Minister Lintilä's speech in Nordic Executive Club Switzerland - “Finland 100 years” gala dinner

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 13.11.2017 9.45
Speech

Zürich, 10 November 2017

Distinguished ladies, distinguished gentlemen,

It is my great honor to be here tonight, celebrating 100 years of Finnish independence in this special occasion in Zürich.

If I look back to those 100 years, my first thoughts are in the great leaps we have taken in economy, the fast changing globalization and technological progress.

Finland started its path as an independent nation in a rather unstable geopolitical situation in Europe. Nationalism was a booming power in every corner of Europe; political-economic ideologies were strong.

There is something very similar between those days and how we see Europe today. In economic sense, Finland has developed of an agricultural society to industrial, post-industrial and soon to something that we might describe more by services and artificial intelligence.

Our trade and income have always been built from very basics: raw-materials of forests and soil. Even today, Finland excels in pulp and paper and moreover, in finding new ways of making growth from bioeconomy. We produce biodiesel and seek for solutions to find a substitute for plastic as a material.

I would say the major leap in our economic progress was taken in the halfway of our decennial, when education came into focus. The fruits of the educational reforms have been ripe only in recent decades; I would say, with the growth of R & D & I, the quality in education and Finnish success in PISA-surveys.

More recently, we have been able to enjoy positive news as regards to the economy of Finland. The GDP growth is exceeding the previous forecasts. Private sector is increasing investments.

The future outlook for Finland and Finnish companies seems bright and this is very satisfying for me.

In Finland, we have succeeded in combining economic efficiency and growth with a fair distribution of income and social cohesion. Not to forget high standards of environmental protection.

Finland is a free trade economy, open for investments and new partnerships. We have embraced globalization, but we also offer a safety net, which helps companies and their workers to cope with risks and in adapting to new requirements in times of transition and disruption of technology.

I also believe that globalization will have a page-turning moment with artificial intelligence and robotics. The work is no longer tight with a physical location.

Our economy is booming at the moment. But in the midst of the positive news, we need to keep in mind the changing growth dynamics. There are many challenges faced by companies, as they need to seize new opportunities arising from digitalization and aging of the working force.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The patterns of work and everyday working life are also in transformation. When it comes to various tasks and the ways of work, continuous change is visible.

In spite of the expected productivity gains in the future, some tasks could become redundant with a number of jobs lost. However, new jobs and new type of work is being born, often in the boundaries of the traditional industries.

All this will emphasize the capability of individuals to combine different skills as well as to learn new skills. Indeed, the lack of skilled workforce is already hitting us at some sectors and some regions of Finland.

This leads us back to education. We are a superpower in education.

But also us must reformulate very basics of it and have more focus on lifelong learning as more of a necessary part of working life than something additional.

It is thus essential to ensure that everyone has the right to skills to spur innovation and productivity. Creativity is the ingredient to success in the digital transformation. Soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, socio-emotional skills and the right mindset will remain essential for thriving in the digital economy.

The Nokia ‘heritage’ and skills can be spread out widely for developing digital applications in other sectors. 5G mobile networks will soon be reality. Finland already has a good test bed for 5G. What we need to take a further look at, is the free movement of data and access to different kind of data. Specialists for analyzing Big Data, developing applications and coding, and understanding A.I. will be invaluable.

Data is something that has been a basic ingredient for health care technology investments in Finland.

A few weeks ago, my ministry introduced two significant programmes: Programme for Artificial Intelligence and the Roadmap for Finland to the Platform Economy. Both programmes reflect the changes in business models and the ways of work in the future.

Finland aims to establish AI as the success factor of the Finnish companies and take the position as one of the leading countries in applying AI. The main goal is to find the best ways to support the use of AI for the benefit of business and citizens as well as for the public sector.

The success is not achieved by looking at the past, but stepping boldly to the future. However, we may learn from the past and renew ourselves and make the future instead of waiting for something to happen.

To reach this goal, we need to co-operate, create international partnerships and dialogue in all the possible ways. Myself, I am here tonight to get to know you and hear your stories as well.

Without much further ado, I wish you all very pleasant evening.