The world's first test area for autonomous vessels was inaugurated in 2017 in Rauma. In the same year Rolls-Royce, one of the world's leading marine technology companies, announced that it was opening a research and development centre in Turku.
These success stories might come as a surprise considering what Finland is generally known for. The forest industry here has traditionally been strong and still accounts for one-fifth of the country's exports. And what about Finland’s IT expertise? Mobile phone company Nokia was born in Finland, and today the jewels in the high-tech crown can be found in the gaming industry with companies like Rovio and Supercell, whose hit games have achieved rapid global success.
The Finnish maritime cluster, however, has developed into a vital industry over a long period. In recent years, actors within the cluster have caught the wind from the changes shaking up the industry, such as digitalisation and ever-tightening environmental legislation. When the EU introduced a sulphur directive in 2015 to reduce sulphur emissions from shipping, the decision was widely considered unfair in Finland. There was much disgruntlement over the fact that the regulation covered only the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the shipping waters of North America. More stringent sulphur limits will come into force elsewhere in the world only in 2020. Despite their unpopularity, however, the new regulations have already turned in Finland's favour.