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Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra undergoes renewal – focus on promoting economic growth and innovation

The new strategy aims to increase Sitra’s efficiency and agility in tackling the problems Finland will face in the future.

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The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is renewing its strategy and operating model from the beginning of September. Going forward, the Future Fund will focus on promoting wellbeing, sustainable economic growth and renewing Finland. 
 
The strategy will bring three key changes to Sitra’s work. Sitra will strengthen the production of futures knowledge on Finland’s major future challenges, promote Finland’s renewal through societal innovation, and increase co-operation with other actors to solve these problems.

Sitra’s Supervisory Board adopted the renewed strategy on 12 June 2024. 

The Future Fund is refocusing its activities in a context where the Finnish economy has essentially not grown since 2008, and labour productivity growth is weak. An ageing population and the resulting labour shortages are undermining the conditions for economic growth. Finland’s ability to harness innovation is poor. In addition, Russia’s war of aggression is destabilising the operating environment in many ways.

“The outlook for the future has become bleaker. Sitra also needs to change so that we can be useful to Finland and help our country renew itself.  We are focusing our work on promoting sustainable economic growth, developing innovation and anticipating future trends, which are at the core of Sitra’s mission,” says Atte Jääskeläinen, President of Sitra. 
 
By renewing itself, Sitra is improving its capability to respond quickly to new, emerging phenomena. Alongside agility, it will continue to invest in long-term work. The Future Fund selects the subject areas it will especially concentrate on and reviews them annually. In the next phase, Sitra will focus on four target areas. These are growth, sustainability transition, democracy and polarisation, as well as data and artificial intelligence. 

Sitra’s Supervisory Board approved the Board’s proposal that Sitra make a significant special financial contribution to promoting sustainable economic growth beyond its normal annual budget, which will allow the work to start immediately.

More co-operation 

In the reform, feedback collected extensively from Sitra’s stakeholders and the development recommendations made from it have been utilised. 

The reform will change Sitra’s work in many ways. In the future, Sitra’s nationally and internationally recognised foresight work will produce deeper futures knowledge on selected topics for everyone in Finland to use.  Sitra also aims to strengthen futures thinking and foresight capabilities in society.  

The reform also marks Sitra’s return to the field of innovation in Finland after years of absence. The Future Fund invests in promoting societal innovation in collaboration with other actors. Societal innovations offer solutions to complex societal problems. These can be products, services, operating models or structural reforms aimed at renewing Finland. Sitra’s stakeholders have expressed a strong desire for Sitra to return to developing Finnish innovation system and its activities.

“In future, Sitra will increasingly act as a partner and help others. Finland’s problems are complex and cannot be solved in isolation. We will bring actors together and support them in finding solutions. We will also increase our funding for experiments and pilots with partners,” says Atte Jääskeläinen.  

The highly popular Megatrends review, leadership training for sustainable economic policy, and leadership training for the future EU launched last autumn will also continue at the renewed Sitra.   

Operating model to be renewed and middle management to be reduced 

In addition to agility, Sitra is seeking greater efficiency in its operations and long-term cost management. The reform aims to respond both to changes in the operating environment and to the changing and growing expectations of stakeholders. Stakeholders gave excellent feedback on Sitra’s work in an extensive survey. At the same time, they also expect Sitra to renew and streamline its operations.  

During the strategy process, Sitra engaged in change negotiations. These negotiations dealt with the renewal of Sitra’s management model, operational model, and organisation. As a result of the change negotiations, the number of middle management positions will decrease and there will be changes in the top management.

The former theme-based units will be replaced by four functions. Veera Heinonen has been appointed Director of Foresight and Societal training. Kalle Nieminen will take the lead at the Solutions Hub, which will focus on promoting experiments and innovation. The Programme function works with selected partners to develop solutions and put them into practice. Lasse Miettinen has been appointed to manage this function. In future, Sitra’s international work will be separated into its own function, which will mainly operate with external funding. Kristo Lehtonen is in charge of international work. The directors of these functions are members of the management team.  

Sitra’s international work currently includes the world’s leading circular economy event, the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), and EU projects related to utilising data, the circular economy and promoting sustainable choices in everyday life.

As a result of the change negotiations, Sitra will eliminate 23 posts from the beginning of September, including the posts of the Chief Operating Officer, Theme Directors and Project Managers. Efforts will be made to find alternative roles in the new organisation for the people who held these positions.   

Sitra continuously evaluates the number of personnel in operations funded by the return on invested capital. In the new strategy, international operations will be a separate unit and will primarily seek funding from outside Finland. 

Sitra does not use tax revenue from the national budget. It raises funds for its operations almost entirely from the investment market.