In October 2017, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment published its national AI strategy entitled Finland’s age of artificial intelligence (Finland, 2017). This report fits under the umbrella of a broader Artificial Intelligence Programme in Finland (also labelled as AI Finland) with a view to establishing AI and robotics as the cornerstones of success for Finnish companies.
The strategy highlights Finland’s possibilities in the global market along with its strengths and weaknesses in AI. It describes how AI will transform society and provides a range of policy actions and recommendations for Finland to thrive in the age of AI.
The goal was to position Finland as a leading country in AI. Finland has thereafter adopted an open data policy and aimed to create adequate conditions for a prosperous development of AI. Overall, the strategy strived to:
- Increase the competitiveness of business and industry;
- Provide high-quality public services and improve the efficiency of the public sector;
- Ensure a well-functioning society and wellbeing for its citizens.
In 2018 the national AI strategy was complemented with a policy report on Work in the age of artificial intelligence (Finland, 2018). It is a thematic report that reflects on the impact of AI on labour market dynamics and skills requirements. In 2019 the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs released the final report of Finland’s Artificial Intelligence Programme, entitled Leading the way into the age of artificial intelligence (Finland, 2019). On pages 80-82 of this report, the Finnish Government provides investment figures for several flagship policies. For instance, the AI Business Programme has been allocated EUR 100 million over a four-year period. The Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) was granted EUR 8.3 million in flagship funding for 2019–2022.
In November 2020, Finland has launched an updated AI strategy: the Artificial Intelligence 4.0 Programme promotes the development and introduction of AI and other digital technologies in companies, with a special focus on SMEs from several industrial and service sectors.
The presence of a well-established, harmonised and effective education system is one of Finland’s main strengths. As a result, Finland has a highly educated and tech-friendly population. However, current available skills directed to the utilisation and development of AI and robotics are mainly present in technological and mathematical fields, which are often too broadly defined to support society in these times of change. Hence, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment proposes an active reform of education systems towards the provision of high-quality courses in AI. The reform should not only include AI-oriented courses but should also incorporate communication and social skills, problem solving and creativity.
A Competence and Innovations Committee has been established under the Artificial Intelligence Programme to support education reforms. In particular, the Finnish strategy provides the following policy recommendations towards education and training in AI:
- Guaranteeing AI literacy across the Finnish population (including elderly) to ensure that all citizens have a basic understanding of AI applications. This can be achieved through MOOCs to ensure elementary knowledge on AI:
- Elements of AI course: the Elements of AI is a series of free online courses created by Reaktor and the University of Helsinki. The course series aims to demystify AI by offering a basic (Introduction to AI) and more advanced (Building AI) course on AI methods. With the objective to reach as many people as possible, the basic course is being translated in all languages of the European Union;
- Online introduction course to Python;
- Introducing Masters and Bachelors programmes at university providing courses in AI. Examples:
- Master’s programme on machine learning, data science and AI at Aalto university;
- Master’s programmes on data science or digital humanities at University of Helsinki.
- Incentives and training mechanisms for teachers to use AI in their courses and teaching methods.
Particular attention is devoted to the working-age population with policy recommendations targeting vocational training and lifelong learning opportunities:
- MOOCs: Massive open online courses in AI and programming as a possible tool for further education of people in the labour market;
- Lifelong learning opportunities to train working-age population with the provision of personalised and motivating learning methods;
- To promote lifelong learning, a skills account or voucher will be created for all working-age people, which they can use to update their skills and purchase the training they need.
As mentioned in the second AI report, about one million Finns are estimated to need reskilling/upskilling training to adapt to changes in occupational structures. In order to close the gap of available skills and the needs of the labour market, the Finnish strategy advocates modular education programmes to address incompatibilities between current skills and new skills requirements:
- Opportunities for expanding qualification contents will be integrated in education programmes to facilitate adaptations to workforce’s skills needs.
From the lab to the market
To support AI developments from the lab to the market, Business Finland, Finland’s main funding agency for innovation, plays an important role in providing finance and support to AI companies. Initiatives from this agency are complemented with technical support on research and innovation from VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland.
