- Population 1.3 million
- Capital City: Tallinn (450,000)
- Currency: Euro
- Member of EU, Schengen Visa Zone, NATO
- Language: Estonian (most Estonians speak multiple languages)
Key industry sectors: ICT, business services, bioeconomy and timber, fintech, electronics and mechatronics, food industry, transport, and logistics. Estonia combines elements of both the old and the new economy; while the success of the technology sector has created a blossoming startup scene, the country is also moving up in the value chain in sectors such as forestry and green energy. Learn more: Invest in Estonia
Business-friendly country: Estonia consistently ranks as one of the most open, competitive and transparent economies in the world. With its minimal bureaucracy, high economic freedom and transparency, highly skilled workforce and the most competitive tax system in the OECD, Estonia is an easy place to do business
Quality of life: With an overall level of development and ambience similar to that of other northern European countries, Estonia typically impresses visitors with its familiar, comfortable feel. The largest cities, Tallinn and Tartu, are big enough to offer all the possibilities of cosmopolitan life, yet they’re conveniently small and easy to explore on foot. In fact, the country’s unusually sparse population means that nature areas – forests, sea coasts, peat bogs – are always near at hand and enjoying them is central to Estonian culture. Not surprisingly, Estonia ranked 12th in the world for the quality of life in a mid-2021 survey, and both the UK’s Independent and Big 7 Travel have named Tallinn world’s best destination for digital nomads.
DIGITAL ESTONIA – The world’s leading digital society
Estonia is often called the most digitally advanced nation in the world, and for good reason: you can do almost everything you need to do online, without hassle. Every citizen in Estonia is given a digital identity. Physical ID-cards are paired with a digital signature which citizens use to pay taxes, vote, do online banking and access their health care records. 99% of public services are online, available 24/7. It takes under 5 minutes to fill out tax declarations online, around 1/3 of citizens vote online, and 99% of prescriptions are issued electronically. Health records can be shared among doctors using a single electronic file that the patient can also see at any point of time.
Under the government’s flagship e-Estonia programme, which has leveraged AI and advanced technologies to take the country fully digital, programmes such as e-Governance, e-Tax, e-Voting, e-Health, e-Prescription and e-Residency have completely digitised and reinvented societal life in the nation.
- 99% of government/public services are available online
- All residents are issued digital identities, allowing them to use a national ID card or mobile phone to access online government services, banks, etc.
- Documents are signed digitally, online, in seconds
- Annual income taxes can be declared in 3 minutes
- It takes less than 5 minutes to register a new company
- About a third of Estonians vote online in elections
- Digital Nomad Visa for remote workers – allows remote workers to live in Estonia and legally work for their employer or their own company registered abroad.
- Digital Testbed Framework – the Estonian Government’s collaboration model designed to attract partners globally for joint innovation on digital government.
- E-Residency programme – a government-issued digital identity and status for foreign nationals that provides access to Estonia’s transparent digital business environment.
Flagship Conferences and Events:
- Latitude 59 – The flagship startup and tech event of the world’s first digital society
- Tallinn Digital Summit – is an annual high-level event hosted by the Prime Minister of Estonia for political leaders, policy innovators, thought leaders, entrepreneurs and the tech community. Its aim is to spotlight the saliency of digital transformation and to tackle its implications for economies, societies and governments.
- e-Governance Conference- an annual event organised by the e-Governance Academy since 2015
- sTARTUp Day – The largest business festival in the Baltics, taking place in Tartu
Opportunities for Further Learning:
- Visit to e-Estonia Briefing Centre – – An executive centre and innovation hub in Tallinn that presents the e-Estonia concept and acts as a facilitator of G2G, B2G, and B2B relations. The centre focuses on hosting high-level decision-makers from the public and private sector, investors and international media.
- Invite a local expert to speak about “E-Estonia”, a term encompassing the impressive number of digital solutions available in the country and the transformative benefits they’ve had on society.
- Visit to Innovation and Business Centre Mektory – Part of the Tallinn University of Technology; a collection of test laboratories, workshops, companies’ demo studios, an exhibition and conference hall, and culturally-themed studios
- Visit to Tartu Science Park – The oldest science park in the Baltic states; works together with universities, the public sector and the private sector to run business incubators.
