Kuva: Topias Dean

Published December 5, 2017

50 years supporting coming generations

Fifty years ago, on 5 December 1967, Sitra was given as a gift of the Finnish Parliament to an independent Finland on its 50th birthday. The principal was 100 million Finnish marks in surpluses from the Bank of Finland and the fund was tasked with boosting Finnish competitiveness and well-being.

Parliament made the courageous decision to celebrate the anniversary at a difficult time. The idea behind Sitra was unprecedented: an independent fund sustaining itself from the yield on its principal, with the task of providing Finns with a better future.

“As an independent entity focused on the future, Sitra is not the errand boy of any interest group or political party, but if we must identify someone who gives us orders, it would be a child born today,” says Sitra President Mikko Kosonen. The work must be done so well that children will have the prerequisites for a good life at the point when they reach adulthood and make their own decisions. Sustained well-being is the guiding star of Sitra’s new vision as well.

In 1967, the situation in Finland was difficult in many ways, but the country came out of it by thinking big and working together. In 2017, the situation in Finland is different, but it is not easy today, either. The cures are nevertheless the same: we need to think big, make daring experiments and work together.

“Climate change is a momentous issue for Finns as well as everyone else. We need to find solutions to it very quickly, and with these solutions Finland can be a forerunner,” Mikko Kosonen says. “Unless we adapt to the carrying capacity of the earth, all other talk of the future is mere tinkering,” he adds.

Linking environmental questions to the social and economic point of view has been on Sitra’s agenda to some degree throughout the existence of the fund – from as early as the 1960s. Today, on environmental questions, Sitra speaks on behalf of a carbon-neutral circular economy: the economy needs to be made to operate in an ecologically sustainable manner in order to bring the overconsumption of natural resources under control. This is a prerequisite for socially sustainable well-being. There are many ways to achieve this, but everyone needs to join the effort.

Also important for a functioning society is the capacity for renewal. Over the decades Sitra has been at the forefront in in the background in many changes, bringing capital investment to Finland in the 1980s, launching genetic research and, in the most recent years, starting a citizen’s service path (KaPa) operating as part of the new Suomi.fi services. At present, Sitra is preparing a new one-stop-shop operator that will collect and co-ordinate well-being data, which is set to become a new national treasure for the Finns.

“Renewal starts with us, people. Even though the megatrends shaping the world extend all the way to Finland, the future is still largely in our own hands – if that is what we decide,” says Kosonen. This is also the idea behind the “Seven Siblings from the Future” exhibition that was opened in November by Sitra and the Finnish Science Centre Heureka.

The coming generations will also be in the hearts of decision-makers in Parliament on 5 December 2017. As Finland celebrates its centenary it will again be time for decisions to mark the anniversary, as was the case when Sitra was established 50 years ago. This time, the target is the approval of upgraded by-laws for the Finnish National Fund for Children (ITLA) and the donation of a stock portfolio worth 50 million euros to boost and diversify the activities of the Fund. The tasks of the new ITLA are to support children and families living in Finland.

Sitra warmly welcomes ITLA as it joins the ranks of future makers.


In brief

Sitra in a nutshell

  • Founded in 1967.
  • An independent institution for the future set up by Parliament with the task of promoting a successful Finland for tomorrow. Its operations are based on the Act on Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund (in Finnish).
  • Themes include a carbon-neutral circular economy, the ability of Finnish society to renew itself, and a new working life and a sustainable economy.
  • Means to these ends include foresight, studies, strategy processes, societal experiments and development, education, and fund investments.
  • Activities are funded through income from the fund’s basic capital; the annual budget is about 30-40 million euros.
  • The investment capital is invested sustainably and profitably in the manner required by the Sitra Act.
  • About 160 employees.
  • Sitra President Mikko Kosonen

Decades of Sitra


  • In the 1960s Sitra funded the first foreign deal involving the elevator manufacturer Kone, brought methods of futurology to Finland and conducted trailblazing environmental research.
  • In the 1970s Sitra was a forerunner in the public funding of the development of new technology and application, and funded research into xylitol, for example.
  • In the 1980s Sitra brought capital investment activities to Finland, and the recombinant DNA project launches Finnish genetic research.
  • In the 1990s Sitra was briefly Finland’s largest capital investor, but parallel research, education and innovation projects took an increasingly important role towards the end of the decade.
  • In the 2000s the monetary investor emerged to be a social reformer with an agenda that included things such as the information society and electronic healthcare. Corporate financing was directed at start-up companies.
  • In the 2010s Sitra aims to ensure well-being while staying within the limits of the planet. Sitra is bringing X-road services from Estonia and impact investing from the UK to Finland. The genome strategy, the virtual clinic (now ODA) and the data packages of social and healthcare are examples of close co-operation with administration. Growth is being sought with initiatives including the gathering of data on well-being and efforts to reduce climate change through the establishment of the Climate Leadership Council, the Fisu (Finnish Sustainable Communities) network and the Smart & Clean Foundation.


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