Like the processor that makes your computer come alive, information technology sits at the core of how Estonia runs — and portrays — itself. E-stonia is one moniker that seems to travel particularly well. Fuelled by a combination of smart policy choices, entrepreneurship, the afterglow of Soviet-era investment, and the occasional stroke of luck, this small country is an influential force in defining Europe’s digital path.
Pioneers with a track record
Estonia tops the global list of internet freedom, has the most per-capita startups in Europe, is home to NATO’s Cyber-Defense Centre and the EU’s Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems. Finland, a technology pioneer in its own right, is now building its data-exchange layer for state information systems on the example of Estonia’s X-Road. From commonly-used digital signatures to online voting, examples abound.
With Estonia’s technology leadership gaining traction, an effort by the Estonian government, universities and tech firms is under way to make it last. Dubbed the IT Academy, this initiative helps promote Estonia, its tech education and entrepreneurship.
There are many IT degree programs available in English, with the Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Tartu leading the way — strengthened by partnerships with some 50 international universities. For a current and inclusive view of what’s available, take a look at this cross-university search site.
Chances are, there is already a buzzing tech hive packed with people just as brainy and passionate as you. They may well become your friends and research partners. We’ve selected these research centres to get you started:
Smarts. Funds. Entrepreneurship.
Knowledge and education need real-world application. The Estonian Development Fund (EDF) has taken the lead in linking research to business, and nurturing an open, international startup ecosystem. Public and private capital, together with international networks and hands-on mentorship, is also available.
In 2012, EDF and private angel investors set up Startup Wise Guys, an accelerator and angel investment fund for technology startups. Also in play are EDF’s investment arm SmartCap, and Ambient Sound Investments, the investment firm set up by Skype’s Estonian founding engineers.
Startups beyond skype
Skype’s role in jumpstarting Estonia’s startup revolution has been crucial. Its Tallinn-based engineering center has produced hundreds of smart, connected entrepreneurs whose DNA is seen in dozens of subsequent startup successes, from Marinexplore to TransferWise.
Young tech companies can lean on support in places like Tehnopol, a business hub that’s home to 150 tech firms and 20 startups in various stages of incubation. Another mainstay is the Garage48 HUB, a community-led coworking space with services to help startups raise their game.
Deep roots. Rich fruits.
The seeds of Estonia’s disproportionate presence in the tech scene were planted decades ago. In 1959, the University of Tartu launched the Ural-1 computer centre. A year later, the Institute of Cybernetics was founded in Tallinn, becoming a leader in Soviet science for decades. Fuelled by federal funding, these and other initiatives helped create an ecosystem, a culture, and skills without which E-stonia could not exist.
Make estonia part of your future
Explore this section to learn more about what Estonia can do for you today. From core science to startups, from cloud computing to bioinformatics and everything in between, Estonia can help complete your journey.