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Knowledge is Key to Economic Opportunity


Senior policymakers and representatives from business, academia and non-government organizations met in Helsinki, Finland for the Knowledge Economy Forum, March 25-28. The pan-European event, hosted by the World Bank and the Government of Finland, was entitled Implementing Knowledge Economy Strategies: Innovation, Life-Long Learning, Partnerships, Networks and Inclusion.

The Knowledge Economy is the new economic environment in which innovation and knowledge are replacing capital and labor as the primary wealth-creating assets. “The ability of a society to acquire and use knowledge helps drive the competitiveness of a country’s economy and can mean the difference between prosperity and stagnation, both between and within countries,” says World Bank Europe and Central Asia Vice President Johannes Linn, who attended the event along with other regional experts.

At the Helsinki event, delegates from Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey, plus Russia and Ukraine, presented case studies in areas such as building innovation systems and promoting continuing education as well as research and development.

Recent World Bank studies have illustrated the huge payoffs that investments in knowledge can bring. Through investment in education and information technologies, Ireland has transformed its once rural-based economy and is now Europe’s largest exporter of computer software. Thirty years ago, 70 percent of Finland’s exports were wood and paper products. Now, more than 50 percent of the country’s exports are knowledge-intensive products and it is a world leader in information technologies. And in 2001, modern infrastructure, a technology park and services support structure helped attract $556 million in foreign direct investment to the Vilnius region of Lithuania, accounting for over half of the country’s total foreign direct investment in that year.

The Helsinki conference is a follow-up to the 2002 Paris Knowledge Economy Forum, organized by the World Bank in partnership with the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank.

For more information about the conference, including conference papers, case studies, and a detailed agenda, visit


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