Design solutions to meet societal challenges – let’s make Finland a world leader in creative economy

Digitalisation, climate change and new work are accelerating phenomena that are changing society faster and faster. Creativity and human-centricity should be deciding factors in this change process.

In order to support and be involved in solving society’s challenges, we need to build structures that boost creative economy and to remove obstacles. I.e. more effective financial instruments for small design companies, increasing Public research, development and innovation (RDI) funding to 4%, including design and creative planning in multidisciplinary innovation functions and a more innovative strategy for public procurement that does not exclude companies. At the moment, public procurement prefers big companies and small design companies are in a weak market position.

Companies need design skills to make full use of digitalisation as well as the data and platform economy. According to Executive Director of Ornamo Art and Design Finland, Salla Heinänen, the use of multidisciplinary design expertise also supports Finland’s competitiveness. “Our future is based on highly refined products and services. Here, design has a crucial role to play,” says Heinänen.

According to Heinänen, Finland should be a future leader of the creative economy. “At a time when Finland has reduced its investments in innovation, public investment in education has also been cut,” Heinänen notes. She points out that the creative economy can develop and grow only if the business environment encourages innovation. The ability to compete or to bring positive solutions to the challenges requires that we join the top rank of RDI countries.

We need design built on people’s needs

Customer focused design knowledge can provide solutions for instance for climate change and the circular economy, for example with regard to using resources wisely and life-cycle thinking. Creative design can also support, for example, the renewal of the social and health care sector through design that is based on people’s needs.

Companies need design in order to create  intangible value for their business and services, and to increase their brand recognition. Investments in design enhance the competitiveness of companies and the public sector. Creative design – through design and art – has a lot to offer the traditional industrial sectors.

“The future of Finland depends on how well companies are able to do business with immaterial rights. This requires financial instruments, more advanced forms of protection as well as more motivating taxation of R&D,” Heinänen says.

Helping creative design companies to international growth – Finland must support small enterprises

Design firms are mainly small. Right now, micro-enterprises can not appropriate financial instruments and advice for developing their operations. Business Finland needs to install the right kind of financial models, as well as business and advisory services to support the creative industry.

Just as design, Finnish art also has potential to be an international export asset, but this requires its own strategy for visual arts.

“Finland is already known for its design, but the art is still a hidden export asset. Through original quality art, Finland could  profile itself, making it a strong part of Finland’s national brand and international exports,” Heinänen notes.

In 2017, design companies already had a turnover of EUR 11.4 billion. The design sector is more significant than its size – the value produced by it serves large customer areas. The turnover has increased particularly for service companies in design: as much as 54% from 2010 to 2017.

In 2017, the value of digital design was more than EUR 7 billion, and the growth rate is hard: 96% compared to the year 2010. Source: Statistics Finland: Regional statistics on entrepreneurial activity 2017.)