Business Arena’s Mikko Markkanen (left) can’t deny the power of the donut.

Local business owner wants to see a plan regarding Finland’s ‘brain economy’.

A local company who guides universities and research projects wants to see what the plan is for one of Finland’s major markets: the students who come and go.

“If we want to keep studies free for students, we have to be much more active trying to connect these students with local businesses, otherwise it’s just madness.” said Mikko Markkanen, owner of Business Arena Oy.

Business Arena helps commercialise university research, as well as streamline complicated EU projects, shaping them into sustainable long-term ideas.

“The EU will give local projects funding, we are hired to help the project managers to see the concepts clearly and to seize the opportunities they have to commercialise those concepts afterward,” says Markkanen, “We are also working in a few places on how to changes the roles of teachers, so they can see that their work is traditional teaching as well as connecting to research and development projects, and how they can use students in these projects.”

It is through that same lens that Markkanen sees the current debate surrounding charging tuition to foreign students. The first step is to take a look at the information provided to the public.

“There was information on tuition being charged at different institutions, and in the end the results weren’t good. Well no wonder, they likely just continued what they were doing before and just added a price tag to it,” said Markkanen. “That kind of marketing doesn’t really work at all.”

It’s not that Markkanen couldn’t benefit from having foreign students coming through the door. In November of last year Markkanen held a recruiting event, inviting students who would soon be heading to their home countries to help export his ideas and help restructure institutions outside of Finland, speeding the rate of Business Arena’s internationalisation.

Markkanen applied the same idea he’s been pitching to universities to his own expansion, hoping students will springboard him into new markets with their local knowledge.

“I understand the idea of internationalising the atmosphere and networks, and then people want to work for local companies,” said Markkanen. “If that’s the goal, I want to see some practical steps, and I don’t see that at the moment. There are no active models on how to connect students and businesses, or are so small in scale that there is really no impact.”

Markkanen asserts that because factories can’t be the economic powerhouse of Finland, the answer must lie somewhere else.

“I think the future for Finland’s economy is exporting ideas, we’re not going to be involved in the mass manufacture of something. What we need to focus on is a business plan for exporting these ideas, because it is a very hard thing to do.”


Adam Faber