International companies registered in Finland can apply for funding for research, development and innovation projects focusing on the development of new retail service concepts and novel business models as part of the Serve programme organised by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. According to Heli Paavola, coordinator of the Serve programme, companies should apply for funding for risky projects that may not otherwise be undertaken and which involve creating new solutions for the market or the strategic renewal of the business.
However, so far relatively few companies have made use of the funds available since the Serve programme was launched in 2006. The Finnish retailer Stockmann has used Serve funding to develop multi-channel services. Rautakesko has received support for its Energy expert service which aims to help people living in detached housing to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, while Tokmann’s Serve project harmonized the operational processes of all its stores.
Serve provides a variety of services for the programme participants. These include practical tools and guides to service development and the benchmarking of good practices in the service business. Serve also encourages practical cooperation and networking between private companies and public research organisations. The goal is to create good practices for collaboration between academia and companies in the field of service innovation.
Serve actively creates collaboration between similar service innovation programmes and initiatives in the European Union. Serve encourages open cooperation between different countries in the area of service innovation and is interested in joint projects, especially in the area of academic research.