Innovation Leaders’ Club contributes to raising the Estonian innovation index

23 October / Sille Võsaste

The opening event of the Innovation Leaders’ Club, created by the Tehnopol Science and Business Park and SEB Pank, concerned the global innovation index report, in which Estonia ranks 21st overall and 13th in the European ranking.

Mart Maasik, head of the University of Tartu investment firm UniTartu Ventures, gave an overview of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) global innovation index report and commented on Estonia’s ranking in the report. Estonia has improved its position over the past year and instead of the previous 25th place, Estonia now ranks 21st overall. Estonia ranks 13th in Europe. The table is led by Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States.

Estonia’s success is based on state e-services, which enable the pace of development of the local economy and innovation to be kept higher than average. In terms of innovation infrastructure, Estonia ranks 8th in the world. Estonia is also successful in the category of market complexity (10th place) and creativity (15th place).

Areas where Estonia still has room for development are human capital and research and development (R&D). In the category of human capital and research and development, the results of PISA tests for Estonian children look very positive. At the same time, our indicators in this category are undermined by the level of universities and the lack of international R&D investors. Public funding of secondary education also stands out as an area for development.

“The position of the innovation capacity of the Estonian economy is not bad at all, but we learn from the report that we still have to make efforts to reach a research-intensive and high value-added economy. It is easy for us to find capital for investments in the market, but a very small amount of it is available to research-intensive companies,” commented Maasik. “While in other parts of the world, there are several large companies that can carry out the activities of research and development institutions within the company, there are practically no such companies in Estonia. However, the Estonian development model makes it possible to bring science-based and very high value-added products and services to the economy, following the example of service and IT-based start-ups and using the capital accumulated in this field.”

The key word is cooperation

The aim of the Innovation Leaders’ Club is to support the implementation of innovation in Estonian companies and to bring together the best innovation practices in order to find common points of contact, undertake practical cooperation, and learn new tools for implementing innovation. The club unites people who are inspired by innovation. It’s a place where small companies can learn from large ones and lay the foundations for sustainable cooperation.

“Change is driven by positive stories, inspiring role models and human relationships, and also in cooperation between business and academia. And although at the moment the research-based nature of companies is not yet sufficiently reflected in the statistics, there are positive stories at the level of individual companies on the example of start-ups, growth, and large companies. As the founder of the Innovation Leaders’ Club, SEB has a role to play in bringing together the best practitioners, promoting innovation and cooperation,” said Andra Altoa, head of SEB’s Baltic business development strategy.

“The aim of Tehnopol is to support innovative thinking and the realization of new ideas. During the one-year period of operation, we see that the Innovation Leaders’ Club has been well received by Estonian large organizations and has created value. The club has provided benefits in the form of knowledge and contacts and has therefore helped organizations to launch practical innovation activities,” said Martin Goroško, Tehnopol’s head of business development. “In the future, we want to further increase cooperation with companies, the public sector, and the academy in order to create opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation. It is with our differences that we can enrich the creation of innovation and pave the way for bringing new products and services to the market.”

The ‘Data-Based New Services and Business Models’ panel discussion focused on the common goals of science and business

“Companies should and could also help in providing education, because companies are the biggest beneficiaries in the end. Companies can teach students and educate young people. This can be through the provision of sample datasets, challenges (competitions, etc.), product design projects (Sandbox); but also with other grants or money (if public funding stagnates during the process). Longer formats are, for example, cooperation through a master’s degree (e.g. IT industrial master’s degree), doctoral studies, etc. Some are faster, some longer. Students start locking their dissertation topics in place at the beginning of each academic year,” remarks Professor Jaak Vilo of the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Tartu. More information can be found on the website of the University of Tartu:

“With regard to data-based services, examples of human health risks or the suitability of medicines based on genetic information (development of a personal medicine solution) are of particular interest. There are also services for researchers from all over the world, from both academia and the private sector. For example, the University of Tartu service g: Profiler serves an average of one million queries per month. Similar services can be considered for other data. In business models, the results of bioinformatics science are often the most important for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors, not ‘directly to the people’,” said Prof. Vilo.

Top Estonian Universities and Tartu Science Park will join the Innovation Leaders’ Club

Two of Estonia’s leading universities – the University of Tartu and Tallinn University of Technology – and Tartu Science Park are joining of the Innovation Leaders’ Club. Universities are invaluable partners in increasing entrepreneurship and research collaboration. The vision of universities to increase innovation cooperation is key to growing the innovation community.

“Tallinn University of Technology is happy to join the Innovation Leaders’ Club, because we see that this is an additional opportunity for the people of the university to establish more relationships with companies. As early as 2003, the influential Lambert report on university-business cooperation was published in England, one of the conclusions of which was that contact between researchers and business should definitely be encouraged. This is what the Innovation Leaders Club does,” says Sven Illing, vice-rector for entrepreneurship.

Tartu Science Park brings long-term experience in advising technology- and science-intensive companies, and belonging to the world’s largest innovation network, the European Space Agency’s business incubator network ESA Space Solutions, which opens the door to a world of space data and technologies for entrepreneurs.

“Thanks to the Tartu Science Park, many technology and science-intensive companies have gotten started, such as Click&Grow, Skeleton Technology, and SolisBioDyne. As the innovation agent of the Innovation Leaders’ Club of South Estonia, we want to contribute with our experience to the development of both our business clients and the business community of the Tartu region in general,” said Andrus Kurvits, member of the board of Tartu Science Park.

The Innovation Leaders’ Club is looking forward to seeing visionary innovators and ambitious companies from all walks of life interested in innovation.