Finland is aiming for pole position in the development of autonomous systems

The global market for autonomous systems is growing quickly: an estimated EUR 76 billion will be spent on robotics by 2025. To keep pace with this development, Finland is launching RAAS, a new innovation ecosystem for autonomous systems. The aim is for RAAS to grow into one of the world's leading development environments. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland has given a government grant for the full launch of the innovation ecosystem.

Autonomous systems are revolutionising transport and logistics, and will make them even more efficient and safe in the future, while also lowering emissions. New solutions and services, along with the data collected through them, will generate business opportunities in a variety of applications.

There are already some strong Finnish research organisations and companies operating in the field of autonomous systems. Finnish companies represent the global state-of-the-art in the development of marine transport, automated ports and mobile machinery. Keeping the top spot in a rapidly changing market nevertheless requires the safeguarding of national expertise, cross-border cooperation and the ability to leverage quickly developing technologies.

The RAAS (Research Alliance for Autonomous Systems) innovation ecosystem is rising to the challenge by bringing key research organisations and other actors together for the development of new, cross-sector solutions. The ecosystem's goals are expediting the development of systems with a high level of automation and rejuvenating innovation activities in the field. This will be crucial since, according to a Europe-wide study, up to 96% of innovations are created in ecosystems.

"There are technical, operational issues and business challenges to overcome in the development of autonomous systems, but we also need to resolve a number of questions related to legislation, regulations and social acceptance. An innovation ecosystem like RAAS will let us tackle broad, systemic challenges", says RAAS Coordinator Hannu Karvonen.

The ecosystem's focus areas will include land transport, marine and port operations, mobile machinery and drones. These application areas share many features in common and make use of the same technologies. Cooperation will generate synergy benefits and support mutual learning between industries.

"The initiative for RAAS came from the industry. The availability of a one-stop-shop innovation ecosystem will help companies find solutions to concrete challenges more efficiently. It also gives companies a great opportunity to influence the direction of research in the field", says VTT's Co-Creation Manager Ismo Vessonen. Indeed, RAAS welcomes companies to talk about the challenges to development in this field and find the right paths, professionals and partners to expedite the creation of new hit products and services.

Photo: RAAS focus domains and what can be enabled in them in the future. Photo: Anastasiia Kanatkina

The innovation ecosystem can be used to chart the current state of expertise in Finland and identify development areas where the help of international partners will be required. This globally unique development environment will raise Finland's profile in the field, support exports and attract international competence and investments to Finland.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland, RAAS is an initiative with the quality and scope required to build a functional and attractive network for supporting companies' innovation activity and coordinating the education of the required top specialists. The cluster will also promote the development of company-driven ecosystems for the application of AI and generate added value through new business in autonomous systems.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland has given a government grant for the full launch of the innovation ecosystem by the autumn of 2020. The research organisations participating in the RAAS project will also fund a portion of the operation's costs.

The launch partners of the RAAS project are VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, Tampere University, University of Helsinki, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, University of Oulu, Turku University of Applied Sciences, University of Turku, Yrkeshögskolan Novia and Åbo Akademi. Five other universities have joined RAAS after launch, and new actors are welcome to join the innovation ecosystem.



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