Finland offers a supportive environment for entrepreneurship

In focus: Some government policies, schemes & grants that are available for entrepreneurs in Finland

One of the northernmost countries in the world, Finland is a beautiful place to explore. It is home to vast forests and an incredible number of lakes, which incidentally, were formed in the last Ice Age, when glaciers cut up its many landscapes.

Finland offers a supportive environment for entrepreneurship. Meaning that this includes very low levels of administrative burden for start-ups and, easy access to debt financing for new and small firms. Over 2015-19, the overall total early-stage entrepreneurship activity (TEA) rate – which estimated the share of the population involved in starting and managing business that were less than 42 months old – was 6.9% in Finland; which was almost equal to the EU average. Similarly, the share of people involved in starting new businesses (“nascent entrepreneurship”) was in-line with the EU average.

So, general entrepreneurship support programmes are widely available and some tailored actions are used to support specific population groups in business creation (eg entrepreneurial education for youth, labour market integration for immigrants), but financial measures are strictly generic. Public policy measures are complemented by specialized non-governmental organizations.

Here are some government policies, schemes and grants that are available for entrepreneurs in Finland.

> Government policies

Typically, entrepreneurship policies and programmes in this country, fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Finance. The responsibility of issues related to immigrant entrepreneurship has been transferred to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in early 2020 (the Ministry of Interior was previously in charge of this).

Implementation of policy actions is carried out through several organizations reporting to the ministries on regional and municipal levels. Entrepreneurship policy is generally developed with a one-size fits all approach, for the past decade. Policy planning and implementation often involve cooperation between the government, ministries, parliament, and major stakeholder organizations, nationally and within the EU.

In addition, there are some non-governmental organizations targeted to promote the needs of entrepreneurs. The main one is the Federation of Finnish Enterprises (Suomen Yrittäjät), an interest and service organization for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their owners. The Federation of Finnish Enterprises is a national organization with no particular focus on any target group of entrepreneurs. Their task is to improve the position of entrepreneurs and the conditions for entrepreneurship and to make Finland an entrepreneurial society.

There are also non-governmental organizations and initiatives focusing on the needs of entrepreneurs from specific groups. Notable organizations include:

  • Young Entrepreneurs is a network for young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs. It operates as a part of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.
  • The Federation of Finnish Entrepreneurs with Disabilities (Suomen Vammaisyrittäjät) was established in 2019 to promote the working conditions of entrepreneurs with disabilities as well as their collaboration and networks. It is a member of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises. In 2019 a network of immigrant entrepreneurs started under the umbrella of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.
  • The Women Entrepreneurs of Finland (Suomen Yrittäjänaiset) promotes equality of women entrepreneurs in the society and influences entrepreneurship in policy making in Finland and the European Union. It has collaborated with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment for example in identifying ways to promote women entrepreneurship particularly.
> Equality Programme

This Programme is the instrument of the Finnish Government’s equality policy, which lays down objectives and the measures necessary to achieve them. It aims at promoting an increasingly gender-sensitive approach, for eg – a willingness to monitor the effect of various measures on men’s and women’s status. Finally, it is a channel through which the government informs citizens of its principles and practices in matters of equality.

Promoting gender equality is also the objective of the international community, as represented by the United Nations. Through the Equality Programme the Finnish Government displays to the rest of the world – its concern with the promotion of equality. At the same time the Programme is Finland’s contribution to the international debate on the topic.

> Startup Grant Scheme

The Start-up Grant scheme is particularly relevant for inclusive entrepreneurship. It was originally targeted at the unemployed, but is currently available to all entrepreneurs. Issued by the TE Offices, the grant provides new entrepreneurs with a regular income during the estimated time needed to get their business up and running – up to 12 months. It is reported that the grant accelerated the establishment of their activities and provided them with encouragement. The greatest impact was reported among women and those with modest prior experience in entrepreneurship or industry.

The grant is intended for full-time entrepreneurship and recipients cannot draw a salary or a benefit at the same time. Therefore, retirees and persons with disabilities receiving pensions are not eligible. However, some features of the Start-up Grant scheme can be disadvantageous to some social groups.

> India Finland Startup Hub

Significantly, now the vibrant startup ecosystems of Finland & India are recognized globally for their innovations. In fact, the new-age technology startups from both the regions are making news every day.

While India is the second largest ecosystem in terms of the number of startups, Helsinki is hailed as the second-best city for startup employees by the Nestpick Startup Cities Index for startup employees. It is significant that the number of international companies and ventures in both geographies is constantly growing, largely thanks to the well-educated workforce, business-friendly climate and excellent infrastructure. Incidentally, a large number of industries are being disrupted and enhanced by the innovative nature of products/services emerging
from these startup ecosystems.

> Business and Professional Women (BPW) Finland

Business and Professional Women (BPW) Finland is a branch of BPW International, a global networking organization that brings together women entrepreneurs, businesspeople and professionals from over 90 countries, helping them achieve their full potential both in the workplace and in public life.

So, members of BPW benefit from an international network of like-minded women, thought-provoking and ‘fun’ events, training and mentoring, awards and recognition, publicity, and new business opportunities. To elaborate, BPW membership is open to women of all ages, regardless of their profession; and BPW Finland holds a spring and autumn conference every year.

> Various projects and reforms

In Finland, various projects and reforms have already been undertaken to promote women’s entrepreneurship. For eg, the Act on the Regional Development Fund was amended so that in the beginning of 1997 the Fund can start granting special types of small loans to small-scale enterprises and women’s business activities in the service sector, too; and one type of loan would target women entrepreneurs and it would be granted for the investment and development projects of women entrepreneurs starting up or developing their operations.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry prepared a set of programmes, including the Ladies’ Business School and the Topakat project providing training to women entrepreneurs. The training, counselling and other development services aimed at entrepreneurs are being tailored to entrepreneurs’ – especially women entrepreneurs’ – needs. Universities also arrange entrepreneurship training in female-dominated sectors.

The Centre for the Promotion of Women-Run Enterprises started operating in the beginning of September 1996; and it is responsible for promoting women’s enterprises and self-employment in urban and rural areas – creating viable businesses and new jobs and grouping enterprises into networks. The Centre also tries to influence the attitudes of enterprising women who are still studying or already in working life so that they would consider starting up their own business.

The Centre is a two-year pilot project financed fifty-fifty by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and by industry, co-operating organizations and entrepreneurs. WoMan, the International Institute for Women managers, established in 1988, aims at reforming management by multiplying women’s opportunities of participating in society’s political and economic structures.
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