Securing EU funding
The old stereotypical comparison between Finnish companies and their Swedish counterparts goes something like ”great technology, but poor sales and marketing in Finland”. This is probably not quite true although Finnish consumer brands may not be globally well known. Similarly, when it comes to politics and leading international appointments, Finland fares worse than some other countries. The most recent example of this was the high-level nominations in the EU, although in this round of nominations our Nordic counterparts did not perform any better.
One of the major and often overlooked problems for Finns is our reluctance or inability to build networks. I think we find this area somehow vague or even unpleasant. Business deals should be based on cold facts and facts alone. The product sells if it is the best there is, not because we happen to know the person opposite the table or that the seller and buyer have built a relationship of trust over the years. Risto Siilasmaa’s book Transforming Nokia: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change was a refreshing read. In it, Siilasmaa showed how the sale of the mobile phone business to Microsoft and the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent was mainly the result of carefully nurtured personal relationships. Of course, details of the deals were determined on facts and the piles of documentation were ceiling-high, but ultimately the deals were closed thanks to good relationships between the buyer and seller built through painstaking work.
Good networks are the key to success.
In 2016, Sitra conducted a working life survey. According to the results, only six per cent of Finns found that networking was their strong point. I suspect no great improvement has taken place in the two years since the survey. This finding was one of the reasons Sitra jumped at the chance when the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment told us that Finland could host the European Commission’s ICT Proposers’ Day during Finland’s EU presidency.
The most important networking event on ICT funding, ICT Proposers’ Day will fill Helsinki’s Messukeskus on 19 and 20 September with some two to three thousand researchers, industry representatives, SMEs, board members and other directors from organisations throughout Europe. For Finnish research groups, universities and companies for whom Europe is an interesting market, EU projects are a great avenue through which to market their expertise and find partners.
Although we Finns are not known for our networking skills, we have fared better than others on average in EU application rounds. According to Business Finland, during the first four H2020 programmes, Finland received funding of 639 million euros, which is 35% more than our proportional share. We are net recipients of the EU’s R&D funding.
Tips for ICT Proposers’ Day participants: do your homework.
- Familiarise yourself with the day’s programme thoroughly in advance.
- Think about which of the forthcoming application rounds could produce the best benefits for your company’s clients and sketch out your ideas.
- Look for partners through the Face2face application of the EU Commission’s website.
- Be proactive during the event and meet your partners as well as the officials responsible for the application rounds relevant to your business.
And remember the most important thing: sign up! The event is free to attend but requires advance booking.
P.S. We will be publishing the results of our business survey held in four countries at the New Data Economy Rainmakers event held at the same time as the ICT Proposers’ Day on 19 September at Messukeskus. The survey was conducted to find out about the attitudes towards and plans regarding the data economy in different companies. Visit our website to read more about the programme of Sitra’s event and how to register. If you are interested, do sign up!
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