The Finnish example, often cited a case study to be followed by other nations, has turned the Nordic country into a high-tech knowledge economy. But a new report calls for a rethink of the current model, which experts say has become "complicated".
In particular, the study, commissioned by the Finnish government, says business support structures are in need of reform. Companies, especially SMEs and start-ups, find the system difficult to use because support schemes for entrepreneurship are dispersed across several organisations.
Growth in businesses should be promoted through both individual and corporate tax incentives, according to the report, which may raise eyebrows in European countries keen to mimic Finland's relative success.
Finland is failing to attract foreign researchers, well-educated expats and the R&D departments of knowledge-intensive overseas businesses, the evaluation finds. Strong incentives to increase the mobility of researchers and strengthen international partnerships in universities and research institutions are proposed as a remedy.
The report commends Finland for its strong regional education system, with hundreds of campuses dispersed across the country. However, the expert panel that compiled the analysis says allocating aid to areas outside centres of growth can slow productivity gains.
The evaluation was carried out by a large international panel led by Professor Reinhilde Veugelers, a Belgian innovation expert. It forms part of a general effort by the Finnish government to revamp its highly-rated innovation system, which officials fear has been losing its shine.
Finland has consistently fared well in international comparative studies but progress has slowed somewhat in recent years. Having increased its share of new patents filed at the European Patent Office during its economic recovery, generation of new intellectual property has plateaued.
The process of reform is likely to include an overhaul of the university system. The new report suggests developing targets for research and innovation in higher education. It calls on the government to create clearer roles for colleges involved in applied sciences and to expand the size of university faculties.
Universities should step up their involvement with specialised research as part of a broader effort to strengthen international collaboration, the report says.
One of the more radical proposals put forward by the expert panel is to transfer basic sectoral research to universities and divide the remaining research activities between four or five institutions, rather than the current 18 higher education bodies.
Risk-taking and experimental practices will be required to keep the Finnish economy's advantage in a number of technology sectors, it says.