Around 70 participants joined the discussions on future priorities and smart specialisation in our northern sparsely populated areas at the NSPA Forum in sunny Oulu on the 21-22 of May. Amongst the participants were representatives from the European Commission, the Finnish Parliament and from local and regional stakeholders in the NSPA.
Ms. Tytti Tuppurainen, Member of Parliament and Vice Chairwoman of the Board of the Oulu Regional Council, opened the forum by thanking the NSPA network for the cooperation in relation to the special allocation. Ms. Tuppurainen underlined the added value of the NSPA cooperation, putting forward the energy market, raw materials and expertise in research and development as key features of the NSPA. On the future actions of the NSPA network, Ms. Tuppurainen emphasized that the special allocation was earned for special reasons and now it is time to demonstrate that it will be used efficiently.
Mr. Kari Aalto, Director, East and North Finland EU Office, gave a brief introduction to the future NSPA priorities. Concerning the future challenges of the NSPA, discussions are focused on the next programming period. The results of the negotiations are more or less finalized - now it is time to focus on the implementation. The focus should be not only in the special allocation, which is very important, but also in the territorial cooperation, one of the topics of the NSPA forum. It is becoming very important to show what the NSPA is doing with the resources it has received.
Mr. Axel Rød, Programme Manager, Competence Centre Macro-regions and European Territorial Co-operation, DG Regio, European Commission, painted the picture of macro-regional strategies, in particular the Baltic Sea Strategy and the incentives of regions and nations to work with a macro-regional approach. The NSPA region, with large distances, huge resources, highly educated, but with few people, is in a good position to be successful in the future. We can mobilize the resources. If we look at this region in a Scandinavian perspective, we see opportunities that would not be there if we only look at things in a national context. If you look at things in isolation your picture will be different than if you look at neighboring regions together.
Ms. Janika Luukinen, Special Advisor, East and North Finland EU Office introduced the concept of smart specialisation. Possibilities of NSPA cooperation in relation to smart specialisation include a potential for diversification and knowledge spill-overs, common branding to obtain visibility and attract international investment and building critical mass via cooperation of which the NSPA regions already have a long tradition.
Good examples of smart specialisation in the NSPA were presented by Mr. Mikko Väisänen, Manager for R&D, Council of Oulu Region and Ms. Benedicte Solaas, Advisor, Nordland County. The Region of Oulu has joined the smart specialisation platform focusing on ICT, basic industries as steel and wood as well as clean technologies and health and wellness technology. Nordland County is focusing on their export industries such as basic industries, aquaculture and tourism. Nordland are choosing to use smart specialisation in order to benchmark with other parts of Europe. Mr. Lars Wikman, Senior Adviser in European Affairs, North Sweden European Office, presented a proposal from network of Europaforum Northern Sweden (the four northernmost counties of Sweden). The EFNS view on Smart Cities and Smart Regions is that a European Innovation Partnership should be set up for Europe's sparsely populated regions (corresponding to that for large cities). It should focus on smart technologies, services and products and inclusion in the e-community and Northern Sweden, and possibly the NSPA, can take a leading role in this.
Ms. Satu Vehreävesa, Director of Regional development, Regional Council of North-Savo, concluded the forum by presenting the priorities set by the NSPA Political Steering group; Regional policy, Transport policy, Regional State Aid, Arctic and northern issues, Raw materials and the refinement, EU financing instruments and strengthening the R&D in the regions, Eastern border of the EU, EU priorities such as the Europe 2020 strategy, thematic concentration, smart specialisation and European Territorial cooperation.
The next NSPA Forum will be held in Västerbotten, Sweden.
Speakers' presentations and documentation from the NSPA Forum: