Jerri Laine is the CEO at Innavation Manager where he helps companies with their Tekes and T&E-Centre funding proposals.
Tekes, shorthand for the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, is publicly funded expert organisation for financing research, development and innovation in Finland.
I have been asked this question dozens of times – as in the past I have been working in Tekes for seven years in evaluating all kinds of project proposals.
Since the year 2000 Tekes has grown to an icon of Finland’s innovation success story and it has had its implications. Tekes’ budget has grown remarkably, it’s staff has been grown and changing and it has got a lot of new norms, instructions and directives from it’s owner Ministry, from internal inspections and of course from EU. In short Tekes has got bureaucratic.
This means that when you as an entrepreneur go to discuss about your opportunities in getting funding for projects. You get loaded with vague instructions and terminology which may not be too familiar to you. This is understandable because, as neutral official the Tekes employee can not advice you too much in detail in order not to give too much advantage for one specific company. This has led to a situation where the entrepreneur is sometimes left with more questions than answers.
However, Tekes gives a lot of opportunities in addition to traditional hard core research and development. As an example it gives seed funding for start-ups, funding for business development, funding for new services as innovations, etc. In fact, Tekes has so many different funding opportunities that in principle if you are a company which has plans or actions for the future, you can get funding for it. To be short, Tekes gives funding to any kind of development activity, business development, process development, technology development, you name it. The problem is how you get an insight of this vast array of funding opportunities and especially their decision making criteria.
Tekes announces that it selects for funding projects that create in the long-term the greatest benefits for the economy and society. Does this help you much – I doubt? In practice Tekes makes the decisions based on your company’s financial status and both technological and business innovativeness (ways of doing things differently). Then there are the common mantras and special bonus attributes which are good for you to get attention:
Research collaboration. The research community in Finland has been benefiting from Tekes since its foundations. Also there are quite a lot of studies and statistics that when researchers and business people collide there will be new innovations. I do not have any personal preferences, but the involvement of researchers from universities or other research organizations in you project has a clear bonus effect from Tekes side.
Internationalization is a must, because no one believes our markets in Finland can be a basis for anything big. Also, Tekes still believes that Finnish companies are handicapped with foreign markets, so they must be supported.
Networking, we all know that one can not survive alone. So does Tekes and therefore networking have a special bonus effect. However this need to be done in a way that there’s not too much travelling allowed or similarly other services shouldn’t be acquired outside the borders of Finland. Of course, the best case is that you can network for free.
Innovativeness of course. The problem is what does it really mean? Anyway if you are verbally good enough and think big enough, this should not be a problem for you
Risk is poison for the bankers, but Tekes loves it. The more risk you take, the more challenging your project is, the better. Tekes wants to profile itself as a key funder in high risk and/or long term development projects. This is a fact and must be applauded.
With these topics in mind and something real going-on in your company, you should have the basics for getting your share of the cake. Anyway, if you don’t try you won’t get anything. Good luck.