In particular, the Finnish Government is implementing the following policy initiatives to encourage research and innovation in AI:
- The creation of an AI maturity tool, which has been in use since 2019 to help organisations increase their business opportunities by identifying their most important areas for improvement in AI;
- The formation of a Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) to promote both AI research, and the use and application of AI in companies and elsewhere in society. In September 2020, FCAI was selected as the host of The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) unit in Helsinki;
- The launch of an Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (FAIA) to facilitate companies in bringing AI experiments into production. The accelerator is initiated as a joint venture by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Technology Industries of Finland and Silo.AI. The state of AI in Finland report was published in two separate sets in September and November 2020;
- The use of innovation vouchers to support companies to innovate and grow;
- The launch of the AI Business Programme that offers innovation funding, networking and internationalization services for R&D, among others;
- The Hyteairo Programme (Well-being and Health Sector’s Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Programme) to support utilisation of AI and robotics in the well-being sector;
- Support to the development of significant test environments and testbeds.
Fully exploiting the potential of AI requires seamless collaborations and networking between various players. Finnish businesses have traditionally low thresholds in engaging in collaborations. In this respect, the AI Business Programme supports 15 enterprise-driven ecosystems organised in platforms to encourage the share of competencies at different levels (e.g. innovative solutions, data, but also legislation, ethical guidelines or standards).
Besides this initiative, the Finnish Government highlights various support instruments and reforms to foster collaborations in AI:
- Business Finland – Growth Engines: creating new AI business opportunities and growth areas in Finland through an enterprise-driven partnership model of companies, research organisations and public actors;
- Business Finland – Connected Intelligent Industries supporting AI and digital collaboration and joint-efforts of SMEs, large companies, R&D institutions and research organisations at every stage of innovation;
- Business Finland – AI Business Programme: accelerating the global growth of the Finnish digital service business;
- Business Finland – Sustainable Manufacturing Finland Programme focuses on renewing business models and increasing productivity in manufacturing ecosystems, with emphasis is placed on machine tool systems, (opto)electronics and photonics;
- Support for the creation of Digital Innovation Hubs in Finland to foster the digital and AI transformation of industries, particularly SMEs based on multi-actor networks and ecosystems;
- AIPSE programme: a programme to promote novel applications of AI in physical sciences and engineering research with special focus on international collaborations;
- DIMECC: a co-creation network to encourage breakthrough innovations and collaborations with companies, universities and research institutions. It is a large network of R&D&I professionals from a wide range of organisations providing support to speed up innovations and to supply courses in machine learning for industrial employees);
- AuroraAI: a national AI programme to prepare Finland for a human-centric and ethical society in the age of AI. It provides a decentralised open network and data-based model for smart services and applications. AuroraAI is speeding up the establishment of an ecosystem serving the needs of citizens, public administration and industry.
To improve the international attractiveness of Finland for foreign AI talents and start-ups, the Finnish Government launched the following initiative:
- Talent Boost – International talents boosting growth action plan: a sectoral programme to make Finland more attractive to international talents. To attract start-ups from outside the EU in particular, this programme includes a Finnish Startup Permit.
In terms of monitoring and dissemination of the use and understanding of AI to a larger population, the Finnish Government provides following initiatives:
- The development of a Finnish AI landscape presenting a regularly updated list of top AI companies in Finland. The landscape is an initiative of Finland’s Artificial Intelligence Accelerator;
- The Business Finland’s AI Business programme promoted the establishment of local AI Hubs in Tampere and Turku and disseminated AI and platform economy knowledge in smaller localities;
- A blog and forum on the Artificial Intelligence Programme website of Finland used to share understanding and information about the business impacts of the application of AI with concrete examples.
In December 2018 the Finnish Government has proposed a new information policy to promote the good management and the effective utilisation of information. The government’s report on Ethical information policy in an age of artificial intelligence outlines principles for fair data governance, including guidelines for the use of information and ethical values.
Information policies discussed in the report relate to data access rights, data ownership, copyrights, security and personal data protection. It constitutes the knowledge basis and a policy, upon which a roadmap with prioritised actions can be built in the future. The development and deployment of AI raises uncertainty about the application of the current legislation on these issues and increases the need for a reform of the legislative and regulatory framework.
