Interview with Jani Vallirinne
Metaverse EU sat down with Jani Vallirinne to discuss Finland's Metaverse Strategy
MSc Jani Vallirinne spearheads the development and implementation of Finlands’s Metaverse Strategy. The work to formulate Finland’s strategy is a collaborative effort of about 400 people from various organisations in Finland, aiming to create a vision and roadmap for the future of immersive technologies and virtual worlds. Jani is also a Metaverse Strategy Lead at the University of Oulu and VTT, a research institute and has been working with metaverse technology for the last 30 years, having earlier worked at VTT, Nokia, and three of his own start-up companies.
Metaverse EU: The Finnish government tasked Business Finland with creating a metaverse strategy. Why now, and what does the initiative aim to achieve?
Jani Vallirinne: The initiative was initially launched by Business Finland, with the government’s support from the beginning. The initiative quickly caught the attention of companies and other organisations, and a wave of enthusiasm spread rapidly. The timing is crucial as metaverse technologies are starting to emerge, and there is a lot of worldwide activity on this. With the current technological strengths and an advanced position in information technology, Finland has a natural opportunity to take a lead globally on this.
M EU: What is the role of major European tech players, like Nokia and Ericsson, in developing the metaverse, and how can governments support them?
Vallirinne: Governments can help major tech players by providing clear guidance with regard to legislation and the goals of the government. This enables the companies to invest with confidence in the future and in the metaverse. Some big companies will develop key technologies to enable the metaverse, while others will mostly invest in applying it to their business.
M EU: This strategy aims to position Finland as a global metaverse leader. What are the unique strengths and advantages of the Finnish ecosystem?
Vallirinne: The success of Nokia mobile phones brought world-class talent to Finland in many technologies that are pivotal to enabling the metaverse, such as optics, microelectronics, displays and business knowledge. Also, Finland has a tradition of adopting new technologies quickly, which originally helped Nokia grow so fast. Another big thing is that the Finnish society is so flat and equal, people are inclined to trust each other, and there are no deep hierarchies in companies and society. This trust extends to the government, companies and research organisations working together to reach bigger goals, as we saw with the metaverse strategy. A third aspect is our geopolitics; we can provide technologies and solutions that can be accepted by the big superpowers, but we are seen as quite neutral.
M EU: A common theme in the initiative is open innovation and collaboration across borders. How do you balance the importance of aligning with the European community versus the global ecosystem?
Vallirinne: With open innovation, we mean that the solutions should be based on an architecture that is open and not closed. We do not want to see a toll-booth position for any one company. This said, Finland naturally seeks to have common research projects with other EU countries. The global ecosystem is important, we cannot think of the metaverse with anyone left out of it. The metaverse should run with replaceable components, both hardware and software, so that it does not grow too dependent on any country or region.
M EU: What will this initiative look like in practice? What are some tangible opportunities Finnish businesses can look forward to in 2024?
Vallirinne: The initiative will start five new Metaverse In Action programs, each with its own targets. Two programs, Business Networks and Technology Enablers, form the base for the other three application programs. The application programs are Metaverse Society, Metaverse Health and the Industrial Metaverse. In all these programs, companies and research organisations will apply for research projects and create business opportunities together. We will arrange a kick-off meeting for these programs during the first half of 2024 and expect some tangible results already there.
Finland's initiative is a pivotal moment for Europe's metaverse industry. It's bold and innovative, and it aligns well with Metaverse EU’s ambition to position the EU as a global leader in immersive technologies
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