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Sparsely populated areas benefit from macroregional research-business cooperation

Sparsely populated areas benefit from macroregional research-business cooperation

Kainuu region´s internationalisation policy serves as a strategic tool towards overcoming barriers of a sparsely populated area. Since 2008, due to delocalisation of the paper industry which was a historical source of the region´s income, Kainuu aspires to radically diversify its economic growth areas and develop its expertise base more cohesively and effectively. Smart specialisation is one of the key means with which to structure these efforts.

The Smart Specialisation choices of Kainuu region for the 2018 – 2021 time frame include innovations in the technology industry related to applications of measurement technology and forest bio-economy. These areas are selected to bring technology applications to product development and manufacturing that will speed up development, utilising robotics, automation, data centre activities and data analysis in the smart specialisation fields of expertise.

The cross-cutting themes of Kainuu Smart Specialisation choices comprise new solutions and applications of circular economy as well as decarbonisation, resource efficiency and innovations controlling the climate change. These cross-cutting themes are pursued throughout all the selected fields of smart specialisation.

Internationalisation is a priority stated in the Kainuu regional development plan. The choice to join Baltic TRAM (Transnational Research Access in the Macroregion) project was of a strategic nature, aimed at engaging more actively in Interreg-facilitated transnational cooperation.

In more specific terms, Kainuun Etu Ltd., the Kainuu regional development entity owned by the municipalities of Kainuu and the innovation agency for RIS3 implementation, hosts a research-business intermediary function or, in Baltic TRAM terms, an Industrial Research Centre. This entity collaborates with similarly established peers all over the Baltic Sea Region.

Baltic TRAM, with its focus on exploring the research-business dynamics in the smart specialisation context across the Baltic Sea Region, is a good example of how an authority advances the regional smart specialisation potential in a transnational setting. In addition, Baltic TRAM has been endorsed by the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference and is a component of the Baltic Science Link flagship under the Policy Area Innovation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Thus, it also mirrors a region´s support to the overall strong commitment present in the Baltic Sea Region to explore the full potential of smart specialisation in the individual regions, and throughout the macro-region. Joint collaborative efforts grounded in the multi-level governance coordination set-up can help promote transnational and even international competitiveness of the chosen niche expertise.

Baltic TRAM and its predecessor Science Link have enabled the region to promote research infrastructures to the industrial end-users. Both projects, which form the EUSBSR Science Link flagship, have facilitated the promotion of applied research among enterprises based in Kainuu, thus exploring in further details the potential of research infrastructures housed by the Baltic Sea Region beyond their relevance in the basic science domain. For example, one of the business enquiries from a Kainuu-based enterprise has been processed by the University of Tartu, based in Estonia. The transnationally processed business case has contributed to an on-going new product development. It must be pointed out that this is far from being the only Baltic TRAM transnationally processed business case.

In light of the upcoming Baltic TRAM third open call for companies, which will be launched in April 2018, all small- and medium-sized businesses which are based in the European Union and are interested in exploring research intensive solutions for their product or service development, are invited to familiarise with a 1,5 min long video, which offers a brief explanation of the basic application procedures.

Over the last four years, Kainuu via engagement in Baltic TRAM and two Interreg Europe projects BRIDGES (Bridging competence infrastructure gaps and speeding up growth and jobs delivery in regions) and ecoRIS3 (Policies & Measures to Support Local & Regional Innovation Ecosystems), affiliates smart specialisation-oriented activities to the latest open data, open innovation and open science policies of the European Union. Kainuu Etu Ltd. has a leading role as the responsible entity for the practical set-up of the Baltic TRAM open data pilot. Baltic TRAM affiliation to open data policies is further advocated among the policy expert circles on two governance levels. Transnationally it is done via the Baltic TRAM High Level Group, a macroregional advisory body, comprising national managing authorities and distinguished experts in analytical facilities whose work is facilitated by the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat. On the European level, Baltic TRAM is also one of the supporters of the European Open Science Cloud.

Kainuu, as a sparsely populated area, values engagement in multilateral research-to-business collaboration initiatives focused on S3, such as Baltic TRAM, which offers sustainable macroregional cooperation opportunities

Additional Information

Contact person of the Regional Council of Kainuu: Jouni Ponnikas

Contact person on the Baltic TRAM project: Zane Šime

More detailed article: “Baltic Sea Region-wide Research-Business Cooperation: What Benefits For Sparsely Populated Areas and Smart Specialisation?” by Ninetta Chaniotou and Zane Šime, in EStIF 3/2018 (Vol. 6)