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2018/09/13 12:52pm

From Plans to Concrete Actions Within the Bridges Project

Bridges -hankkeen kokous Uudenmaan liitossa 11.-12.9.2018
The two-day meeting of Interreg Europe project “Bridges” took place in Helsinki, Finland, on 11th – 12th September. Among the most important topics discussed by project partners were the regional action plans. Based on the results of the meeting, the action plans may be finalised and endorsed, and taken into action. There was also a visitor from European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC).

Bridges project includes nine partners from seven countries around Europe, who gathered to the premises of Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council in Helsinki for two days on 11th –12th September 2018. The Bridges project concentrates on developing bio economy on the partner regions, the focus and the goals defined individually for each of the regions. The joint objective is to enforce the cooperation between research and business and the impacts of each of the regions´ Smart Specialisation (RIS3) strategies. The connection between the RIS3 strategies of the partner regions is that bio economy is included in each of them from regional point of view.

In Kainuu region, the Bridges project focuses on forest bio economy. In the beginning of the project, mapping of regional innovation systems took place in the regions. As a result of the study, chemical and mechanical wood processing, natural products sector and bio fuels were chosen as priorities within forest bio economy.

Bridges project was launched in April 2016 and the implementation of the project is halfway at this point. The regional action plans have been drafted and at the meeting in Helsinki those went through a peer review, resulting with valuable tips for amendments and successful implementation. The action plans shall be finalised and endorsed by the end of the year and their implementation shall start in the beginning of year 2019. The project will end during spring 2021.

Regional Action Plan in Kainuu

Two feasibility studies have been ordered to produce background information for the Kainuu action plan. University of Oulu has drafted a feasibility study valorising lignin side-flows of the forest-industry in Kainuu towards high-added-value income generating economic activities. Lignin is produced in Kainuu especially as the side flow of bio ethanol production and at the time is utilised mostly by burning. In the future, it is possible to find new, both more profitable and ecological use for lignin. This will directly implement the goals of Kainuu regional programme related to circulation economy. The amount of lignin produced in Kainuu is significant and there is potential for large scale economic utilisation.

The other feasibility study is produced by the Natural Resources Institute Finland about the development and internationalisation of berry cluster in Kainuu, especially related to RDI actions. The study will soon be finished.

Smart Specialisation Supporting Regional Development

Smart Specialisation (RIS3) in practice deals with regional, place-based innovation strategies aiming for economic development, based on the broader Cohesion Policy of the European Commission. Each region shall identify their strategic areas for intervention, in other words, where efforts and investments should be focused on. This is done based both on the analysis of the strengths and potential with wide stakeholder involvement, in a so called Quadruple Helix cooperation between research/ education, industries, the public sector and the civil society. This approach is a central part of the cohesion policy.

Dr. Marina Ranga from European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) participated the meeting and spoke about RIS3. She emphasised that implementing a RIS3 strategy will reveal any weaknesses of the regional innovation activities. At the moment Dr. Ranga works for the project ”RIS3 Support to Lagging Regions”, supporting RIS3 implementation in selected low-growth and less developed regions in EU member states. Typically these are located in countries with a highly centralised administration. A conclusion may be drawn, that reinforcing regional development resources and possibilities will boost the sustainable growth of economy.

The Helsinki-Uusimaa region, offering the premises for the Bridges project meeting, was actually the first region in Finland drafting their own Smart Specialisation strategy. Research Manager Ari Lainevuo is excited about the possibilities Smart Specialisation offers for regional development within the European Union. A concentration of research and innovation like the Uusimaa region may offer their expertise for other regions and at the same time utilise the expertise of these regions, together implementing the RIS3 model.  

In Kainuu, the current RS3 strategy was endorsed by the Regional Council meeting as a part of the regional programme in December 2017. As a part of the on-going regional administration reform, it is studied how the results and impacts of RIS3 implementation should be improved. The Bridges project is a good tool to reinforce the RIS3 strategy implementation and the project results may be utilised as a part of the regional reform.   

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