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Over 70 Finnish companies participated in the CTO Survey 2012, which was run for the second consecutive year. The study was conducted by technology and innovation consultancy Spinverse, with Sitra, the Federation of Finnish Industries EK and Technology Academy Finland. The survey is launched at today’s CTO Forum, which will also see the announcement of the 2012 CTO of the Year.
CTOs play a critical role
Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) play a critical role in their organisations. The vast majority have a strategic responsibility for creating growth opportunities with new products and services, and they often serve as an interface for their organisation between innovation partners at other firms, universities and research centers.
“The economic outlook for 2012 is uncertain. Industry’s long term activities, such as research and development (R&D) may face challenges. This year’s CTO-survey had a special emphasis on large companies who are responsible for a significant share of R&D investment in Finland. Moreover, their activities drive the whole innovation chain, from growth enterprises to universities” said Pekka Koponen, CEO of Spinverse Ltd.
Half of CTOs plan to increase R&D investment in 2012. This is consistent with 2011, and suggested that firms are determined to maintain investment levels despite a challenging economic environment. However, less of this investment will go towards recruiting new R&D staff in 2012; only 50% plan to do this, compared to 75% last year.
CTOs are customer driven
Finnish CTOs are customer-driven in creating new products and services. “60-70% of new ideas come from the customer,” remarked one CTO, and four fifths report that they work closely with customer facing units of their company.
Many CTOs feel that there is still room for improvement in their innovation process. Over half of the respondents felt that innovation champions and mentors were not recognized well enough, and just 20% had a process for fast tracking radical innovations through their organisation.
Measuring the effectiveness of R&D and justifying investments to company management and owners is a challenge, both in terms of valuing complex and risky research projects, and the extent to which measurement aids management; one CTO commented that ”innovation management processes are useful for measuring output, not for creating or enhancing innovation. True innovations come from competent and networked people with the right tools and sufficient resources.”
CTOs feel that public funding – particularly from Tekes – plays a critical role, with three quarters of respondents rating this very important for their business. Larger companies discussed how this investment is used, with some suggesting that it is mainly distributed to their innovation partners, such as universities.
The perceived importance of Strategic Centers for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOKs) had grown since last year. Opinion varied a lot between different industries, with Metals and Machinery being the most satisfied.
European Union funding is undervalued, with only a third of companies describing the European Commission as important. Forthcoming changes to European innovation funding, with a greater emphasis on funding closer to market R&D, should see more Finnish companies give this instrument more consideration.