Dreaming together with the EU Innovation Commissioner

 “Networking is important…If you want to survive, you’ll have to do that”, said EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, during her visit at Otaniemi research and innovation hub yesterday. She praised the way how Finns have created their ecosystem for innovations. 

People from the Otaniemi innovation ecosystem gathered on soft sofas and comfortable chairs in a relaxed atmosphere. Usually it’s students and start-up entrepreneurs using this space at the EIT Helsinki premises enjoying their coffee and brainstorming on new innovations. But yesterday it was the stage for the visit of the EU Commissioner for research, innovation and science. Geoghegan-Quinn was following and commenting on a discussion on the Otaniemi ecosystem: achievements, competitiveness and lessons learnt.

The Commissioner was convinced that the Horizon 2020 programme has a lot to offer to Finnish companies, research and universities. The programme is shifted towards innovation and business more than the previous ones. 

Ingredients of European success

The participants looked for ingredients of European success.  “Networking is also a European strength” and “risk taking is something the Americans have”, they concluded.

Geoghegan-Quinn listed education as a great motor for change in Europe. She also said that the regulators can do a lot by pushing aside barriers wherever it’s possible. 

The Commissioner's team wanted to know what are the special strengths of the Finns in addition to networking. Safety, clean air, fresh water, and lots of talent were mentioned. Then the discussion turned quickly in describing how much worse the Finns are than the Americans in many aspects.  “Humble, but not very market oriented” summarised AppCampus director Paolo Borella the Finnish mentality. 

“Here you’re in the completely right place within the hub, said commissioner when talking about EIT ICT Labs. “Challenge of EIT is that people don’t understand what it is” and “you need to showcase, you need to get to the parliament”, she advised. 

Dreaming the Future

The moderator of the event Tuula Antola, Economic and Business Development Director at City of Espoo, also invited the participants to dream and look for solutions to big global problems. What could the Otaniemi hub do? 

Everybody agreed on the importance of public and private partnership. EIT ICT Labs Director Marko Turpeinen emphasized health & well-being as one potential area. “This is an area where Europe has a match. You can start with fairly small investment. I’m seeing a lot of innovation”, he said. 

“Young people. They want to do something meaningful”, reminded also Hannu Kemppainen, Executive Director, Steering and Networks, Tekes. 

The participants in this vivid discussion were from Tekes, VTT, Aalto University, Nokia, EIT ICT Labs, Fortum, AppCampus and City of Espoo.  

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