Is Finland’s SITRA really an Innovation Fund, or just a simple lobby group?

We have all been listening hard to how this digital world will bring us poor consumers a wonderful future with all sorts of disruptive new ideas and innovations…

50 years ago, the Finnish government was able to set up a new monster called SITRA with unplanned profits made from accidentally owning a lot of Nokia shares back when GSM networks and mobile phones were just developing.

SITRA likes to call itself the “Finnish Innovation Fund” and desperately wants to be seen as an independent public foundation, which take the lead her in Finland for society and companies to introduce new fields of activity from this brave digital global world.

But the truth is somewhat different. It operates directly under the supervision of the Finnish Parliament and is surrounded by politicians, civil servants, scientists, academics, thinkers and other do gooders who are, in one way or another, dependent, or sympathetic to the present government and who have a slight leaning towards the political right.

Their name, SITRA, has nothing in it to suggest innovation but is simply a Finnish abbreviation of “Finland’s Independence Celebration Fund” (Suomen itsenäisyyden juhlarahasto).

The Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Mr. Vanhanen, is a former leading light of the Centre Party and a former Prime Minister, who also happens to be a current presidential candidate who enjoys a huge 2% support in the latest polls.

This is a man who spends more time looking backwards than forwards. He is a person who, like Trump, trusts Russia and openly states that Russia poses no threat to Finnish politics. He has no chance to be elected, even though his party is meant to be running this government! His credibility is as worn as that of his party.

SITRA has plenty of cash and that allows them to come out with extravagant headlines on their web-site like the following:

  1. “Artificial intelligence-based systems help achieve better services and cost savings in the social and health sector” – this is just what the government wants to hear about its Healthcare Reform called SOTE.
  2. “Sitra encourages the EU to adopt a key role in building a global circular economy” – this headline is accompanied by a big picture of a disposed Conservative Party Finnish PM, who is now a Vice-President of the European Commission who is declaring that “the circular economy is a megatrend just as strong as digitalisation”, whatever that means!
  3. “Nordic countries push the switch – from fossil fuel subsidies to sustainable energy investment”. This is published just when Fortum, the big Finnish government majority owned energy company, has just purchased a bunch on dirty coal fired energy companies in Germany as well as a lot of Russian fossil gas transmission pipes and power plants!
  4. “Ten ways to strengthen democracy around the world” where they claim that the system of Swiss referendums are the way to go, and follow that by saying that Brexit was a mistake! They then go on to declare that we have something to learn from the USA by following “The Right to Vote initiative building just democracy in America”!
  5. “Are European policymakers ready for a global circular economy?” when they completely forget that we have had circular economy here for over a century with the cooperative movement – they are nothing new.

The biggest problems today are all related to “the single truths” of policy choices being made to suit the interests of political parties and big companies at the expense of the taxpayers and democracy.

Politicians need financing to win the next elections, and companies need tax breaks and lighter regulations.

Think tanks and “independent foundations” like SITRA are linked to big companies and political parties and they project what is necessary to legitimise policy of the current government.

Their activities are clothed to resemble academic research, with PhD’s employed for respectability. The results are more like lobbying – lobbying that ensures transparency and public discussion is minimised with categorical statements from “independent experts” who regularly claim that this or that policy is the best and only way forward.

We are now behove to Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google, as well as our own domestic big multinationals, banks, etc who pay their CEO’s outrageous salaries and do as much as possible to minimise their tax obligations with the help of other EU states about which Finland does very little complaining about – Holland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Malta…

SITRA is just part of that network… far from being an independent force of innovation which they seek to proclaim, their real agenda is to maintain and cultivate the present power structures and avoid or minimise disruption.

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