At the annual conference of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation titled ‘Kite flight – who are the winners in a changing world?’ held on 25 March, President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid and President of the Council of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation Kai Realo signed an agreement to establish an innovation intensive business club. The employers’ initiative brings together companies that invest at least 2% of their turnover in R&D.
In her opening speech at the conference, the Head of State, who had been invited by the employers to speak about the initiative, cited the Nordic countries’ contribution to R&D twenty years ago as an example. ‘Finland, Sweden, and Denmark are countries that are very similar to us – they are small with an aging population and resource constraints. Without a doubt, they are successful as small economies and the main point of reference for Estonians. Taking 1995 as a basis of comparison, when the quality of life in these countries was about the same as it is in our country today, and when we all envied them, the expenditure on R&D in these countries amounted to 3% of GDP and even more,’ the President of the Republic highlighted in her speech.
‘Of course, we already have companies where we are actually developing new technologies – we are designing the best snowploughs in the world, for example. Additionally, we are creating prerequisites for a post-quantum ID. But we still have very few of our own inventions, meaning that there are about 250 companies across Estonia that report R&D expenditures,’ President Kaljulaid said. ‘Things are quietly improving, for example, there are those who are able to get their foot in the door at the European Space Agency and those who are engaged elsewhere; however, without our own base, it is difficult to achieve this growth in external sources here. Therefore, we need to do more! In addition to the 1% state contribution to research, the private sector contributes 2%. There is no other option to ensure sustainable economic development,’ President Kersti Kaljulaid said.
‘We believe that there are actually more companies in Estonia that invest in R&D than reflected in statistics today. At the same time, bringing the national aggregate indicator to 2% of GDP requires a multiplication of the number of companies contributing to R&D. Our interest is to involve as many of them as possible, recognise them, and also learn from their experience,’ said President of the Council of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation Kai Realo.
‘As employers of a state with a shrinking workforce and with one of the fastest wage growth rates in Europe, we have realised that in order to win in competition we need to offer products and services of higher perceived value. It is said that each product is only one innovation away from dropping out of competition,’ said Vice-President of the Council of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation and Chairman of the Management Board of Columbus Eesti Ivo Suursoo, who is one of the leaders of the initiative. ‘Innovation is not only an opportunity for companies in the new economy, but for all companies,’ he added.
The cooperation agreement on establishing a 2% innovation intensive business club is available on the website of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation. The badge for the first 2% club member was also awarded to Chemi-Pharm AS CEO Ruth Oltjer at the event.
The programme of the conference ‘Kite flight – who are the winners in a changing world?’ is available at www.tuulelohe.ee. The co-organiser of the 2021 conference of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation is Enterprise Estonia. The main sponsors are OÜ NG Investeeringud and Luminor Pank AS. The major sponsors are Eesti Energia AS and the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. The supporters are AS Eesti Gaas, Sillamäe Sadam AS, BLRT Grupp AS, Infortar AS, AS Nortal, AS Harmet, Kitman Thulema AS, AS Liviko, Swedbank AS, AS Balbiino, and the Labour Inspectorate.
In 2020, the Estonian Employers’ Confederation established the Employer Innovation Start-Up Chamber to address the topic of innovation more effectively. From there, the idea of launching a club to recognise and involve the most knowledge intensive entrepreneurs in order to amplify the positive impact of their activities came into being.
The Estonian Employers’ Confederation is Estonia’s most influential umbrella organisation for entrepreneurs and the official partner of the Estonian state and a representative of employers. The Estonian Employers’ Confederation brings together more than 2000 prominent companies and professional associations that employ almost 250,000 people all over Estonia.