As reported yesterday, Wednesday, in an interview with ERR’s Indrek Kuus, Tallinn University Rector and former Estonian defence minister Jaak Aaviksoo had said that Enterprise Estonia, together with the Estonian parliament’s own Research and Development Committee, puts too much of an emphasis on tech and the creation of tech jobs, to the detriment of more traditional sectors of the economy.
Professor Aaviksoo said it also seemed that jobs were just being created for the sake of jobs. However, in an opinion piece on ERR, Erki Mölder states this is not the case, and that in fact promoting innovation was something that Enterprise Estonia aims for across all sectors.
Using the example of Nokia, the Finnish mobile telecoms giant, to show how state support along the lines of what Enterprise Estonia (‘EAS’ in Estonian), a public organisation aimed at fostering entrepreneurship in Estonia, can provide, is a necessary facet of Estonia’s business scene.
High added-value jobs the only way
The creation of high added-value jobs is something which Enterprise Estonia is committed to as well, according to Mr. Mölder.
Investors know that wages have risen to the extent that, to be a worthwhile investment, jobs created here need to have a high degree of value added potential and so the focus needs to be on those roles which require highly skilled, high quality individuals.
Mr. Mölder went on to say that whilst new factories, offices and the like could always be built, but the key to the future lies those who can compete internationally with more sophisticated skills.
At the same time, he noted that inflows of foreign investment are a reassuring indicator of the competitiveness of the Estonian economy.
Pointing to a concrete example of this, Mölder referenced the new Stora Enso financial service centre which is to relocate to Estonia and which, in addition to creating around 60 new jobs, will also be responsible for the operation and care of various technological projects in the fields of robotics and automisation.
Growth and adaptation
Another priority for Enterprise Estonia according to Mr. Mölder is the growth of high added-value export companies, and whilst he stated that he was in general agreement with Jaak Aaviksoo on the principle of adding value rather than just creating jobs, but that this was a very broad field and not one confined just to conducting a technological development project.
Companies need to be sensitive to the necessity to adapt, and one of Enterprise Estonia’s roles, Mölder believes, is to assist them in doing this, as well as helping them to grow – all the more pressing since most Estonian companies are small and it is not clear how familiar they would be in dealing with larger scale product development issues on a day to day basis.
The first thing a business needs to do is simply get by; then over time as they grow, they can develop newer products and services, he believes.
State support a necessity, not just an option
Again, the modest size of Estonian firms means they can easily be supported in part by the state – and indeed need to be, according to Mr. Mölder.
This will have the effect of helping them innovate, as well as to reach markets that interest them and which they otherwise might not do.
Ultimate, Mr. Mölder believes, it is up to the state to blaze the trail for foreign investment via trade delegations, growth initiatives, exhibitions and other forms of contact, and that there isn’t a globally successful Estonian company which couldn’t benefit in some way from the Enterprise Estonia approach.
The full text of the opinion piece (in Estonian) is here.