Policy recommendations or initiatives towards a reform of the legislative or regulatory framework in Finland include among others:
- Reform of the National cybersecurity strategy by the Finnish Security Committee in view of developing comprehensive state security and expanding towards the fields of AI and digitalisation;
- A review of the Public Procurement Act is needed in such a manner that it would enable effective public-private co-development. In addition, public sector operators should be secured sufficient resources and incentives to engage in such development, paying particular attention to sort out the rights of the outcomes of co-development;
- The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance are currently examining national regulation of automated decision-making. The impact assessment of algorithmic decision making is presented in a policy report released in 2019 and commissioned by the Finnish Government. The report is entitled “Algorithm as a decision maker?: Opportunities and challenges for the use of artificial intelligence in the national regulatory environment”;
- The establishment of the Road Traffic Act: the purpose of the new act, entering into force in June 2020, is to improve the smooth running and safety of transport and create preconditions for the digitalisation and safe automation of traffic;
- A new national intellectual property (IP) strategy is currently in preparation to improve the present IP situation in Finland.
In terms of ethics and values, the Finnish Government advocates the development of ethical foundations ensuring a sustainable use of AI that rests on fundamental and human rights. The creation of ethical principles are a first step towards a trust-based use of AI. It is should be based among others on principles of transparency, reliability, and accountability, in which ownership and responsibilities are clearly defined. In February 2019, the Prime Minister’s Office published a policy report commissioned by the Finnish Government on Artificial intelligence in authority use - ethical and societal acceptance issues. It studies the concepts of ethics and acceptability in the context of technology development and application.
The Finnish Government has established an AI ethics committee to gain understanding on ethical principles and to ensure that Finland’s AI development is human-oriented and based on trust. Policies directed to the development of ethical guidelines include:
- Setting up an AI ethics challenge on the Artificial Intelligence Programme website to incentivise companies to contribute to the creation of ethical principles for AI;
- Preparing the foundations for ethical guidelines in the public administration's ecosystem-based AuroraAI programme;
- Continuing the research project on Ethical AI for the Governance of the Society (ETAIROS). This project is funded by the Academy of Finland and has several Finnish universities as collaborators. The objective is to study and co-create governance frameworks and tools, which respond to the challenge of socially sustainable use of AI;
- Helsinki's AI register (in partnership with the city of Amsterdam): Helsinki and Amsterdam have launched open AI registers that track how algorithms are being used in the municipalities. A White paper on the AI register was published on September 2020 to inspire other governments/organisations wanting to be transparent about their use of algorithms and AI;
- Online course on Ethics of AI: this course helps public administration, businesses and the general public understand what the ethical use of AI means and what it requires from both society and individuals. The course offered by the University of Helsinki has been designed in a partnership between the Cities of Helsinki, Amsterdam and London as well as Finland’s Ministry of Finance.
While several data infrastructure initiatives are deployed at large scale, others are proposed in a restricted environment and serve as regulatory sandboxes. In the public sector, regulatory sandboxes can for instance serve to 1) pilot opportunities for second use of personal data by the public sector with consent of citizens, 2) evaluate the usefulness for citizens and 3) prepare an appropriate legislative framework for successful deployment.
In terms of data infrastructure with a regulatory sandbox philosophy, the Finnish Government proposes the following policy initiative among others:
- Providing support to the MyData service: a human-centred, open and compatible data management approach fostering data interoperability, sharing and protection of individual’s rights on personal data.
A committee on Data and platform economy has been established to propose policy to facilitate the construction and use of data resources in all sectors. These initiatives are complemented and in line with an Open Science Policy to coordinate and foster a research community in which open science aims can be reached and monitored.
To foster the digital infrastructure for research purposes, the Ministry of Education and Culture has developed a research infrastructure development programme for data management and computing with research and innovation actors in 2017−2021. The development programme foresaw an investment of EUR 37 million in data management and computing infrastructures and related services. Finland is also participating in the EuroHPC initiative on the development of high-performance computing. The procurement contract of LUMI, a new EuroHPC precursor to exascale supercomputers, has been signed by the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking and the company Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the selected vendor.
AI to address societal challenges
Climate and environment
The initiative of Business Finland – Growth Engines aims at creating new AI business opportunities and growth areas in Finland through cooperation networks between companies, research organisations and public actors. Among others, the initiative foresees support through capital funding with an earmarked budget of EUR 30 million in 2019. A competitive bidding is organised to select the promising ideas and to promote ecosystem operators that generate at least EUR 1 billion of revenues.
