Emerging Europe, the London-based intelligence, news and community platform produced a major news report focusing on investment promotion agencies across the region. This year’s report focused on the preparedeness of IPAs throughout the COVID-19 situation and subsequent recovery, that could have a lasting effect on relations with investors; and the use of digital channels that played a key role in the process.
“Those that did well were cities, provinces and countries that embraced digital channels to communicate seamlessly with those firms already on the ground, while luring new ones with a well-rounded value proposition. The fact that those countries rated in this year’s top five IPA listings were able to achieve such rankings speaks to the motivation and ingenuity of the teams within each of those national organisations,” Peter Ryan, principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory told Emerging Europe.
AI-based solutions to stay a part of Estonia’s investment promotion
Estonian Investment Agency (a part of Enterprise Estonia) has been developing its digital channels and tools for many years already, integrating more and more possibilities offered by process automation and artificial intelligence on the way. “In spring 2020, members of the Estonian Investment Agency team took a lead role in developing the AI-based chatbot Suve,” Andero Kaha, the agency’s Digital Services Development Manager said. “Suve was one of the ideas that became a reality at the Hack the Crisis hackathon, an initative to beat the crisis by doing what people in Estonia do best – going digital.”
Suve, the chatbot, has had several different roles: answering to questions related to the spread of COVID-19 during the emergency situation, taking care of the questions businesses might have about state support measures related to the situation, advising residents and visitors on travel restrictions, etc. “It must be stressed that our new colleague Suve was born in cooperation between our agency’s Work in Estonia team, other teams within the organization and tens of volunteers from outside. Suve is not a temporary project – she is here to stay,” Kaha said.
From virtual investment visits to automated marketing
Suve is, however, not the Estonian Investment Agency’s only digital tool, nor its only robotic colleague. For several years already, the possibilities of sales force automation have been utilized to make the investment advising process more systematic and more effective, with the robotic sales support specialist Eia (Electronic Investment Advisor) helping the agency’s staff provide potential and existing investors with up-to-date information. This year, an experimental marketing and communications automation robot Emma (Electronic Multimedia Assisant) was introduced to make the agency’s marketing effort more effective. During the COVID-19 situation, as the borders closed, the agency quickly reacted to the new situation by launching platforms to host virtual business visits and webinars to replace the physical ones. These solutions will stay in use as the borders continue to reopen.
Remote work and systematic research as keys to success
Due to the COVID-19 situation, during the last months, many of these solutions have been developed from various home offices in Estonia and abroad. This year, the agency’s mother organization Enterprise Estonia was awarded the Remote Work award for adapting to the changed health situation quickly and effectively.
“There is still one more fact to be stressed,” Kaha added. “2020 has been a year when we have turned towards more systematic research into how going digital has affected us. We have taken a look at the costs and benefits of going digital, observed how going digital and process automation are perceived within the organization and outside. Being named the region’s leading IPA is another assurance that we are on the right path.”