EUROPE’S LEADING STARTUP NATION
A number of world-renowned technology companies were born in Estonia and the nation boasts more thriving startup companies per capita than anywhere else in the world, as well as the most unicorn companies per capita in the world. The Estonian people are entrepreneurial and innovative, while the government is supportive of technology and small businesses. One undeniable driver of Estonia’s emergence as a world-renowned startup hub is the Estonian Startup Visa, a programme launched in early 2017 to attract non-EU talent and entrepreneurs. While Estonia’s capital Tallinn, a city with a population of about 450,000, is not among the 50 largest cities in Europe nor even the European Union, it is one of the biggest startup hubs of the entire continent, according to EU-Startups.
At the end of 2020, the startup and technology industry provided a significant 6.9% of Estonia’s GDP. The goal is to reach 15% by 2025. Top Estonian unicorns (startups with a valuation of over $1 billion) are: Skype, Playtech, Wise, Bolt, Pipedrive, Zego, ID.me, Gelato, Veriff, Glia.
Further Information: Startup Estonia serves as the main supporter and enabler of the Estonian startup community, mediating between founders, ecosystem members, and the governance and public sector. It is also the international representative of Estonia’s public sector-driven startup initiatives.
Opportunities for Further Learning:
- Invite a local expert to speak about Estonian startups
- Guided Tour: Explore the Startup Scene in Estonia – Local guides introduce you to the most vibrant startup scene in the Nordic countries. On the tour, you’ll visit Tallinn’s co-working spaces, explore the offbeat neighbourhood where the startup community mingles, and meet up with local entrepreneurs to hear their personal business
EUROPE’S LEADER IN CYBERSECURITY
As the country with the most advanced cyber security in Europe, Estonia has unique expertise in the research, development and management of cyber security solutions and systems. Home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, Estonia is trusted to keep the alliance’s digital economy safe.
Many cutting-edge cybersecurity companies are either founded by Estonians or have offices here: Malwarebytes, Cybernetica, CybExer Technologies, Clarified Security, Guardtime and RangeForce. Additionally, the Tallinn University of Technology’s Centre for Digital Forensics and Cyber Security works towards enhancing the competence and ability of the Estonian computer security field.
Flagship Conferences :
- CYCON – International Conference on Cyber Conflict
- Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Conference 2022
- Nordic-Baltic Security Summit
EUROPE’S #1 IN EDUCATION
Estonia has become a successful role model in education at the global level, with the most recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results placing its basic education 1st in Europe and among the highest in the world. The PISA results suggest that Estonia’s education system is effective and ensures equity. The system is based mainly on autonomous public schools and therefore quality education is available for everyone.
Estonia is known and recognised worldwide as an innovative e-state. The country also embraces smart solutions throughout the education system to enable efficient school life: digital textbooks, e-learning materials, digital class diaries, digital assessments and various other applications.
SCIENCE IN ESTONIA
Estonian science is internationally competitive and forward-looking, with research primarily carried out by universities as well as other public- and private-sector education and research institutions. The most cited fields in science publications (compared to global average of the field) are environmental clinical medicine, molecular biology and genetics, biology and biochemistry, physics, and plant and animal sciences.
The Estonian Research Council is the main governmental body supporting research and innovation, while the Estonian Academy of Sciences is acting as host organisation for the European section of the International Science Council from 2022 to 2024.
