The success story of autonomous shipping would not have come about without the Finnish innovation system

Perspective
The One Sea ecosystem is a Finnish success story – and a globally unique example of cooperation between the public and private sectors. Public RDI funding should be focused on initiatives that no single operator would be able to complete alone, writes Sauli Eloranta, CTO of Rolls-Royce Marine.
One Sea – Autonomous Maritime Ecosystem and the network of companies that created it have long been the focus of international attention. The inspiring vision and true business-driven approach have given rise to the hottest “hot spot” of autonomous shipping in Finland.

One Sea serves as a good example for other similar consortiums about how a bold vision creates global appeal on the market. We need to abandon old-fashioned zero-sum thinking and the limited perspective of an individual company. Cooperation based on trust also creates the basis for the success of each individual operator. RDI funding should be focused on initiatives that no operator would be able to complete alone, not even a large-scale industrial enterprise.

For Rolls-Royce, the Finnish RDI system has been particularly effective. In practice, the greater the number of companies involved, the more support is granted for the development of autonomous shipping. So competitors getting involved is not a bad thing – quite the contrary. The Finnish innovation system was a major factor in Rolls-Royce’s decision to establish a new autonomous ship research and development centre in Finland.

The Finnish innovation system was a major factor in Rolls-Royce’s decision to establish a new autonomous ship research and development centre in Finland.

It is worth remembering that the One Sea ecosystem includes not only Finnish companies, but also foreign companies that have significantly increased their investments in Finland with regard to this area of technology.

Our innovation system currently highlights the development of ecosystems and striving for a leading position on the international market. RDI support for the orchestration of ecosystems facilitates the establishment of ecosystems and cooperation between competitors. As cooperation and trust develop, competitors can participate in joint development projects that may, in turn, be granted project-specific financial support.

The new growth engine funding encourages the creation of entirely new business – so the focus is not just on development, but on implementing real business and taking it to the market. Funding as a whole must cover all phases, from the beginning of cooperation to the market launch.

The emergence of completely new markets is changing forms of business and giving Finnish operators the opportunity to gain a strong position worldwide. For instance, autonomous marine traffic will change maritime business and provide Finland with the opportunity to become a significant sea power in the field of ICT. Finland’s robust ICT competence base is a strength that many others lack in the development of maritime industries.

Finland’s robust ICT competence base is a strength that many others lack in the development of maritime industries.

Focused research benefits business-oriented ecosystems. The Research Alliance for Autonomous Systems (RAAS), a joint initiative of science universities and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is a good example of new consortiums formed around this theme. With regard to research funding, industry is naturally hoping for funding for applied research supporting business and for the development of indicators that encourage this for research institutes.

At present, Finland is the only country in the world that has already actively amended its legislation to allow autonomy-related activities, such as testing in separate test areas and remote pilotage. This is an example of uniquely good cooperation between the private and public sectors, which is not common worldwide. Similarly, the world’s most significant marine industry companies operating in Finland have been testing and demonstrating solutions related to autonomous ships in practice – and have already introduced the first associated products and services to the market. In this way, public RDI support can, if used properly, act as a strong lever for moving the entire industry towards the future.

Sauli Eloranta

CTO, Rolls-Royce Marine