If you’d like to see what Slush will look like in 2026, it’s time to start believing in science – because innovation and science go hand in hand. Development is rarely linear, but the bad news is that we’ve now taken several steps backwards.
1. There are no new innovations without science – and we’re cutting funding for it
None of the startups at Slush would exist without science. Economists estimate that one third to one half of the economic growth of the United States after World War II has come from innovations that have their roots in basic and applied research.
Finland don’t have immense amounts of natural resources such as oil or diamonds. That is why our only option was to make our people smart by creating one of the world’s strongest education systems.
Three percent of a country’s gross domestic product should be invested in research and development in order to create lasting growth and more jobs. Finland invested 3.17% in 2014 and 2.90% in 2015. The drop is almost half a billion euros, a large number for a small country. That does have an impact. During the best years the percentage was nearly four. We haven’t been this low since the 1990s.
Luckily we can still fix this.
2. Short-sightedness is dangerous – we need to learn to appreciate delayed gratification
Shortly, science can be split into two categories: basic science and applied science. Basic research creates new knowledge and fuels applied science. Applied research then uses the knowledge, findings and concepts, to develop them further. Eventually this might lead to practical applications like touchscreens.
Basic research takes time and it’s very difficult to calculate a precise return of investment. The problem is that delayed gratification is not exactly supported in our time. However, if we’re willing to wait for our reward, it’s estimated that the return for a publicly funded R&D is around 30 percent.
When Google Maps gives you directions from the airport to the Expo and Convention Centre in Helsinki, you should be sending your thanks to Einstein. Formulated over a hundred years ago, Einstein’s theory of relativity helps us make accurate measurements from satellites orbiting in the exosphere.
Unfortunately, short-sightedness affects our policymaking and long-term strategies. Just last week, the Parliament of Finland decided to reconsider wind power, because a representative from the nationalist Finns Party claimed that the infrasound coming from wind turbines causes harmful health effects. Not a single scientist has backed this claim up, but it was enough to postpone an initiative for renewable energy.
If we’d prefer for our decisions to be based on research rather than, say, a politician’s personal beliefs or astrology, we need to understand the immense role that science plays in creating solutions to our big problems.
3. Solving big problems requires taking big risks
Solving Alzheimer’s disease, living sustainably in a long-lasting world or tackling the global food crisis requires a lot of work and a lot of failures. These problems are too big for most startups and venture capitalists. When resources are scarce, creativity, boldness and curiosity are hard to maintain. We are surrounded by bright minds, but what if they never get to use their full potential? It’s a risk we would prefer not to take.
This is why science is very present at this year’s Slush. Slush Science Track brings keynote speeches from top scientists and, most importantly, the Skolar Award, a research grant of 100,000 euros for the post-doc researcher who comes up with the best, ground-breaking research idea. The finalists will pitch their research ideas on the Pitching Stage on the 1st of December at 1 p.m. Come and take a peek into the future!
Please continue the discussion, wish our semifinalists luck and follow the competition at @Skolarme and #slushscience16 on Twitter.