ESTONIAN UNIVERSITIES AND THEIR FOCUS FIELDS
The University of Tartu, founded in 1632, is among Europe’s oldest educational institutions. It is also one of the leading institutions for innovative education and research in the Nordic region and ranks in the top 2% of universities in the world. As an enterpreneurial university, the University of Tartu is an accelerator of the smart economy and the majority of Baltic startup founders are alumni. Top focus fields: Personalised medicine, novel energy storage technologies, cybersecurity, big data and AI, ecology, synthetic biology
The Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is the flagship of Estonian engineering and technology education, and a place where synergy between different fields (engineering, natural, exact, social, and health sciences) is created. Its campus, one of the most modern in Europe, is a testbed for smart-city development and home to over 50 high-tech companies such as Fujitsu and Skype (Microsoft). Top focus fields: Smart-city technologies, autonomous vehicles, green tech, biorobotics, digital health, e-governance
Tallinn University (TLU), a modern, dynamic research university, is Tallinn’s leading university of humanities, social sciences and human-centred technology. TLU promotes an intelligent lifestyle through education, research and a unique collaboration across disciplines. Considering the historical role of TLU as a centre of teacher education, it is the leader of Estonian educational innovation. TLU is also home to the Baltic Film, Media and Arts School, which is unique to the region. Interdisciplinary research across structural boundaries gives Tallinn University a chance to offer some of the most unique and innovative English-based degree programmes in Europe.
The Estonian University of Life Sciences in Tartu is the only university in Estonia whose priorities are veterinary medicine and animal science, agriculture, forestry, land management, rural economy and food safety. Together with research areas such as environmental and water protection, aquaculture, engineering and construction sciences, and food technology, the university covers the entire chain of the circular economy. According to QS World University Rankings by Subject (2020), the Estonian University of Life Sciences ranks among the top 100 universities in the world in the field of agriculture and forestry. The university also belongs to the top 1% most cited research facilities in the world.
UNIQUE POPULATION-BASED GENOME DATABASE
Estonia is one of the few countries in the world possessing a genome database. The Estonian Biobank (EstBB) at the University of Tartu’s Institute of Genomics is a population-based biobank with a current cohort size of more than 200,000 individuals (about 20% of Estonia’s adult population). The main research directions of the EstBB have been to understand the role of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors in health and diseases. The goal is to use genetic data as a basis for transforming the Estonian healthcare system to deliver personalised medicine. This data helps explain why people have different disease risks and why medicines affect them differently. 200,000 Estonians have submitted their DNA into the national database to obtain free analysis and health advice based on the results.
The Estonian Biobank is one of the founding members of BBMRI-ERIC, a major European research infrastructure that brings together European biobanks to ensure the harmonized development of biobanks, IT solutions, high quality and transparency, and an internationally high ethical and legal level.
Flagship Events: Annual Tartu Gene Forum
MEDICINE & HEALTH CARE – E-HEALTH
Estonia’s healthcare system, as with every other aspect of public life in the country, has been revolutionised by innovative e-solutions in recent years. The country now boasts a robust, nationwide e-health infrastructure encompassing 10+ years of digital health data, a high adoption rate of e-health services and a high level of trust.
Patient records in Estonia are digitised and secured by blockchain technology, providing a single immutable data source for healthcare professionals. Each person in Estonia has an online e-Health record that they can track at any time. Through electronic ID-card-based access, the health information is kept completely secure and at the same time accessible to authorised individuals no matter where they are. The popular digital prescription, a centralized, paperless system for issuing and handling medical prescriptions, benefits patients and doctors with convenient access and savings.
Estonia, with its e-Health programme (incorporating Electronic Health Records, Digital Image, e-Ambulance, e-Prescriptions, etc.) and Biobank, stands out for its ongoing ambitions to develop and implement personalised health care. TalTech’s Digital Health is a master’s programme unique in Europe that provides interdisciplinary knowledge on digital technologies, innovation and change management of health care. It relies on the best practices of healthcare digital transformation and e-health innovations from the Estonian e-health system and international successes.
Estonian HealthTech Cluster Connected Health, founded by the Science Park Tehnopol, is a nationwide partnership between health-related stakeholders in Estonia who are committed to accelerating the adoption of connected health solutions on an international scale.
A few excellent examples of health-tech startups in Estonia:
- Guardtime – developed the international vaccination passport in co-operation with WHO in 2021
- Migrevenetion and Quratec – working together with Estonian Headache Society to create the world’s first fully digital headache clinic
- TriumfHealth – created a game that aids the mental well-being of children
- Dermtest provides teledermoscopy service
- Icosagen – a Tartu-based biotech company that, in spring 2021, brought out the nasal spray BioBlock, which aids in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Estonia has an unparalleled track record of applying technology to create efficiency and improve user experience. Likewise, at the municipal level, Estonian cities are taking the lead in leveraging data and new solutions to boost the quality of life in our shared urban space.
