A Future for Finland?

Yesterday I spent a day with a bunch of business and public sector executives in Naantali Spa, near Turku. I took them through the principles of foresight and then turned to explore how world is changing and how we are embarking on the new era of our societies.  Participants reached out to imagine how their organisation is going to look like in fifteen years from now. Plenty ideas about the ways they are going to be more service orientated and more resource efficient.  We finalized by contemplating how different the world  around us will actually be like. After the last session one participant came to and asked the question: what is actually left of Finland by then, 2030? What is our source of wealth then?

This was a hard question. I started out by drawing out my latest research that has focused on our existing but waning crown jewelry, forest industry. World needs renewable, fiber based substitutes for many current non-renewable materials in all sectors of material and energy production, like construction, packaging and design industries, to start off with, leave alone second generation bio fuels. It is still a very much question if the Finnish forest industries are sufficiently forward looking and innovative to meet that demand.   I am afraid there is a lot resistance for change. If they do not consider themselves to be a part of this revolution then they do not invest the way they should. And remember, it is a 20 billion business, but it only invest around 200 million to its annual R&D. This is peanuts if we consider the challenge that lies ahead, actually right there in our front door.

Likewise, our metal and engineering industries are currently in great trouble, the capacity is driven down each year as a result of heavy competition, in 2012 the decrease in turnover was 1,5 billion, 2013 the downward trend continued . Cleantech is  growing - it was 24 billion business  in 2012 with handsome 15% growth -but it represent only a part of those industries. As these basic industries are still the source of our wealth in terms of export and jobs, it is a frightening thing to  know there is not too much left of that in 2030.

Then of course we have the gaming industry, with marvelous growth numbers  and great fuss around it. But it is still only couple of hundred of millions business, not close even one billion. So it has no major impact to our macro-numbers, though it is great for raising spirit. Moreover, Supercell innovators are not only great game-makers, they are also showing leadership in the way they run their business: integrity is everything and out goes old type industrial command and control policies. The true source of their wealth is company culture. So a lot of light there.

Coming back to  my day with executives: we talked about demographics and the potential in health industry and health creation as there were number of representatives from those fronts. Yes, we do have Polar and Suunto who have done great work in building technology and consumer brands around healthy lifestyles. But could we do some more there? Are we taking seriously the issue that people are taking more seriously the issues around health and nutrition? Are we building new concepts around better old-age? Are we using our natural resources in promoting tourism and providing quality escapes from busy life? Are we building fascinating products and brands around berries and other treasures from the forest? And is there something more we could do helping new global and primarily virtual education system to grow?

We all know that the answer is no. We are not making the effort we should. Yet 2030 is approaching fast, as is our traditional industries swiftly fading away.

But this is only the beginning of the answer. We should look out for more. But what's more, we should wake up and act.