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Artificial Intelligence Empowers the Competitiveness of Cleantech and Healthtech SMEs

Finland’s strength in artificial intelligence (AI) is the agile business environment, in which collaboration between companies, research institutes and society is seamless.

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As European SMEs face challenges in adopting AI in their business processes, the ecosystemic approach is harnessed to help uncover the great potential of using AI technologies in SMEs. Unleash the potential arising from the underutilisation of AI by small and medium companies is especially valuable, as 99% of enterprises in EU are SMEs1, engaging 67% of the labour force and contributing to 57% of turnover2.

On average 3 out of 4 companies in Finland that develop or use AI are located in Helsinki and the surrounding Uusimaa region3. On the one hand, this highlights the ability of the region to nurture artificial intelligence competences and change flexibility of Finnish SMEs. The Helsinki region in particularly is recognized for the abundance of skilled professionals in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data, analytics, and digital health4. On the other hand, this provides a great platform for collaborative networking between AI solution providers, RDI institutions, expert organizations and other key actors. For Finland to strengthen and secure its placement on the top of the international AI arena, focus must be placed on collaboration in the field and the creation of a Finnish AI ecosystem5.

Case: AI-TIE – AI Innovation Ecosystem for Competitiveness of SMEs

The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council has awarded European Regional Development funding and state funding to create a bundle of services directed at SMEs to facilitate the planning, piloting and adoption of AI-based solutions. AI-TIE project (2021-2023) was created for this purpose, with the aim to support SME’s in developing and growing their business through the identification and utilization of AI-based solutions to innovate new products and services as well as to sell and deliver these to customers.

AI-TIE advances the development of industry-specific AI competences and applications. Cleantech AI and Healthtech AI are the specific focus. The objective is to advance the AI discussion from a general level to industry-specific training, mentoring and acceleration. In the course of AI acceleration activities that are part of AI-TIE, companies are encouraged to develop digital and web-based solutions in addition to physical products to ensure business viability in crisis situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The project also assists companies with developing their internal business processes and making them more efficient and sustainable.

In its Cleantech and Healthtech focus, AI-TIE impacts also on a wider scale. The social and cultural sustainability and equality are promoted through AI accelerators that expedite innovative solutions in healthtech. The project also advances the development of AI applications in the cleantech industry and can, therefore, have a notable impact on improving environmental proficiencies. The development of digital and web-based solutions facilitates environmentally friendly carbon-neutral business operations. From the very beginning of AI-TIE, the Finnish SMEs’ demand for the concrete support in adopting AI exceeded the expectations, as reflected in the number and quality of applicants for Cleantech AI Accelerator pilot. Following the expert interviews in the beginning of AI-TIE project, it was noted that Finland is perceived as an excellent market to pilot cleantech AI solutions. At the same time, Europe is the home market for Finnish SMEs with cleantech contributions – and the vision is on the global markets. AI readiness and skills with Finnish cleantech SMEs varies, and AI-TIE is designed to strengthen the companies’ related competencies and change flexibility.

Train-the-trainer approach is employed to reach SMEs and companies in Finland at large. The wider scope is attained by building the AI understanding among those experts that work with SMEs directly and on daily basis, such as business advisors in chambers of commerce and business development organizations. By improving experts’ knowledge, their abilities to communicate effectively about the possibilities of AI to the companies within their networks are supported.

In AI-TIE, a wide partner network promotes multi-actor dialogue on artificial intelligence as a business phenomenon. AI-TIE is coordinated by Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland. Laurea University of Applied Sciences is the consortium partner.The main collaboration partners are Finland’s Artificial Intelligence Accelerator FAIA as part of Technology Industries of Finland, and MyData Global, award-winning international non-profit in personal data. The project is conducted in collaboration with the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, West-Uusimaa Chamber of Commerce, East-Uusimaa Development Organization Posintra, Central Uusimaa Business Development Center, Regional Federation of Finnish Entrepreneurs, Uusimaa, NewCo, Health Capital Helsinki and Healthtech Finland.

AI-TIE is a current case of the ecosystemic approach in the creation of new knowledge and competences in AI for SMEs, contributing to industrial modernisation.

Sources:

1European Parliamentary Research Service (2017). Helping European SMEs to grow. Start-up and scale-up initiatives for business ventures in the EU. Publication link, visited on October 15, 2021.

2European Commission (2017). Annual Report on European SMEs 2016/2017. Publication link, visited on October 15, 2021.

3ETLA (2019). Digital Barometer 2019. Facts and statistics credit: Finland Statistics Center, company register, Vainu.io; ETLA calculations: link, visited on September 8, 2021.

4NewCo Helsinki (2021). Helsinki region one of the best startup ecosystems in the world – recent report praises availability of skilled professionals in AI and analytics in particular. Published on September 22, 2021, visited on October 15, 2021.

5Teknologiateollisuus (2020). AI Finland in 2021. Published on December 18, 2020: link.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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AI-TIE project

  • Coordinated by Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • Duration 2021-2023
  •  Funded by Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council/ERDF
  • Funded as part of the Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further information, please contact:

Project lead, Dr. Anna Nikina-Ruohonen

anna.nikina-ruohonen(a)haaga.helia.fi