Estonia proudly claims the third spot among the leading startup hubs in the Nordics, a recognition conferred by the recent StartupBlink report. Furthermore, our nation has surged to 10th place in the global ranking of emerging ecosystems, a feat acknowledged by the esteemed Global Startup Ecosystem Report.
However, success stories often coexist with unexplored potential. According to The Next Generation of Tech Ecosystems Report, published by Dealroom, the combined valuation of Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish tech enterprises, nearing 400 billion euros, hints at immense possibilities. It’s noteworthy that the Nordic and Baltic nations are the world leaders in generating unicorns per capita, second only to Silicon Valley. But despite this, when measured against China, European investments in DeepTech are presently merely half the magnitude; when gauged against the United States, they stand at just one-third.@startupestonia
The Nordic Tech Valley vision
To outpace the US and Asia, it’s crucial that we consolidate our resources and operate as a united front alongside our neighbouring nations. Transitioning from a national to a global perspective, Estonia, Finland, and Sweden are coming together within the framework of the Nordic Tech Valley, envisioning a collective rise as a global tech force capable of standing on par with their US and Asian counterparts.
Nordic Tech Valley focuses on deep technology because harnessing scientific discoveries for business is becoming one of the main drivers of ecosystem growth. The Nordics aim to create a successful DeepTech region in Europe that produces highly disruptive technologies and exports them to the rest of the world.
While Estonia’s existing collaborations with its neighbours are commendable, opportunities for shared growth remain untapped. Each nation’s stakeholders, such as the country’s authorities, entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators, and private and public sectors, primarily prioritise their own interests. However, the global competitiveness pathway necessitates viewing the Nordic region as a cohesive entity.
Estonian DeepTech action plan key metrics for 2030
- 500 DeepTech startups
- 75 DeepTech scaleups
- 30% share of DeepTech investments
Inaugural steps and insights
The inauguration of the Nordic Tech Valley took place during the Latitude59 tech conference in Estonia. Experts from the region converged to deliberate on technology transfer, collaborative resource pooling, global visibility, and the allure of DeepTech talent and investments. A consensus emerged – a united, regional perspective bolstered by Swedish foresight, Finnish public-private funding models, and Estonian agility could spawn a dynamic, interconnected ecosystem.
Mart Maasik, Head of Entrepreneurship & Investment Director of the University of Tartu, highlighted the pivotal role of DeepTech in the sector’s evolution – it could account for up to half of the added value in the technology sector in the future. “For the emergence and success of new companies, it is essential that scientists do not feel isolated during their transition from academia to the business world,” said Maasik.
Kari Sinivuori, co-founder of Finnish DeepTech startup Uute Scientific, emphasised the synergy between venture capitalists and universities, propelling co-funding research groups and scientific projects.
Inka Mero, CEO of Voima Ventures, illuminated the landscape of DeepTech investments, revealing both progress and room for growth. With investments at 4.5 billion euros out of 21 billion euros in the Nordics, early-stage start-ups remain underserved. The need for capital infusion for nascent ventures has never been more urgent.
Erki Mölder, co-founder of Health Founders, highlighted European Union regulatory bottlenecks hampering innovation, especially in the health sector. “Overregulation in medical technology puts us at a disadvantage compared to the United States or China, where there is much more flexibility and freedom,” he said. A conducive regulatory framework is pivotal in fostering innovation in diverse fields.
Magnetising talent for growth
The cornerstone of success for any tech hub is the ability to draw and inspire top talent. Nordic Tech Valley recognises this and envisions a cascade effect – a surge in research and entrepreneurial initiatives attracting more minds and capital. By synergising the strengths of each Nordic ecosystem, a singular, all-encompassing hub could emerge.
The present moment is the best time to take action. Numerous other European countries are progressively enhancing their support for startups and talent attraction. The understanding that talent begets talent and prosperous startups magnetise others is gaining traction.
Recovery persists despite market volatility. Responding to the situation and seeking innovative solutions, tech entrepreneurs hold a significant role in this resurgence. Reflecting on history, evidence suggests that economic downturns can actually propel new ventures. During such times, capital and talent tend to gravitate towards companies offering value and exhibiting heightened competitiveness. This serves as a poignant reminder of the significance of leveraging each other’s strengths at this point.
Paving the path ahead
The importance of connected European innovation valleys was also underscored during Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ visit to Copenhagen in May, where she advocated for a Nordic cooperation platform. She envisions the creation of a new Silicon Valley in the North, propelled by collaboration, pooling resources, and a shared ambition for global recognition.
Highlighting Estonia’s remarkably open, resilient, flexible, and dynamic business environment, the Prime Minister acknowledged our strong startup culture. Nonetheless, global competition is undeniable within the vast realm of startups and technology.
“In terms of global competition, we are all too small to attempt money from outside. We are too small to go alone, but the Nordic-Baltic region together has a population of 33 million and generates around 2% of global GDP. By working smartly together, we can develop a private equity and venture capital ecosystem that is both sizeable and agile and thus attractive to prominent investors in third markets. Putting assets together could also create an opportunity for bigger tickets from large institutional players. In other words, instead of competing, we can build a new Silicon Valley – let’s call it the New Nordic Tech Valley,” Kallas said.
Confronting challenges with unity
In a world where the solutions to our most significant challenges lie in the realms of science and technology, their role in driving industrial and societal transformation cannot be overstated. These tools hold the potential to reshape our planet’s future, and in this endeavour, the New Nordics stand as torch-bearers. There’s a real chance for the region
to ascend as a global leader, spearheading solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing global issues.
Nordic Tech Valley’s mission is to unlock DeepTech’s potential by empowering stakeholders. This mission takes shape through tangible initiatives: fostering cross-border collaborations among researchers and research institutions, fortifying connections between early-stage DeepTech startups and investors and cultivating a dynamic research-to-business environment for research teams, startups, investors, corporates, and supporting entities. As we stand on the threshold of possibility, it all commences with the mindset of collectively defining the New Nordics as a “we” and extending this perspective to co-create a new era of technological brilliance.
Wish to compare Estonia’s business environment to that of other EU countries having a part of the upcoming innovation valley? Try out our brand-new comparison tool.