Research-based education is important for micro-entrepreneurs and beneficial for society at large

Training offered to micro-entrepreneurs can significantly strengthen the Finnish economy and support a wide range of sectors. Up to 93% of Finnish companies consist of micro-enterprises with fewer than 10 employees. Their total turnover is about EUR 75 billion, and they employ some 315 000 employees, including the entrepreneurs themselves.
Soili Vasikainen

Micro-enterprises operate in a wide range of sectors. One fifth of the companies consist of agricultural, forestry and fishing enterprises. Construction companies are the next largest group. The third group consists of professional, scientific and technical activities, including start-ups, architectural offices and veterinarians. Also hairdressers, cosmetologists, taxis and other companies in the service sector are often micro-enterprises.

There is a great number of micro-enterprises and their significance as employers has increased, while the employment statistics of large companies have moved in the opposite direction. However, there is still very little research data available on micro-enterprises and entrepreneurship.

Research as a basis for education and networking

In early June, a report commissioned by the Finnish Research Impact Foundation was published, focusing on SMEs’ use of research data. Representatives of micro-enterprises were also interviewed for the report. From the perspective of SMEs, the most significant uses for research were the training of employees and informal relationships with research organisations, as well as use by recent graduates. Companies are strongly confident that the instruction provided by research organisations is based on cutting-edge research, which can be imported to companies by educating their employees and recruiting graduates for different tasks. According to the report, the most significant benefits from the perspective of SMEs were related to the adoption of new information, the strengthening of competence and the development of new products. The effects on cost efficiency, economic growth and increased prosperity were not quite as prominent. Similar results have also been obtained in the SME Barometer of Finnish entrepreneurs.

The report presents the following recommendations for improving Finnish SMEs’ potential for using research in the future: (1) Supporting practices to develop the knowledge capital of SMEs by means of research in the future. These practices include personnel training based on research data and networking with research organisations. (2) Targeting investments at SMEs eager to become future pioneers in the use of research and have a willingness, but also challenges, to be involved in the use of research. (3) Directing communications about research results at SMEs in a broader and clearer manner. In addition to the branding of the research organisation, the elements that interest SMEs should be more clearly highlighted in the communication about research results.

The Government Programme encourages entrepreneurs to employ people and develop business

The Government Programme contains several objectives that concern micro-enterprises. The entrepreneurship strategy set out in the Government Programme has been targeted at SMEs (self-employed persons, start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs), in which the entrepreneur is a ‘traditional owner-manager’ who owns the company at least partially, works in the company at least part-time, and participates in the related decision-making.
The vision of the entrepreneurship strategy is to build companies’ confidence in the fact that Finland is a good place to invest, develop business, offer employment, expand and become more international, and that entrepreneurship is worthwhile. The strategy also aims to increase Finland’s attractiveness so that skilled foreign employees and students want to find employment in Finland, or work as entrepreneurs in Finland.

In a dynamic and thriving Finland, there is a low threshold for starting and growing a business in a positive atmosphere for entrepreneurs. Competence and understanding related to entrepreneurship and the world of work will be increased through public services and at different levels of education. Suitable training will be developed to strengthen business competence at the international level. One concrete example of this is the micro-entrepreneurship education and research programme, implemented by the Kerttu Saalasti Institute and highlighted as a national task.

Despite the fact that we have statistical data at our disposal (such as MYTilastot; in Finnish only), as well as reports and barometers on micro-enterprises, more research data will be needed to increase people’s understanding of micro-enterprises and entrepreneurship. This will help direct policy measures in the best possible way, in addition to enabling companies to develop their own activities.

Entrepreneurship involves continuous learning

The parliamentary reform of continuous learning responds to the life-long need to develop and renew one’s own competence. The reform promotes learning in the world of work, creates a service system for continuous learning, and increases equality of participation by improving the accessibility of services. The Service Centre for Continuous Learning and Employment (SECLE) is a new authority that promotes the competence development of working-age people and the availability of skilled labour. The establishment of this service centre is part of a broader reform of continuous learning.

The Government Programme has focused on developing the operating environment of SMEs as well as continuous learning at all levels of education and at all stages of working life, but particularly when competence requires updating or reorientation.

Author: Soili Vasikainen, PhD, MSc (Econ & BusAdm), Senior Ministerial Adviser (Science Affairs), Ministry of Education and Culture