After implementing next-gen automation processes and bringing €194M of foreign direct investment to Estonia in 2021, Emerging Europe’s investment promotion report recognises the Estonian Investment Agency (Invest Estonia) as the most effective investment promotion agency (IPA).
Estonia is one of the most investment-friendly locations in Europe, bringing in record numbers of per capita foreign capital thanks to the fair tax system, effective regulation, highly skilled talent, and attention to investment relationships. Focusing on the latter, Emerging Europe considers Invest Estonia as the most effective among 23 countries for the third year in a row.
Invest Estonia scored 90 points out of 100, followed by Lithuania (82) and Czechia (77). We’re also proud to be showcased in the case study focused on the automation efforts that help the agency to be more effective and productive. Invest Estonia had implemented automation well before the pandemic and can now share tangible results, saving 3,300 working hours in 2021 alone.
Building investors relations
Speaking about numbers alone, the Estonian Investment Agency facilitated €194M of foreign direct investment to Estonia in 2021. This contributed to the creation of over 1,600 high-added-value jobs across Estonia. Compared to 2020, the CAPEX figure has risen by nearly a quarter, and the number of jobs doubled.
However, the Emerging Europe report used a more sophisticated system to measure IPAs’ productivity. The researchers have developed a series of questions to analyse the digital channels national IPAs use. Based on that, they assign points across various categories, e.g., the validity of information, online presence and ease of use, innovation, support, community building, and response to current developments. Invest Estonia is the only agency with the maximum score in innovativeness and creativity.
Invest Estonia’s website is praised for offering up-to-date information spanning across different sectors. Despite Estonia’s leading position in the information technology industries, the country pushes for balanced coverage of its business sectors, luring investments in other parts of the economy, from energy to farming and industrial production. Invest Estonia also balances the information with fact sheets about the tax system, labour force, and other relevant statistics that could be useful for foreign investors. In addition, invest Estonia keeps people updated about coming events and investment opportunities across various channels, from social media to mailing lists.
Estonia scored 24 out of 30 in the validity of information and led the list in support and community building ranking with 25 points. The latter is highly important because besides informing, there’s a need to build community and give people tools to convert pure interest in the concrete investment opportunity. Invest Estonia is built on user-friendly principles with easily downloadable and customisable guides that serve as the first step in building relationships with investors while saving manual labour.
This helps Estonia to punch above its weight in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows, ranking 4th in per capita numbers with $743M.
Innovating the scene
Estonia was also in the spotlight of a special case study by Emerging Europe focusing on digital interaction tools and their adoption.
For many countries, the shift to e-services was pushed by the pandemic. In fact, a comparative Analysis of Investment Promotion Practices across the OECD, released in 2021, confirms that over 90 per cent of investment promotion agencies across the 38 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report the pandemic accelerating the use of digital tools in their operations. For Estonia, dealing with things digitally and reducing bureaucracy are long-standing efforts.
There’s no shortage of evidence to back this claim – one can look at the history of electronic signatures in Estonia. Introduced in 2002, it has been used 800 million times since then. This number shows that around 100 million e-signatures were made in the first ten years. Now, more than 100 million digital signatures are made per year.
The same thing is happening in digital interactions with investors. Invest Estonia’s set of integrated yet separate, non-human agents combines various technologies and concepts, such as machine learning, natural language processing and process automation (including sales force automation), with the single goal of providing potential investors with the information they need, just when they need it.
“Our agency is a future form of how companies should be. Humans and robots are working smoothly together here. This is a new norm in Estonia, where automation and AI have become the go-to technologies for public and private institutions”, says Joonas Vänto, head of Invest Estonia.
The benefits are evident. For example, last year, almost 1,500 potential investors were helped using the semi-automatic enquiry handling process of our customer service robot Eia, in addition to the thousands of fully automated conversations handled by our chatbot agent Suve. In recent years, Eia has had a significant role in bringing more than 20 million euros of investments to Estonia.
Invest Estonia’s future goals are even more ambitious. This year, we launched a unique, self-learning location attractiveness comparison tool ComparEST, that lets investors compare Estonia’s investment attractiveness to that of other European countries and uses advanced machine-learning models to help our investment advisors create detailed value propositions.
In 2023-2026 this should contribute to facilitating €1.2B of foreign direct investment and helping investors create 1,000 high added- value jobs per year. As another Emerging Europe report points out, a strong foundation is already built to achieve those goals.
“From intelligent chatbots to e-signatures, we are removing every obstacle to speed up investments.
We’re happy to see our efforts recognized by Emerging Europe. In the coming years, we will unleash an even bigger wave of innovations in communications and operations. But most importantly, Invest Estonia improves for our customers to be happy, satisfied and do business most effectively”, says Vänto.
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