Several years ago, Estonia made headlines as the world’s first country to implement smart parking. Today our parking apps and ticketing systems are widely used across the Nordic region.Thanks to high-speed digital infrastructure and the use of location technologies, Estonia has also become a leader in telematics. Cutting-edge collaboration between our emergency services, Google, and telecoms Tele2, Telia, and Elisa accurately pinpoints callers in seconds, allowing lives to be saved. In March 2017, Estonia legalised the testing of autonomous vehicles in the country.Digitally-enabled infrastructure, including smart roads and ports, has also allowed Estonia to implement Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) which ensure smooth flows of people and traffic around cities and logistics hubs. Big Data analytics are increasingly integrated to improve urban planning, civil safety and tourism. Read further: Invest in Estonia
TALLINN –THE CITY WHERE THE FUTURE IS NOW
For more than 20 years, Estonia’s capital Tallinn has been a leader in providing digital services globally and using them in everyday life. Its intelligent gov-tech solutions are widely recognized as a part of the e-Estonia concept. Tallinn has made a name for itself as one of the world’s most technologically oriented cities and in 2021 ranked 12th among the 50 smartest cities in the world. Digital technologies and services are part of the daily lives of most of the population, resulting in efficiency and affordable communications. These technologies provide new services and products, access to large amounts of information, and help the voice of ordinary citizens be heard. The City of Tallinn is a testing grounds for new innovative solutions with a Think Global, Test in Tallinn– approach: several intelligent city solutions have already gone live, and self-driving buses and delivery robots are already on the streets. Tallinn supports startup ecosystems and work closely with universities, incubators, clusters etc. TALLINNOVATION- SMART TALLINN is the main body to tell Tallinn’s smart city story to visitors, cooperation partners and citizens.
SMART CITY TARTU
Estonia’s second largest city Tartu has always been known as a smart city. Tartu has several nicknames – it is known as the “Town of Good Thoughts”, “the intellectual capital of Estonia”, “Athens-upon-the-Emajõgi” and a “Smart Town since 1632”. All of these highlight the positive aspects of Tartu, showcasing the town’s strengths.
Boasting one of the oldest and best ranked universities in the Baltics, it has been home to scientists, intellectuals, noted professors, and students from every faculty for the past 400 years. This has developed into a mutually beneficial relationship for the university and the city government, both of whom are eager to cooperate by sharing data, resources, and information.
In a situation where many cities are competing in the realm of technology to become “smart”, Tartu has always set its focus towards people. A clean environment and maintaining green city living have been Tartu’s focus for decades. Tartu has always tried to make environmentally conscious decisions regarding its habitat, industry, infrastructure and the health of its citizens. Various public space projects, which support a sustainable healthy lifestyle, have been carried out in Tartu over the recent years in order to improve the urban living environment of all citizens, reduce the carbon footprint of road users and increase the connection between the locals and their surroundings.
With new programmes such as electric bike sharing schemes, smart city lighting, more energy efficient heating/cooling systems, the town has been embracing and implementing smart tech for the past decade. This has created an environment primed for cutting edge innovation, clearing the path for more to take root, and signaling to investors and entrepreneurs the potential that lies in southern Estonia.
Smart city projects implemented in Tartu:
- Smart Bike Share System – Tartu Smart Bike Share has 94 stations all over the city and around 850 bicycles, of which nearly 600 are electric.
- Using locally produced biogas in public transportation – all city buses in Tartu run on Estonian green gas, reducing air pollution
- SmartEnCity Project – renovating the old Soviet-era apartment buildings into modern, energy-efficient houses.
- Repurposing old EV (electric vehicle) batteries to partially recharge electric taxis with renewable energy
- Mission: Carbon neutral city by 2030
NATURE & SUSTAINABILITY
With a population of just 1.3 million spread out across a territory larger than Denmark’s, Estonia is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe. That makes it a boon for nature lovers. As much as 50% of Estonia is covered by forests. Add the peat bogs and other nature areas and the wilderness coverage goes up to 70%.
