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How does your story end when you recount the coronavirus spring from your rocking chair?


June 22, 2020

Will your family later on be telling a story about how everything else went nicely with the great-great-great-uncle’s invention made during the coronavirus, but the product was branded by Swedes, the money was pocketed by the Chinese, and the product was never even heard of anywhere else? Our recent survey reveals that it is time for us Finns to learn to commercialise our innovations properly, as we are now laying the foundation for the Finnish economy from 2021 onwards. The Finnish government should realise this as well, writes Kolster’s CEO Timo Helosuo.

I have been thinking about rocking chairs recently. Not because I long for peace, but because we now have business stories that can later be used to torment younger generations, preferably for hours. Speaking in that annoying, know-it-all voice: “Listen child, when things get tough, tough ones start to innovate!”

For that is what we have been doing, all over Finland and in Finnish companies, throughout the long spring of 2020. This has been a great example of the ingenuity of Finnish companies.

Especially in the service sector, many companies nimbly changed their business model. In the textile sector, companies and entrepreneurs started up, for example, face mask production. That is courage that has taught many a lot, and perhaps given rise to entirely new ideas and inventions – the foundations of future success stories.

Now the question is: How will our story continue from this point on? How do our inventions become successful commercial innovations?

We can get work done, but how do we get our product out to the world?

In the midst of the coronavirus spring, we at Kolster commissioned a survey among Finnish corporate decision-makers on innovations and IPR matters. We received 201 eye-opening responses. They can be summarised as follows: we Finns do not know how to commercialise our innovations, and the decisions of our government do not help companies succeed.

The views of corporate decision-makers are particularly interesting now when the debated millions of euros in Business Finland’s subsidies for business development have been distributed and can be used. It is worth remembering that, despite the (appropriate) criticism, the subsidies also hold great potential. The new Uber or Wolt can emerge anywhere, and a new invention may get its start from EUR 10,000 in support. 

According to our survey, 93% of the respondents consider Finns to be weak in commercialising innovations. This needs to be rectified swiftly and firmly because, with commercialisation expertise, we define the trajectory of our innovation investments. If we do not commercialise, innovations are left rotting on shelves, not being made available to customers around the world. If we do commercialise, innovations will quickly recoup the millions in loans spent on them. That benefits the whole of society. And that is what Finland needs so that the next generation can pay off our huge coronavirus loans.

The government also received heavy criticism in our survey. Only 10% of the respondents think that the actions of the current government have promoted innovation in their own company. 71% think the opposite. Only 5% think that the actions of the government have promoted growth in their own company.

The government is facing a tough task to stimulate and, on the other hand, balance the Finnish economy. That requires genuine actions, but also insight and the desire to give Finnish companies opportunities to succeed.

The government is now investing in rail projects to get work done – but what is being done to get our product out to the world? This is a vital issue for Finland’s economic growth.

We need to commercialise innovations and open the doors to the international market, and the Team Finland network, for example, must provide stronger support for commercialisation.

Smart ones are now thinking big and ahead

The coronavirus has forced many companies to rethink things. It has been hard, but also an incredibly great opportunity to build something new.

Smart companies are now rethinking everything – and in big way. It is encouraging that the majority of the respondents to our survey say that their companies intend to invest in innovation activities and brand building in the coming years.

It is equally important now to already consider how to protect those innovations in order to prevent neighbours from overtaking you in branding and the commercial benefit from flowing into the hands of counterfeiters or competitors around the world.

We do not yet know how the rocking chair story that began this spring will end. But let’s at least make sure that we get that product out to the world in our story – well protected. So that it is not the case that the family will later on be telling a story about how the great-great-great-uncle reinvented the wheel during the 2020 coronavirus spring, but left it in the attic when nobody came looking for it at home.

We would be happy to help you come up with a happy ending to the story. Let’s be in touch!

Check out the results of the IPR survey.

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IPR survey: According to corporate decision-makers, innovation is an important success factor for a company’s operations, but the actions of the current Finnish government do not support it