on the event page). The tradition will continue under the leadership of VTT in 2025, but before that, the Gaia-X Summit will bring international data space developers to Finland in November 2024.

As the work on data space is well underway in Finland and Europe, now is the right time for Sitra to step aside and let others lead the actual development work. However, Sitra will continue to be an active member of the Data Spaces Alliance Finland and the Gaia-X and Data Spaces Support Centre networks.

Publications

publications

State of Finnish Data Spaces

publications

Development phase of data-driven ecosystems and networks 2023

publications

Technology Landscape of Data Spaces

publications

Towards a Holistic EU Data Governance

publications

Rulebook for a fair data economy

publications

EU regulation builds a fairer data economy

Finland's Gaia-X strategy cover
publications

Finland’s Gaia-X strategy

Latest

Collection

Eight lessons from building data spaces

Collection

Business modeling and value drivers for data spaces – findings from the pilot projects

news

Data spaces are building blocks of the digital future

news

Only fair rules will strengthen the data economy – new recommendations to clarify EU data regulation

articles

Better products, services and insight – data-sharing networks reap rewards of collaboration

news

Sitra survey: plenty of trust but funding and business expertise needed – impetus from data for joint innovation

articles

Using data to ease maritime transport congestion and reduce emissions at ports 

blogs

Who decides the rules of fair data sharing?

articles

Four approaches for data monetisation in the data economy

news

Sitra’s rulebook provides a framework for companies to share data more easily, securely and fairly

news

Data Ecosystem Specialist, Fair Data Economy

Questions and answers

Questions and answers: Call for pilot projects on data sharing applications

articles

Twelve principles for value creation at ecosystem level through data sharing

news

Sitra issues call for funding applications to boost Europe-wide data sharing

news

Funding to boost maturity of Finnish data space initiatives 

Speech

The fair data economy of the future is here – How do we seize the opportunities today?

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