Estonia is among one of the top countries with the largest density of large wild animals in Europe and is also considered among the country’s top three bird watching destinations. The World Health Organization has ranked Estonia’s air as some of the cleanest air in the world, along with countries like Finland and Iceland. Three Estonian towns – Tallinn, Narva and Tartu – are in the top 10 of the European Environment Agency’s air cleanliness list for 2021. In 2021, Euromonitor International’s Sustainable Travel Index ranked Estonia 4th in Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism.
The massive ‘Let’s Do It“ clean up the planet movement started in Estonia in 2008. Now a global phenomenon, it has grown into the Let’s Do It World global civic organization that mobilises people worldwide to join local, national and regional cleanup events. Among other projects, it is the founder of World Cleanup Day, involving a network of 180 countries. The Let’s Do It! organization was first conceived in Estonia in 2008, when a nationwide cleanup action called Let’s do it! (in Estonian: “Teeme Ära!”) saw more then 50,000 volunteers collect 10,000 tons of illegal waste in one day. Following Estonia’s lead, many countries also started their own country cleanup events.
SUSTAINABILITY IS A WAY OF LIFE IN ESTONIA:
- Paperless society – It’s all online. The digitally-oriented culture and availability of e-services has made printing out documents nearly obselete in all spheres.
- Short distances favour human-powered transport – Estonia’s cities are miniscule and compact by world standards. The short distances mean that visitors can simply walk to where they’re going, with most hotels, meeting venues, restaurants, sights and shops easily reachable on foot. This convenient aspect of Estonian cities not only saves visitors the time and hassle of arranging transport, it also reduce the use of carbon and promotes a healthier lifestyles.
- Local and seasonal food – Estonia is a land of pure food and healthy ingredients.
- Tap water throughout the country is pure.
- Quiet – Estonia has a low level of noise pollution, which creates a great opportunity to enjoy the calm, green surroundings.
- In Estonia #WeChooseReuse
Estonia is on its way to become a leading GreenTech R&D and production centre.In 2012, the country established the world’s first nationwide electric vehicle fast-charging network and also developed the smartest energy distribution grid. The country is home to innovators such as Elcogen, producer of the world’s most advanced fuel cell with the highest rate of energy conversion efficiency, and Skeleton Technologies, the global leader in ultracapacitor and supercapacitor energy storage systems. Both companies now have major partnerships with leading players in the automotive, wind power and other industries to accelerate the green transition across the world. Read further: Invest in Estonia
Estonia is rich in cultural heritage, its identity shaped by living on the border between Eastern and Western Europe, inheriting influences from both directions.
- Tartu – European Capital of Culture in 2024 In 2024, Estonia’s 2nd largest city Tartu will be squarely in the international spotlight when it takes on the title of European Capital Of Culture. The leading theme of Tartu 2024, the European Capital of Culture is “Arts of Survival”, which is meant to express the power of the arts in affecting Europe’s future in three large areas of life: environmentally friendly culture with a focus on real human communication, strong communities, and essential skills for living and, indeed, survival in the coming years. More information can be found on the Tartu 2024 website,
- Tallinn – UNESCO City of Music
- Tartu – UNESCO City of Literature Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia, but is widely considered its intellectual capital, vitally significant in developing the nation’s educational system, culture, science and literature. In 2015, Tartu was designated a UNESCO City of Literature, which has further enhanced the vibrant literary scene. UNESCO Cities of Literature are awarded the title based on their dedication to pursuing excellence in literature locally, and work together to promote new national and international literary links.
- Viljandi – UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art
- The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest choral events in the world. It is held every five years in July at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, simultaneously with the Estonian Dance Festival. The festival’s joint choir comprises of more than 30,000 singers, dressed in colourful national garments, performing to an audience of 70, 000. The first song festival was held in 1869. The next celebrations will take place in 2023 (the 13th Youth Song and Dance Festival) and in 2025.
- Estonians have one of the largest collections of folk songs in the world, with 133,000 of them documented in written records.