CTO Forum is an invitational community for Finland's Chief Technology Officers, organised since 2011. The key theme in this autumn’s event on 3rd November 2021 was to discuss how Finland is aiming to solve global challenges. The hybrid networking and idea-sharing event brought together a good number of CTOs and other technology leaders representing a wide variety of Finnish industries. In discussions and workshops, participants were sharing valuable insights on how to best utilise our technology sector and how public programmes can support these efforts. What is more, the nomination period for the CTO of the Year 2022 and Innovation Professor of the Year 2022 was opened!
In addition to opening words by Spinverse’s Founder and Chairman Pekka Koponen and speeches from Executive Director Teija Lahti-Nuuttila of Business Finland and CEO Jaakko Hirvola of Technology Industries of Finland, preliminary results of the CTO Survey 2021 were shared at the event. Survey respondents were generally optimistic regarding, for example, the increase of their companies’ RDI investments in the future. In the workgroups that followed, the participants discussed the current challenges and opportunities for Finnish industries around the following themes: mission-based approach on RDI, agenda setting and proactivity, needs and technologies for the future, ecosystems and collaboration and business environments.
The event culminated in a panel discussion where the CTOs and Innovation Professor of the Year 2021 brought in their insights relevant for Finnish technology industries around the theme Carbon neutrality and digitalization — systemic transitions creating new business opportunities. The panel discussion was facilitated by Spinverse’s CEO Laura Koponen.
CTO of the Year 2021 for large enterprises, Jyrki Ovaska, has worked as the Chief Technology Officer of UPM forestry company since 2013. He has played a central role in the transition of UPM from a traditional paper company to an innovative actor, and his contribution has been remarkable in the development of investments and research projects based on wood bio
mass. At the end of the panel discussion, Ovaska summed up: “Starting new businesses requires new competences but also a new mindset — and one heck of a drive to be able to succeed.”
Duleepa Wijayawardhana is the CTO of Supermetrics and CTO of the Year 2021 for SMEs. He has made an enormous impact on the growth of the company in helping to develop and expand the Supermetrics product portfolio and R&D team to serve the data analysis needs of the growing number of global customers.
What struck Duleepa as key learnings from the CTO Forum workgroup discussion, were three things about Finland. Firstly, Finland is not that different from Canada, Duleepa’s home country. Both countries share many challenges and we could learn from each other. However, the unique culture of Finland can be a great driver in finding solutions not seen elsewhere. Secondly, risk-taking is a topic that keeps coming up and a part of daring to take risks is to provide safety. Giving safety (funding, commitment and trust) will encourage risk taking. Thirdly, Duleepa summed up: “We are like children in our little playground, but we have to play together and trust each other to be able to solve global challenges.”
The breakthroughs in Mikko Möttönen’s research on quantum computing at Aalto University and VTT, and IQM made him the Innovation Professor of the Year 2021. IQM was recently selected to deliver the first quantum computer in Finland. Mikko Möttönen noted that
his key learning from the workgroup was that the role of universities is still important and that Finnish universities still “hold” the best talent globally. Mikko sees that the universities should get better at transferring the knowledge to business and companies should do their part to continue a fruitful dialogue where both parties can benefit from the collaboration.
The panelists also discussed the carbon neutrality challenge related to quantum computers and massive data servers. The consensus was that their usage must be carefully optimised to make the use as efficient as possible. Mikko noted that the quantum computers can be harnessed to solve many issues, including climate change.
Let’s get everyone on board
The discussions with insights from the workshops and audience could be concluded using a sandbox analogy:
In Finland, we sometimes are like two-year olds, who play side-by-side but their own games. We could grow up a few more years and start playing the same game. We do need children playing in sandboxes and companies who build the sandboxes, such as ecosystems. Children playing in sandboxes need parents, too. In the industry sector the government is the parent who sets the rules of the game — we need to get everyone on board.
In his closing words, Pekka Koponen emphasised how Finnish innovation environment has improved in the last couple of years. He said: "Business Finland's Veturi funding and supporting investments for pilots and demonstrations encourage industry-led ecosystems. VC funding has also increased heavily and are now producing great successes as recent stock listings of Modulight and Spinnova demonstrate. let’s remember that Finland is a great place to innovate and tell the story internationally as well."
At the end of the event, Pekka Koponen also announced that the nominations for the CTO of the Year 2022 are now open online.
Stay tuned for more information! In the meanwhile, you can already nominate your candidates as CTOs of the Year 2022 and as Innovation Professor of the Year 2022. The winners will be announced at the CTO Forum 2022 on 2nd of March.
The CTO Forum is a community for Chief Technology Officers and other technology leaders to learn from their peers and benchmark against the best practices in the field. The Finnish CTO Forum is implemented as a joint undertaking with key partners Business Finland, Technology Industries of Finland and Spinverse.