Sep 26, 2017 Corporate blog

More than 100 years of Finnish expertise in technology

Marjo Mikkola
Marjo Mikkola
Museum Director, Museum of Technology
Johanna Vähäpesola
Johanna Vähäpesola
Head of Exhibitions and Learning, Museum of Technology
In cooperation with Metso and other Finnish industrial companies, the Museum of Technology will open an exhibition of the significance of technology and industry for Finland. This exhibition, TechLand, celebrates the centenary of Finnish independence. What has been the role of technology and industrial processes in the history of Finland? What kind of technological development paths are involved in the first 100 years of Finnish independence? How has technology shaped Finns’ lives – and how have Finns shaped technology?
View of a bridge.

TechLand will open on October 10, 2017. Visitors will be provided with information about Finnish engineers of various eras, as well as major national technology projects that contributed to the development of engineering in Finland. The content of the exhibition is based on a manuscript prepared by historian Tiina Männistö-Funk, PhD. This blog article is also based on the manuscript that she produced for the museum.

In many ways, Finland has been part of major, often global changes in technology and industry, but Finns have also shaped the world of technology and industry. During the first 50 years of Finnish independence, Finns were more at the receiving end, but this changed during the last 50 years. Education and accumulated expertise have turned Finland into a creator of new technologies that leads the way in certain fields.

Education and international dialogue as key contributors

Highly educated employees are an invaluable resource in creating, implementing and applying new technologies. Since the establishment of the first elementary schools in the country, Finland has aimed for a comprehensive education system that offers equal opportunities for all.

Finns are probably not any more inventive than other nationalities, but the number of new inventions can be facilitated through social policies and measures. In the mid-1980s, innovation became a key technology policy goal for Finland, and cooperation has since been expanded on many fronts, between universities and companies, for example. In terms of innovation, Finland’s special features also include a major state-owned technology research unit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

According to Lars-Erik Michelsen, PhD, engineers in Finland have been builders of the nation who have largely stayed away from political arenas but have had a fundamental impact through their work. Despite their staying away from the spotlight, engineers have wielded power in society and culture, and their work and decisions have been affected by patriotic values and ideas. At the same time, however, they have served as builders and representatives of the international technology system in Finland.

For this reason, highly educated and internationally connected employees can be regarded as Finland’s most significant resource in terms of industrialization. This resource has proven to be invaluable for the creation, implementation and further development of new technologies.

Examining history helps understand the future

In the nineteenth century, foreign expertise was needed to make effective use of Finnish raw materials. Equipment and licenses were also sought abroad. For a small nation, foreign excursions were a common way to accumulate technical expertise. Finland sought engineering expertise particularly in Germany. Excursions to other European countries were made until the Second World War, after which the focus shifted to the United States.

Over time, Finland became more self-sufficient in terms of technical expertise. Education in technical fields has been provided in Finland since the 1840s and at the university level since 1908. With the further development of the national education system, expertise in technology strengthened in Finland, and the country began to attract visitors interested in its system of education. Today, many foreign students come to study technology in a Finnish university.

The basic function of the Museum of Technology is to preserve and exhibit Finnish technology heritage, which focuses on expertise. In a report from 2010 by Sitra, Bertil Roslin writes: “We have to be attentive to the future. It tends to sneak up on us unnoticed.” Examining history is at least equally beneficial, as it shows us where we are coming from and why we are the way that we are.

As the role of technology has become extremely important in our society, examining its history is necessary for understanding the past. The future and history are both formed gradually, moment by moment, and only afterward can we see the big picture. Examining history also helps us understand the future, as it enables us to identify patterns and transitions that surround us and are taking us toward the future.

Welcome to visit the new exhibition at the Museum of Technology. For more information, see