Digital Innovation and Regional HQ: Opportunities in Finland

Finland is the only Scandinavian country that is part of the Euro-zone. Its capital is logistically well connected to Asia, and it is cost-efficient compared to the other Nordic countries.

The Helsinki Business Hub hosted a digital innovation and regional headquarters presentation of the opportunities Singaporean businesses have in Finland and Helsinki as their way in to the European market. Six speakers each gave a short presentation and a follow-up Q&A session completed the event held at the Finnish Embassy in Singapore.

The Finnish Ambassador to Singapore, Paula Parviainen gave a short welcoming speech, pointing out the importance of this year to Finland, being the 100-year anniversary of independence. “It is time for Finland to do things a little bit bigger,” the ambassador said; “Bigger as they do it in Singapore. We have a lot in common so we should develop building the bridge between our two countries.”

The speakers of the evening counted five Finnish and one Singaporean. Minister Anne Berner, Ministry of Transport and Communication talked from the government’s point of view on how to enhance Finland as the connection point into Europe. Marja-Liisa Niinkoski, CEO, Helsinki Business Hub, then presented facts regarding the topic. Jari Gustafsson, Ministry of Economic affairs and Employment emphasized these points in his presentation. Tuomo Haukkovaara, Vice President, IBM Nordic focused on Helsinki from the business perspective. Then Elgi Eg Cheaong Pin, General Manager, Obike Asia pte, explained from a Singaporean point of view the main reasons why they view Helsinki as a great market for expanding their business. Finally, Peter Vesterbacka, entrepreneur, Mighty Eagle/Co-founder of Angry Birds, talked about work ethic and the importance of collaboration.

Why Finland?

That was the big question of the evening’s presentations. Marja-Liisa Niinkoski pointed out that with Finnair’s 18 direct destinations and 92 weekly departures to Asia; Helsinki has the greatest and fastest logistic connection to the Asian Region compared to the other Nordic capital regions. Helsinki is also cost efficient due to lower labour costs and a lower tax rate. However, you get the same quality as in Copenhagen and Stockholm, Niinkoski said, making the Helsinki region competitively well suited for business expansion. Additionally, Finland is the only Nordic country that is part of the Euro-zone, whereas the other Scandinavian countries kept their individual currency.

Other reasons mentioned during the presentations were the talent that Finland produce, due to their excellent education system, the size of population, which is very similar to Singapore, and the size of Helsinki, being a big city but not too big, so it is easy to access, adapt to and get familiar with. Thriving to be innovative and positive towards the digitalization was also pointed out as why Finland should be the obvious choice. Several exemplified SLUSH, the world’s leading startup event, founded by speaker Peter Vaskerbacka: “Everybody in Finland can walk on ice. Everybody knows that,” the entrepreneur said. Especially coming towards the wintertime, it gets easy. Nevertheless, he also said, “When you want the biggest and you want the best, we have to work together,” which sums up all closing words of the presentations: Welcome to Finland!

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