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Research policy faced with the need to find solutions

The past few months have been characterised by economic uncertainty. Western Europe has slid into a mild recession, with no obvious means of exiting the debt crisis. In Asia, economic growth continues, albeit at a slower rate than previously. Isolated positive changes have been reported with respect to economic development in the United States, but overall economic activity has remained at a weak level.

The drop in Finnish exports is turning out to be as great as many had feared. The current export value of goods and services, when projected to an annual level, is nearly 20 billion euro less than in 2008, when the value of exports peaked prior to the onset of the economic crisis.

Once a slump is over, Finnish exports have traditionally bounced back relatively quickly to pre-recession levels, regaining their growth momentum. Now, the situation is different. It is no longer a question of a transitory slump; in fact, there is a significant risk of exports remaining permanently at a lower level.

 

Finland’s well-being is fundamentally dependent on revenues obtained from exports. Unsurprisingly, the developments and scenarios outlined above bode tough times for Finland. Bearing in mind the well-being of future generations, the state cannot continue to sink deeper into debt at the current rate, which means that government spending must be cut, even drastically in places.

Research funding will not go unaffected by the current economic climate. Although the importance of research is widely acknowledged as a means of developing new ideas and providing a prerequisite for innovations, both educational and research budgets are under growing pressure, with cuts to be expected.

This will affect the prospects of VTT. VTT has been success­ful over the past few years, achieving a recognised role in strengthening the competitiveness of Finland’s economy. Customers are mostly satisfied. VTT is the principal Finnish actor in EU research programmes, and plays a key role in Strategic Centre of Excellence projects (SHOK). However, for VTT to sustain its position as one of the mainstays of Finland’s economy, it must be prepared to regenerate its operations.

VTT must become more focused with respect to how it operates as an organisation. Increased emphasis must be placed on sectors that are vital for Finland’s future. The collaboration with Finnish universities must be strengthened and division of duties clarified. International cooperation must be expanded from the current Europe-centred approach to embrace truly global dimensions. The goal must always be to form partnerships with the world’s best professionals. It should not be forgotten that US universities and research institutes continue to be the technological powerhouses of the world, irrespective of the sector.

A strong hand is needed, and necessary measures must be taken, before damaging blanket budget cuts arrive. Our goal must be a VTT that is stronger than ever.

Martti Mäenpää
Chairman of the Board

 
 
 
 
 

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