First OECD study mission: Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship essential for the growth of the NSPA

In the beginning of June, the OECD experts carried out the first study mission of the NSPA Territorial Review process in the seven participating regions in East and North Finland, with a final joint seminar in Oulu.

In the beginning of June, the OECD experts carried out the first study mission of the NSPA Territorial Review process. The 2000 kilometer tour took them around the seven participating regions in East and North Finland where they got an insight from the key regional stakeholders about the characteristics of the regions with regard to issues such as their competitiveness, accessibility, service provision and human capital. Similar study missions will be realised in the NSPA regions in Norway and Sweden during the autumn 2015 and spring 2016.

The first tour finished in Oulu with a seminar where the representatives from all the 14 NSPA regions gathered together to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship in sparsely populated areas. The first panel underlined that user innovation and recognising and supporting the potential of local entrepreneurs are key factors for growth in the rural regions. In rural places, most of the innovation comes from entrepreneurs outside the formal innovation systems. The keynote speaker Mr. David Freshwater noted that because the standard indicators measuring innovation are sometimes inapplicable in the rural context, the concept of "rural innovation" is often considered an oxymoron which does not really exist.

Both Mr. John Bryden and Mr. Enrique Garcilazo emphasised in their presentations the essential role of functioning urban and rural linkages. OECD research shows that there is potential for growth in all regions. However, the success depends on a variety of factors and requires a balanced multidimensional response. Isolated sectoral action concentrating only on for example infrastructure, business environment or human capital may have unintended outcomes for development. Implementation of complementarities and synergies is a key element; local policies and implementing bodies should focus on enhancing the links, connecting local SMEs and entrepreuneurs to innovation portals and supporting trans-cluster and cross-border innovation. "We are moving towards a paradigm shift for innovation", Mr. Bryden outlined in his presentation. More and more initiatives, such as the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), reflect the change where the basis for innovation activities is rooted in the cooperation between quadruple helix stakeholders: government, industry, academia and civil participants. Innovation is no more an end in itself; it is interlinked to attributes such as who is it for and how is it sustainable.

The seminar participants all agreed that there is room for growth in the NSPA. Turning challenges into opportunities and doing more with less requires regions to pay attention to the wide array of EU policies and programmes which target innovation in the regions. As important as knowing the instruments for development is also having a vision of what the NSPA can offer to other regions in Europe and beyond. "The OECD review process as one tool to for the NSPA to work together to get better", summarised Mr. Kari Aalto in his concluding notes.

In September, the OECD experts will be going on the next study mission to Norway. The tour will end in Kirkenes on the 1st of October where Mr. Trond Haukanes warmly welcomed all the NSPA stakeholders to join the open seminar which will address the issue of accessibility and regional development.

Seminar presentations: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Sparsely Populated Areas


15 Jul 2015