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Business programme to be expanded: new data-based growth to be brought within the reach of all SMEs

The results of a Sitra pilot programme are showing Finnish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the way to data-based business. The productised business programme will soon be available to all SMEs in Finland. Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment aims to use the programme to boost the country’s economic growth.


Mira Nupponen


The goal of the IHAN business programme’s pilot scheme, which started in autumn 2020, was to help Finnish SMEs reform their business operations with the use of data. The core of the programme consists of business models that use data as a raw material and the creation of value from shared data with partners while following common rules.

What were the results?

The SMEs that took part in the IHAN business programme come from various industries. During the programme, each participating business created concepts and started building promising business models and solutions. Examples of the results have been compiled on the IHAN business programme’s website.

For example, the cleaning company Sivex’s goal is to help the entire industry revamp itself; the barbershop chain M Room seeks to expand its operations to new industries; and MPS Enterprises aims to improve its recruitment services’ ability to anticipate future needs with the help of data. Motiva Services Oy, Platform of Trust and CLIC Innovation decided to collaborate to develop a circular economy ecosystem where data helps improve the efficiency of material flows across industries.

“Data is relevant to all industries and offers a path to reform and growth,” says Sitra’s President Jyrki Katainen. “The pioneering businesses that took part in the IHAN business programme also provide relatable examples of data-based business to different industries. This is a great starting point.”

What’s next?

Various participants will work to productise the IHAN business programme concept and make the programme widely available to other SMEs as well.

The IHAN business boost (website in Finnish), which was arranged by the Finnish Junior Chamber for its member network, is the first lighter version of the IHAN business programme offered outside Sitra. The business boost uses the training material created in the IHAN business programme along with support from peer mentoring and a steering group.

The goal of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is to ensure that the business programme continues to be used. The ministry’s preliminary goal is that about 4,000 SMEs – representing a fifth of Finnish SMEs employing between 10 and 250 people – will have increased their data economy skills or developed their business operations on the basis of data with the help of the business programme by 2026.

“In the future, Finland’s competitiveness will be the result of a multidisciplinary and internationally networked ecosystem of SMEs, where value is generated by new business models that take advantage of data,” says Petri Räsänen, Development Director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s Department of Innovations and Enterprise Financing. “We want to help Finnish SMEs succeed through the use of data while also supporting Finland’s economic growth.”

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment eventually aims to scale up the business programme for the European data market through various co-operation projects and innovation ecosystems.

The IHAN business programme website has more information about the programme and its results. The training material will be made freely available to all during the spring of 2021.

The pilot programme was carried out as part of Sitra’s IHAN project, which lays a foundation for a fair data economy. In this kind of economy, the successful digital services of the future are based on trust and create value for everyone.

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