Accelerate Estonia

We are searching for wicked problems and turning them into new spaces for innovation. It is a platform for all Estonian ministries, the public and the private sector, experts and entrepreneurs to join forces and build the future that we deserve. We are untapping new markets with a powerful but lean private-public collaboration.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The grand challenges modern societies face - aging population, environmental and climate issues, information wars, etc - have no silver bullet to solve them. But in Estonia we have found ourselves in a fortunate situation where the government can take on startup-like ventures to push the edge of what governments are capable of. We have already introduced to the world the concept of erasing digital borders between countries by introducing e-Residency (https://e-resident.gov.ee/). With Accelerate Estonia, we will push further to unveil complex problems that our society faces and undertake missions to solve them. We are a governmental manufactory for moonshots, blue oceans, mission-based policies, ... you name it.

There is no lack of private sector enthusiasm in asking the government to innovate faster. Every month, if not more often, our political elite and top level civil service will meet aspiring entrepreneurs who will argue that they know how to create a prosperous future for the whole country. They may say that our next competitive edge may be in becoming a regional crypto-kingdom, or a paradise of ecological production, or that the real solutions to climate change will be bred here in Estonia. Unfortunately, most of these efforts are clueless of what is actually needed. Fortunately, some of them may be on to something.

How might a government find out which missions to follow and which to ignore? There should be some way to make these choices. That is what Accelerate Estonia is founded for - building a filter that would help validate where government can help with radical innovation and where not. We cannot pick every mission, but we need to get smart about which fights are worth picking so we can prosper and find economically sustainable policies to tackle our major societal issues.

Here is how it works:
1. Through interviews and public events, we identify which ministries are open to rapid innovation. We only work with those that are.
2. With these ministries, we define the complex problems that need to be solved and which don't have a solution yet.
3. Then we create a call for innovators that offer possible out-of-the-box solutions to these complex issues.
4. In a competitive atmosphere, we figure out which of these innovators deserve a proper investment for validation and implementation.
5. For these few that are chosen, we offer a curated acceleration of their idea with access to government, a credit line of up to 100 000 euros, a pool of mentors and a brand that justifies their cause.
6. It is then up to the innovators and their public sector champions (top level civil servants) to prove they can push the edge of government where it has never reached before.
7. For those that make it, there will be follow-up investments available either from public or private sources, or as a combination of the two.

As objectives, we have identified that for the first 3 years, we just need enough cases - a portfolio of innovations - that could provide the breakthroughs. From there onwards, we expect economic output as well as solutions to pressing issues. For example, we are currently jump-starting circular economy in Estonia, but the aim of creating a billion-dollar circular economy market is only viable around 2025. We are helping with digitalising the logistics sector, but a billion euros in savings will only compound by 2025. We have planted the seeds, but the crops will take time to grow. And we do not expect every project to be successful.

It is natural for government innovation labs to be in testing mode for 2-3 years before institutionalisation. That is our logic, too. We are making use of close partners that the government already has - an incubator, startups, ecosystem players. We should not institutionalise the approach until we know what works and what does not. But scaling is in the vision - the projects we choose must first have impact in Estonia and thereafter regionally or globally.

Accelerate Estonia has been built on a lot of previous accomplishments. The edge of government is already quite far along in Estonia, but we are pushing it further. In addition to eResidency - a governmental platform that has enabled more the creation of more than 10 000 companies and created more than 30 million euros in tax returns - Estonia already has the best tax code in OECD. We have almost all of our public services digitally available. According to Index Ventures - https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/27/30-european-startup-ceos-call-for-better-stock-option-policies/ - our regulation is most favourable for attracting tech talent. Our startup sector is growing 30% every year (https://startupestonia.ee/blog/recap-of-2019-in-the-estonian-startup-sector). In short, there is a strong virtuous cycle here that can be accelerated further to help solve grand challenges.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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Year: 2019
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

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