The following article was written by four students from Laurea University of Applied Sciences as part of the 2022 Digital Marketing and Sales course.The aim is to provide understanding on the AI-TIE project in collaboration with Marjo Ruuti (AI-TIE Project Expert at Laurea UAS, Senior Lecturer, Business Management, Laurea University of Applied Sciences) and Anna Ruohonen (AI-TIE Project Manager, Senior Researcher, Entrepreneurship and Business Renewal, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences).
Artificial Intelligence in Finland
Artificial intelligence (AI) represents an accelerating trend in the business world. An increasing number of enterprises are starting to employ it within their operations. It is already the case in Finland today, as statistics indicate that over three percent of Finnish companies with five employees or more utilize AI on daily basis. (Törnroth 2020.)
Finland’s capabilities in artificial intelligence were also recognized and emphasized back in May 2017 when Mika Lintilä, the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Finland, launched a steering group with the aim of making Finland one of the world’s leading countries in the application of artificial intelligence. The strategic program went by the name of Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence (in Finnish – “Tekoälyaika”).
According to Lintilä, if Finland embraces AI and uses it to its maximum potential, the GDP per capita could grow by 3% per year up to 2030, compared to 0.8%. (Business Finland 2020.) However, the lack of understanding of key AI capabilities paired with the lack of reliable and usable data is mentioned as the biggest obstacle when it came to AI adoption according to the FAIA (2020) report on the State of AI in Finland. (FAIA 2020.)
Finland is taking active strides to promote the use of AI, and we want to showcase our AI expertise at the EU level – Mika Lintilä.
To address this challenge, in autumn 2021, Finland witnessed the emergence of the Finland’s first cleantech AI accelerator AI-TIE. The AI-TIE accelerator was launched by Helsinki-based Haaga-Helia and Laurea Universities of Applied Sciences in cooperation with Finland’s AI accelerator FAIA and a network of partner organizations. Small-scale and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the core focus group of the accelerator as 98% of Finnish and European businesses are SMEs.
The chief purpose of the AI-TIE accelerator is to helpFinnish SMEs find and develop solutions that are based on artificial intelligence. Various studies have shown SMEs have plenty of untapped development potential that artificial intelligence would make possible to address. Therefore, the AI-TIE accelerator aims at providing the necessary tools for SMEs to get familiar with AI and to employ it efficiently for solving their business challenges. The aim is also to share companies’ experiences and stories regarding AI, to spread at large the AI success cases of Finnish businesses, and on a broader scale at promoting an idea of what AI is in Finland.
Cleantech, Health and Med Tech sectors in the focus of AI applications
AI-TIE accelerator is supported by European Regional Development Fund (REACT-EU) and Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. The project is funded as part of the European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Following the successful launch of Cleantech AI accelerator, AI-TIE extends its work to Health and Med Tech companies in the spring in 2022. Both industries are significant and well-represented in Finland, and promptly growing. In fact, Finland is considered a leading European country in Cleantech, which accounts for numerous firms engaged in offering sustainable solutions. In 2018, the value of health technology products exports in Finland exceeded 2,3 billion euros, and the trade surplus was estimated at more than a billion euros according to Health Tech Finland. (Healthech Finland, April 2019.)
Hence by focusing on these two industries, AI-TIE accelerators make it possible to reach the critical mass of companies within these important industries for Finland and Europe, as well as bringing the discussion of AI in Finland from a general level to the level of specific industries.
What AI could bring to businesses
Countless advantages can be listed in association with the use of AI for SMEs and companies overall. With AI, businesses possess the possibility to forecast sales as well as marketing and customer insights which lead to improved customer segmentation. Those who have been participating in the accelerator project have equally been developing a wide range of innovative business processes that go from manufacturing operations to back-office services and front desk activities.
An example of AI innovation in customer service is app creation which allows companies to demonstrate their products and services more creatively, connect with their clients, provide more in-depth information, and provide their users a better customer experience.
Prerequisites for successful AI projects
AI-TIE accelerator has helped the participating companies to generate the understanding of how AI can be applied in their business processes, and to flash out specific AI cases for further development. In order for companies to success on this path, both business and technological perspectives are needed. Technological solutions and understanding of the business value go hand- in-hand, and this is the key condition for piloting relevant AI cases.
As in other development projects, it is the human factor that determines the outcomes of AI applicability in companies. Leadership support needs to combine with the necessary resource allocation, including addressing the investment needs, human resources, and time contributions.
The companies that are selected for AI-TIE accelerator are supported throughout their journey of getting acquainted with AI. Structured workshops, webinars, coaching sessions, online courses are provided for the participants and enable hands-on work on identifying and advancing AI cases. Through the application of the tools utilized in the accelerator and the sparring discussions, the idea of how new types of artificial intelligence solutions can be utilized in the strategic operational process and business development became clearer. The sparring aid received during the AI-TIE project and the methods used to structure and consistently evaluate the issues related to the various AI projects have helped to find many ideas that they are about to develop further.
AI-TIE accelerator also serves as a testing platform that allows to chart and address the needs of the companies in effective AI adoption. AI-TIE organizers are in the process of active learning of the type of support that SMEs need for AI adoption. For example, it could be individual mentoring or individual consultations with the corporations regarding their specific cases.
From the AI-TIE project and experts’ point of view, there has been a notable need for industry-specific AI accelerators in the Finnish SME landscape. The demand and the number of applications for Finland’s first Clean Tech AI accelerator exceeded the expectations. Entrepreneurs have appreciated the sparring assistance received during the AI-TIE project and the methods used and given during the process. Through the application of tools utilized in the accelerator and sparring discussions, the idea of how new types of artificial intelligence solutions can be utilized in the strategic operational process and business development became clearer. In a successful artificial intelligence project, the availability of key data and the timely identification of data points play a major role in the process.
Further information on the AI-TIE accelerator:
- Anna Ruohonen, DBA, AI-TIE Project Manager, Senior Researcher, Entrepreneurship and Business Renewal, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences,firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marjo Ruuti, M. Sc. (Econ.&Bus.Adm.) AI-TIE Project Expert at Laurea UAS Senior Lecturer, Business Management Laurea University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
AI-TIE stands for AI Technology Innovation Ecosystems for Competitivenessof SMEs. AI-TIE aims to support SMEs in developing and growing their business through the use of AI solutions to innovate, sell and deliver new products and services to their customers. AI-TIE is supported by European Regional Development Fund (REACT-EU) and Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. The project is funded as part of the European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.