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The economic future of Finland – will success last?

Finland could turn into a victim of its own success, if sufficient courage is not found to remodel the innovation and development operations sooner rather than later, American professors Charles Sabel and AnnaLee Saxenian claim in the Sitra report A Fugitive Success

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In the turmoil of a financial crisis, the success of national economies and the future of jobs become topical issues. The economic rise of Finland has long been based on innovation and successful industrial R&D operations. Finland could, however, turn into a victim of its own success, if sufficient courage is not found to remodel the innovation and development operations sooner rather than later, American professors Charles Sabel and AnnaLee Saxenian claim in the Sitra report A Fugitive Success – Finland´s Economic Future.

“Product development and efficient production processes have always been strong points for the Finnish industries. Innovative operations have been successful, and fields such as forestry and the IT and communications industries have been crucial to the economic success of the country. However, success has prevented industries from reshaping their operations in time,” says Professor Charles Sabel from the Columbia University. Sabel has studied Finnish innovation processes together with Professor AnnaLee Saxenian from the University of California, Berkeley.

According to Sabel and Saxenian, the central question determining Finland’s economic success in the future is whether the Finnish innovation system will find the courage to change. Finnish industries tend to keep innovation strictly inside the organisation. According to the book, innovations in today’s world are based on an open environment, interaction and international operations.

“Saxenian’s and Sabel’s book challenges us to think over the essentials of innovation. Our systems are developed for domestic operations only. If Finland wants to do well in international competition, organisations must be able to change their operational culture and product development towards an open and international direction,” says Director Antti Hautamäki from Sitra Innovation Research.

The book examines Finnish innovation systems from an external critical viewpoint, suggesting various means that can help Finnish industries to respond to the challenges of global competition. The book uses forestry and the IT and communications fields as examples. Together, these fields are responsible for more than 40% of Finnish exports.

“The book provides us with a good starting point for the practical implementation of the brand new national innovation strategy. At the moment, we have a great demand for a new strategy; if no measures are taken, the competitiveness of Finnish industries may deteriorate suprisingly quickly. Preventive action is always better than sitting down waiting for the crisis to happen, as recent events in the forest industry amply prove,” Hautamäki says.

For further information, please contact:

Antti Hautamäki, Director, Innovation Research, Sitra
Tel. +358 9 618 99 232, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Elina Kiiski, Communications Officer
Tel. +358 44 540 3367, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Publication details
A Fugitive Success – Finland´s Economic future
Charles Sabel & AnnaLee Saxenian
Sitra Reports 80
ISBN 978-951-563-638-6 (paperback)
ISSN 1457-571X (paperback)
Helsinki: Sitra, 2008
PDF document numbers: ISBN 978-951-563-639-3 ISSN 1457-5728

You can order the report from Sitra by calling +358 (9) 618 991, or sending an e-mail to: julkaisut@sitra.fi.
Publication in PDF format »

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