Address by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the FinEst Future Forum at Mektory, Tallinn Technical University on 17 May 2016

First of all, thank you for the warm reception you have given me here in Tallinn and for inviting us to the Mektory Innovation centre. The background of Mektory is strongly related to business-oriented solutions and innovations. Our event today is also meant to cover all of these issues.

Finland and Estonia are close friends and partners in business, in the EU and particularly in cross-border cooperation. This cooperation functions well in many fields: in various sectors in the world of business, culture, science, sports and design. We need strong cooperation between universities, trade and industry, and policy in order to promote innovations.

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Like all export-dependent open economies, both of our countries are sensitive to turbulence in the global economy. We both need new markets, products, partnerships and attitudes.

In recent years we have seen both the positive and negative sides of the further acceleration of globalisation. As in Finland, intensifying competition has seen traditional industries shrink or even disappear. For example robotization will replace mechanical work and it will help to increase effectivity and improve the competitiveness of the industrial sector. But what if the robots will take even more demanding tasks in the future? What will this mean to our economies, to our tax incomes and to our middle-class and their professional work?

In these changes there is a serious need to transform our economies to respond to new challenges. Strict budgetary discipline and economic reforms are necessary conditions to remain competitive as nations – and to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities that a society based on wellbeing can offer.

On the other hand, there is no better way to survive as a small country in a hard global competition than to have top-class expertise in certain fields. Global megatrends like climate change, sustainability and digitalisation will generate high demand for cleantech, smart-city and new digital solutions. Both Finland and Estonia have a great chance of tackling such issues and would also benefit from such a development economically.

We have representatives here today from the startup-community as well. You are in a great position to comment on how to adapt to rapid changes and how to keep our region attractive to investors and entrepeneurs. For example, the Finnish start-up event Slush has become a global success story, while we in Finland have a lot to learn from your e-Residency efforts.

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I am all ears to hear your ideas on how we might complement and make use of each other’s strengths in our combined region of Tallinn and Helsinki – or should I say, Talsinki?

I very much look forward to the forthcoming panel debate and the lively discussion it will involve.

Thank you!