The unique conditions of the NSPA create challenges for living and running businesses in the region: a harsh climate, long distances, a small number of isolated settlements and long distances to markets. At the same time, the northern regions of Norway, Finland and Sweden have leading industries and research that enable the use and development of innovative technologies in multiple fields, as well as sustainable extraction, refinement and recycling of raw materials. Facing and overcoming the abovementioned challenges, the actors in the region have developed strong innovation systems to compete on the global market and to utilize the unique resources and abilities encapsulated in the north. As a result, the industries have developed world leading and globally exported technologies.
Inspired by the 2017 OECD territorial review, the NSPA Arctic Advantages Working Group have been collecting “best examples” of areas that captures the strengths in NSPA and describes the Arctic angle. Below is a short description of what we have found based on dialogue with different actors in the three regions of NSPA:
Research in minerals and clean extraction industries
In the context of EU Green Deal and self-sufficiency of the EU, the extraction of minerals and critical raw materials in Europe is very important. Over half of Europe’s most critical mineral and metals are found in the Nordic bedrock, with most of the deposits in the north. Combined with high competence in technology and research, the Northern areas offer very good conditions for further development sustainable technologies, industries, and mining. The extensive reserves of minerals and raw materials in NSPA has led to a specialization of the research resources that together with the companies constitute a world-leading cluster for sustainable mining, metallurgy, and refinement.
Energy intensive industries
Access to clean hydro and wind power, and favourable cold-climate conditions for data centres combined with high-scale tech knowledge creates favourable conditions that help to speed up the green and digital transition.
Industrial processing, automatization and AI
The NSPA have a world leading network of companies and academic institutions that collaborate for industrial automatization in mining, forestry, manufacturing industry and process industry that today export their knowledge globally.
The Arctic regions are widely used for test activities by European industry, offering important capacity for value chains in many industries. The cold climate, big land areas, infrastructure and technical competence provide important environments for European testbeds in areas such as transport and smart cities.
Space technology and infrastructure
The NSPA profit from the strong knowledge hubs surrounding the space universities and institutes and is particularly suitable both for launching satellites and collection of data from satellites in polar orbit.
Distance spanning technologies
E-health, hospitals, technology, infrastructure: The sparsely population and vast geography in combination with limited geographical resources forces the public and private actors of NSPA to be innovative to provide healthcare services to the public. They collaborate in clusters to develop new solutions for E-health in the academic world and are also tested and applied by health care providers in the region.
Forestry and refinement of bio-based resources is an integrated part of the NSPA economies due to that has developed over time from export of raw materials to highly refined materials such as biofuels, paper, building materials, textiles and outer goods that support the European green transition.
The important role of the EU going forward
The EU has several policy instruments and initiatives to support member countries and regions in developing sustainable green and digital solutions that will help Europe and the Arctic reach the Green Deal goals while strengthening its industrial competitiveness and self-sufficiency. Under the umbrella of industry alliances and Horizon Europe partnerships the EU is collaborating to set a common investment strategy that will mobilize private and member state resources in joint investments. Place-based development strategies have been essential for regions to tailor investments to fit the specific needs for each territory.
The increased EU support for regions to facilitate strategic investments in knowledge, technology and innovation will be essential for sustainable development, continuous reliable supply, and European competitiveness. The EU is and will be playing a key role also in the sustainable development of the minerals sector in the NSPA as it encourages strategic planning, cooperation, and capacity building through a wide range of different investment tools, such as structural funds and territorial cooperation based on Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3).
The EU is also working for more fluent permit processes for green and clean industries to accelerate the transition to green economy. The high ambitions of the EU require a multisectorial and a multi-level governance approach to involve all relevant stakeholders to joint policy development and action.