Kari Leppälä: Tervanpoltosta innovaatiotalouteen
The Republic of Finland, a member of the European Union, lies in the north of Europe. Finland borders Sweden in the west and Russia in the east. Some 5.2 million people live in Finland. Finnish territory covers 338,000 square kilometers and includes 60,000 lakes. The whole country is covered in a blanket of snow in the winter, but summers are warm and beautiful. The population of the metropolitan area of the capital, Helsinki, including suburban cities of Espoo and Vantaa is one million.Finland’s GNP per capita totaled EUR 25000 in 2004, which was close to the mean for the European Union.
Finland is a modern and progressive country with good social services and highly developed and specialized industries. The most significant industries deal with metal and engineering products, forest products and products of information technology like mobile phones. Finnish high-tech exports grew over the ten-year span between 1989 and 1998 from 1 billion to 7 billion U.S. dollars. Main trade partners include Sweden, Germany, Russia, UK and USA. About 95 percent of the Finnish households have cell phones, 65 percent own a personal computer and 52 percent have an internet connection.
International evaluations of Finnish innovation activities and competitiveness have shown that Finland ranks in these fields among the first ones in the world. Finland is among the first nations in the world in domestic patent applications per population and number one in high tech patents. The Finnish know-how, invention activity, networking and the various programs and funding for advisory services, evaluation, patenting, product development and commercialization of inventions are on a high level when compared internationally. Finnish Government and corporations both invest heavily in research and development – currently a combined total of 3,5% of Finnish GNP, or near 5 billion USD. Cooperation between public and private sectors as well as networking are very good and important. Thus, Finnish companies have experienced that innovation activities combined to active management and good networking give good and competitive results.
Innovations and success in an enterprise depend greatly on the ability to manage the innovation activities in the organization. There must be skills to develop, acquire and apply new scientific knowledge and know-how. Research and development within the enterprise, along with the existing and developing expertise of its personnel, provide a basis for the propagation, development and exploitation of competitive inventions. Also cooperation with universities brings added value to the work. Information and know-how turn into a strategic resource for the enterprise. Often new enterprises are established based on potential and interesting invention, which may become a successful invention. There must naturally be a balance between goals and resources. Very important is the long range support from the management.
The main phases involved in developing an invention into a commercially successful innovation include
- Planning (technical, schedules, business, financing)
- Evaluation (novelty and IPR, market potential, technical features, business)
- Patenting (strategy, domestic and international)
- Product development (technical, production, commercial)
- Marketing and commercialisation (own production or licensing, domestic, international)
All these phases require specialists and financial resources. Commercialisation is the key to making the invention successful and to earn revenues.
Technological and economic development worldwide leans heavily on new and competitive products. They can be classified on the basis of their significance at different levels of sophistication and in different sectors of the economy, from high-tech to everyday products. Some reach international success, while others are noted within their home region or country. Technology and inventions promote general welfare and also play an important role in the production of services.
In most industries, intellectual property rights, especially patents and their exploitation, hold key significance in the development and commercialization of new products. Businesses should have an intellectual property strategy as part of their corporate planning and strategy.
An intellectual property strategy defines the principles that intellectual property rights are designed to serve and how patent matters and other intellectual property matters are handled within the enterprise. The purpose of patent policy is to support the business operations of an enterprise. Neglecting patent matters may turn into a threat to development in an internationally expanding business.