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Speeches, 2/29/2016

Welcoming remarks by Minister Soini at the Australian–Finnish–Estonian Innovation Forum

Welcoming remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Timo Soini, Australian–Finnish–Estonian Innovation Forum, Embassy of Finland, Canberra, 29 February 2016.

Welcome to the Australian–Finnish–Estonian Innovation Forum!

I bring greetings from Finland – the most innovative country in the world – along with Estonia. Prime Minister Turnbull has urged Australians to innovate, so there is a great scope for cooperation for us all.

In miles Australia may be far from Northern Europe, but in a global digital world distances are secondary. Except that they "make hearts grow fonder". And this will add a positive spin to our cooperation.

And I did not come only with warm greetings. I have a high-powered business delegation with me. They represent a wide spectrum of know-how from automatization and digital solutions to innovative use of materials. They will be able to tell you in concrete terms what the Finnish innovations and business can offer for the Australian economy.

As some of you might have noticed Finland features on top of many country rankings - from clean tech to innovation. Why is this so? Perhaps a few words to try to explain why this is so.

A crucial lesson we have learnt, sometimes in a hard way and sometimes a bit too late, is that to succeed in a changing world, you have to transform yourself. Finland has reinvented itself many times during the last century. We are still at it. And we will be at it again tomorrow.

Like in other human activities - everything starts with people. With limited natural resources Finland has always depended on its human resources. We need well-educated people creating more with less. Finns have always been keen to adapt new technology – whether electricity, telephones or computers.

We are known for "high-tech" largely thanks to Nokia. In fact, Nokia educated a whole generation of engineers, world-class business people and other professionals. The old Nokia may have gone belly up, but there is a new Nokia in mobile networks. With its takeover of Alcatel-Lucent, it will soon be a big player in Australia, too.

If we have been known for high-tech, we are now also known for cleantech. Because for us even "garbage" is a source of inspiration. Finland is a global pioneer in technologies for power plants that utilize waste as feedstock and for waste-based fuel production.

Promotion of non-technological innovations – for example services and design – is an important part of our innovation policy. The so called "maternity box" is a globally known Finnish social innovation from the 60's. Good inventions go a long way. So the "box" was still a big hit at the recent Multicultural Festival here in Canberra. Please take some time during the coffee break to take a closer look.

Innovations and technology form part of Finnish culture but they are not enough. Research and brilliant inventions, like invention of WI-FI in this country, do not guarantee commercial success on their own, as Australians well know.

Our government has therefore focused on connecting researchers and companies. And helping with funding that connection. In fact, one of the key strengths of the Finnish innovation environment is the active and successful dialogue involving companies, research institutes and the public sector. Did you know that Finland ranks first in how its domestic policies support worldwide innovation?

Since the Global Financial Crises Finland has gone through a rough patch. Our GDP is only now beginning to recover. But I firmly believe that continued innovation is crucial in bringing our society back to business. Turning inventions into products and services that people want to buy will be key to reinventing ourselves once again.

Finland has in fact already become the start-up hub of Northern Europe. Every November we have slush on the ground in Helsinki. But every year we have another kind of Slush there, too. And we like that slush much better and invite you to come and see it, too.

That Slush is a platform for innovators. In a few years Slush has grown to become one of the leading platforms for start-ups and those investing in them. It is also a great example of Finnish-Estonian cooperation. Martin Talvari, who is here to talk more about it, is Estonian.

I wish you all an interesting and productive innovation event, and lots of follow-up in Australia, in Finland and in Estonia.


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Updated 2/29/2016

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