Estimated reading time 3 min

Sitra’s history has been published – Future as a Mission

To mark its 40th anniversary, Sitra has published its history Sitra - Tulevaisuus tehtävänä (Future as a Mission). The book recounts not only the history of Sitra but also provides a cross-section account of the development of the entire Finnish society and its innovation policies, focusing specifically on the early decades of Sitra.

Published

To mark its 40th anniversary, Sitra has published its history Sitra – Tulevaisuus tehtävänä (Future as a Mission). The book recounts not only the history of Sitra but also provides a cross-section account of the development of the entire Finnish society and its innovation policies, focusing specifically on the early decades of Sitra. The history is written by historian Tuomo Särkikoski and the background research was steered by a committee chaired by Esko Ollila, former minister and member of the Board of the Bank of Finland.

Since its establishment, Sitra has played a significant role in supporting and renewing the economic foundation for Finnish well-being. “Exerting such influence has occurred in several ways that do not always make the headlines,” says Esko Aho, President of Sitra at the book launch. “That is why it is important to have a comprehensive account of all the things that Sitra has done and the societal development that has influenced Sitra’s choices.”

A gift to Finland

Sitra was established in 1967 as a fund under the aegis of the Finnish Parliament. Klaus Waris, the Governor of the Bank of Finland, had suggested that the Bank of Finland should mark Finland’s 50th anniversary by donating a hundred million marks (140 million euro) basic capital to a fund that was to be established. The tasks of the fund would be to secure the stability of the Finnish markka, to promote economic growth and to improve Finland’s international competitiveness.

Sitra was born at a time when Finland’s economic policies were undergoing a transition. The liberalisation of imports in 1957 and EFTA membership in 1961 had meant new international challenges for Finland. It was necessary that its exports be increased and diversified. The great devaluation of the markka in 1967 restored the competitiveness of Finnish exports and also helped to strengthen growth policies and to enhance structural reform.
“The end of 1967 and the launch of Sitra can be seen as a starting point for modern Finland, in which the post-war economy had runs its course and the foundation that had thus been created was now breeding something entirely new,” says Tuomo Särkikoski, historian and author of Sitra’s history.

Two cornerstones

Sitra has throughout its history funded the development of new products and methods as well as research and reports that benefit the entire Finnish society. Through research and development funding, Sitra has aimed particularly at promoting the practical utilisation of research findings. The first extensive research aimed at wider public benefit was a 1968 study on the prevention of environmental pollution. Today, environmental business is back on Sitra’s agenda. “Over the years, organisational reforms and changes in the operating environment have not changed the basic idea of the fund. Sitra still provides funding for technology and companies while also acting in a wider societal role,” Särkikoski says.

Flexible and fast

Substantial resources, autonomy and loosely defined goals have left Sitra sufficient freedom to choose is funding targets and methods. Its operations have never suffered from unnecessary bureaucracy, so it has always been quick to respond to the demands of the time. It is characteristic of Sitra to create initiatives and launch activities and then make an exit and move on to the next challenge, once other operators have joined in.

One important milestone in Sitra’s history was, for example, the reform of the Finnish technology policy and the establishment of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, in the early 1980s. Sitra reassessed its role as a financier of research and development and made a deliberate shift towards supporting venture capital activities in Finland.

National mission is now also an international mission

Sitra has throughout its history created opportunities for international cooperation, and today, the significance of the international dimension is greater than ever. “In the past few years, Sitra has become a strong international operator, which is completely in line with our national mission,” says Esko Aho. “Our operations have expanded far beyond our national borders. It is now our duty to strengthen Finland’s position in the global operating environment.”

Further information

Tuomo Särkikoski, Historian
tel. +358 40 517 5208, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Kari Tolvanen,Executive Vice President
tel. +358 9 6189 9270, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Laura Niemi, Communications Manager
tel. +358 50 3738602, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Publication details
Sitra – Tulevaisuus tehtävänä (Sitra – the Future as a Mission) Tuomo Särkikoski. Sitra . Edita Publishing Oy 2007, Helsinki.

Sales: Edita customer services and bookshops. Price €37.10

Published