In 2019 Business Finland selected 4 winning projects on the competitive bidding on Growth Engines. These projects are estimated to generate nearly EUR 6 billion of new revenue in Finland, over EUR 9 billion in new exports and as many as 100,000 new jobs over the next decade. The technology areas of the winning projects are closely related to the use of AI and curbing the climate change: atmospheric carbon sequestration markets, smart ports, a marketplace for AI and new solutions for renewable energy production. The winning projects are:
- Compensate project – Growth boost for the market for carbon sequestration: Compensate is a non-profit foundation that brings together people and companies to stop climate change;
- Awake.AI project – Smart ports and shipping: The goal of Awake is to be the world’s most trusted smart ports and autonomous shipping platform and a global ecosystem orchestrator by 2025;
- Silo.AI project – Marketplace for AI: The main goal of the Silo.AI ecosystem is to generate new business by the operators through AI-driven solutions and processes and commercialize Finnish top expertise;
- Flexens project – From a trial on the societal scale on renewable energy production to a global provider of comprehensive solutions: Flexens is a platform that offers combined solutions for the cost-effective integration of renewable energy production.
In addition, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) – a research institute and government agency under the Ministry of the Environment – supports environmental policies by collecting environmental information suitable to decision-making. To this purpose, they are developing new environmental information methods that use deep learning, complex optimisation and AI to enable the faster utilisation of information in addition to welcome information produced by citizens.
In 2020, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment published a report analysis focusing on industrial platforms and data-enabled value creation linked to industrial ecosystems.
The Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) is developing several projects to manage the COVID-19 crisis by means of AI recognising that “AI and machine learning methods can help in, for instance, outbreak prediction, tracking and epidemiological modelling, drug development, and healthcare management”. The FCAI together with the Helsinki Centre for Data Science (HiDATA) also published a series of webinars to shed light on how AI-based systems and data science could be of help while fighting against COVID-19.
Furthermore, an instant COVID-19 breathalyzer has been developed as part of a Co-created and Wellbeing project funded by Finland's Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, a joint regional authority for the region. The developed technology uses AI to identify the novel coronavirus in air exhaled by patients
Furthermore, the Finnish Government has set up a website to look for information on the coronavirus by telephone and chat and has the intention to introduce an application to trace chains of virus transmission which will be likely ready by August. The application – called Ketju – was funded by the Finnish innovation fund Sitra and was piloted at Vaasa Central Hospital. Based on Bluetooth technology, it is meant to provide confidential reporting of any encounters between users to trace COVID-19 contagions. Furthermore, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), in cooperation with Esri Finland Oy, produced an open map application displaying the data from the National Infectious Diseases Register about the confirmed cases in Finland.
Monitoring and future update
In 2017, the Finnish Government has launched the Artificial Intelligence Programme to draw up an AI strategy for Finland. The programme has been finalised in spring 2019 and delivered among others three policy reports with concrete policy actions as outlined above. In the final report, the steering group of the Artificial Intelligence Programme has produced an implementation plan for the coming years and presents a vision for Finland in the age of AI till 2025. In November 2020, Finland has launched an updated national AI strategy. The Artificial Intelligence 4.0 Programme promotes the development and introduction of AI (AI) and other digital technologies in companies, with a special focus on SMEs. In the first interim report, published in April 2021, the programme presented a vision for the future of the Finnish manufacturing industry, stating that in 2030 the Finnish manufacturing industry will be clean, efficient and digital, As stated in the report, seamless collaboration between high-speed telecommunications networks, cloud computing and AI are central to digital transformation.
Finland (2019). Leading the way into the age of artificial intelligence. Final report of Finland’s Artificial Intelligence Programme 2019. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/161688/41_19_Leading%20the%20way%20into%20the%20age%20of%20artificial%20intelligence.pdf
Finland (2018). Work in the age of artificial intelligence. Four perspectives on the economy, employment, skills and ethics. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/160980/TEMjul_21_2018_Work_in_the_age.pdf
Finland (2017). Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence. Turning Finland into a leading country in the application of artificial intelligence. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/160391/TEMrap_47_2017_verkkojulkaisu.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Open customer-centred ecosystem, CleverHealth Network, Communication network operations, Connected Intelligence, Corridor as a service, Digital design and manufacturing excellence, Digital Fiber, Intelligent Industry Ecosystem, Intelligent Packaging, OneSea - Autonomous Maritime Ecosystem, OuluHealth ecosystem, Research alliance for Autonomous systems, Smart building ecosystem, Smart Otaniemi, Reboot IoT Factory. ↑
The following white paper published by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications provides more details about the aim and working of the MyData service: https://mydatafi.wordpress.com/portfolio/publications/. ↑