Forest Bioeconomy Cluster in North Karelia leads the way to a more sustainable region
In North Karelia, 89% of the total land area is covered by forests. During the past few years the annual growth of forests has been about 9.3 million m3 and the annual usage of forests about 6–7 million m3. Large forest areas have provided excellent opportunities for the development of forest bioeconomy in the region. The strong and dynamic forest cluster is the corner stone of business life and industry sector in North Karelia.
There are over 500 forest bioeconomy companies in North Karelia, with an annual turnover of up to 2 billion euros. The forest bioeconomy sector employs about 6,000 people. Forest resources are processed into high added value bioproducts and services for domestic and export markets. In addition, Eastern Finland is home to the world’s leading business cluster in forest machine production.
Network of forest research and expertise provides services to business life
Due to the extensive and intensive forest bioeconomy, North Karelia has created a key European hub in forest research and expertise. The hub consists of over 600 experts in different research organizations, for example the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) and the European Forest Institute (EFI).
Research information and expertise is transferred for use in trade and industry via open innovation platforms, such as the GreenHUB platform. GreenHUB is a unique collaboration network providing expert services to businesses. In addition to the above-mentioned organizations (UEF, LUKE and EFI), it consists of the educational organizations covering all educational levels for the forestry sector as well as the Finnish Forest Centre, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and the business development organization Business Joensuu.
North Karelia’s areas of expertise in forest bioeconomy are:
- Forest technology and logging logistics
- Distributed biorefining
- New biobased products
- Forest information management
- Multipurpose use of forests
- Renewable energy production
- Wood construction
Other strong areas of expertise connected with the forest bioeconomy industry are, for example, information technology, photonics and material chemistry.
Carbon neutrality through smart forest bioeconomy
In addition to businesses and research organizations, the forest bioeconomy cluster in North Karelia consists of regional development companies and authorities such as the Regional Council of North Karelia.
In December 2019, the Regional Council of North Karelia published its vision for the sustainable forest bioeconomy cluster. Actions to be taken by 2023 include, for example, strengthening the international knowledge hub, attracting investments to the bioindustrial sites of the region and supporting sustainable forestry and carbon neutral region. The strategic work on renewable energy began already in the 1990’s and North Karelia aims to be a fossil oil free region by 2030. The forest bioeconomy targets are a vital part of this ambitious goal.
Another interesting initiative is the agreement between North Karelia and the Nagano area in Japan concluded in October 2019. The intention is to promote and strengthen cooperation in regional development, education and research in the field of forestry, forest industry, renewable energy, wood utilization and bioeconomy.