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Finland seeks to become metaverse global leader by 2035

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The Finnish government is seeking to become a world leader in the metaverse – or virtual worlds – by 2035, according to its strategy published on Wednesday (29 November).

The report, entitled ‘Metaverse Initiative by the Finnish Ecosystem: Virtual Potential into Real-World Impact’, states that Finland would like to become “a global leader in the metaverse industry”.

While China, Japan, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates have started to work on similar strategies, this is the first national metaverse strategy from an EU member state.

The term ‘metaverse’ as it stands is fairly slippery. The European Commission’s strategy published in July on the topic instead used the phrase ‘virtual worlds’ – as the metaverse lexicon was deemed too closely associated with Meta (formerly Facebook).

According to the Finnish report, while there have been several definitions, today, “the term [metaverse] has been used to describe various visions of virtual worlds that are immersive and experiential, and that may integrate elements of the physical and digital worlds.”

Moreover, the metaverse can remember users and their environment; some parts are “seamlessly connected to the real world”. It also mimics reality and is “by default in immersive 3D”.

For users, it is also possible to socialise, communicate, or trade in the metaverse and move between virtual worlds and platforms while transferring their data.

According to Patrick Grady, editor at policy hub Metaverse EU, Finland’s “definition for the ‘metaverse’—and not ‘virtual worlds’—helps to clarify rather than confuse key elements of new immersive technology”.

Finnish values

The report also emphasises the Finnish values, which include collaborating with other nations.

“Finland’s geopolitical position between superpowers of the world allows it to balance its interests between different actors and regions and to create mutual trust in other countries”, the document reads.

The country is home to leading companies in extended reality, such as Varjo, Dispelix, and Optofidelity, but also to important companies in the telecom sector, like Nokia and Cinia. Finland also ranks among the best in the world in several converging technologies.

The text reads, “tightly linked with the metaverse: software applications, networking technologies, advanced computing (including quantum technologies), Artificial Intelligence, fintech, gaming, and metaverse environments”.

Timeframe

The report anticipates that by 2035, the annual metaverse industry turnover will be more than €30 billion. While 2035 is the current ‘deadline’, this date will be updated annually.

By that date, Finland wants to become a global leader by achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Helsinki would like the metaverse to support Finland’s sustainability efforts “by reducing emissions, enhancing circularity, improving wellbeing, and fostering social cohesion”.

However, the Nordic country hopes it will not be a field dominated by one company or country. Instead, the Finnish would like to see “a diverse and dynamic metaverse ecosystem” which connects “different actors, sectors, and domains” and ensures an environment “for standardisation, regulation, cybersecurity, and education”.

Finland wants to ensure that “the metaverse is inclusive and accessible for all people regardless of their background, location, or abilities” while supporting startups and investors with a regulatory and funding environment.

Finland also wants to be a “global advocate for digital rights and ethics in the metaverse”, making sure that the “users’ privacy, security, and autonomy are respected and protected” but also putting the focus on digital literacy, democracy, transparency, and accountability in the governance and development of the metaverse.

Metaverse in Action Programs

As a part of the Metaverse in Action Programs, Finland underlined the importance of familiarising citizens with the technology, to “better educate the general public about new opportunities by the metaverse”.

To do this, the metaverse should be, for example, made accessible for everyone “in hubs, public libraries or other public places”. The report says that Finland’s “strong educational system” also plays a part in this, for example, the current Smart City working group and Tampere University.

According to the document, the metaverse can “improve health outcomes, reduce costs and increase access” and “enable human-centric remote work and telework, teleoperation, digital twins and AI helpers, collaborative robotics and situational awareness”.

“By focusing on particular sectors—namely, society, healthcare and industries—Finland’s strategy avoids the vagueness that plagues broader initiatives we’ve seen elsewhere“, Grady added.

Concrete actions

The report also suggests actions to take inside the five types of the Metaverse in Action Programs it mentions, namely technology enablers, business networks, metaverse society, metaverse health, and industrial metaverse.

For technology enablers, it is suggested to set up a “European research consortia involving large companies and SMEs”, which would later become “the basis for the European business cooperation”.

For other programs, the document also talks about such actions as promoting matchmaking between Finnish and foreign companies, creating work to “attract the best Metaverse-ready talents”, ensuring the participation of different organisations, or building a regulatory framework for metaverse technologies.

[Edited Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]

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