Finding solutions to COVID-19 crises in East and North Finland

Finding solutions to COVID-19 crises in East and North Finland

Communities, clusters and SMEs have all been hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic. During last few months we have seen rapid action taken by government as well as regional authorities to support businesses suffering from heavy fixed costs without almost any sales in current crises. We have also seen clusters, networks and SMEs showcasing remarkable resilience and ability to adapt to the current situation. This article highlights some of the actions taken in East and North Finland in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Businesses conquering new markets

From the beginning of the pandemic, thorough hand washing has been emphasised as one of the most effective ways to prevent coronavirus infections. Instructions on how to disinfect your hands correctly became very familiar to most people already in the beginning of the pandemic, also resulting in an acute shortage of small hand sanitizer bottles. This created an opportunity to some businesses to further develop and re-invent their products as well as to seek new business partners to innovate with. One of these types of new partnerships was formed between Vivotech and Vauhti Speed operating in North Karelia in order to produce automatic hand sanitizer dispensers. Vauhti Speed in fact adapted their production capacity from ski waxes to hand sanitizers in just few days. Similar type of collaboration and product development was also done in Pohjois-Savo region between a chemistry company Reagena and a distillery named Lignell & Piispanen.

Shortage in supply of hand sanitizers has also provided product development opportunities to distilleries and breweries in East and North Finland. Companies such as Kalevala Distillery and Nordic Premium beverages operating in North Karelia as well as Olaf Brewing in South Savo have all now quickly reoriented their production to conquer new markets. Kalevala Distillery is also adding vitamin E to their sanitizer to prevent drying of skin.

COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many shortages in the health care sector such as shortage of testing capacity, facilities and of supplies such as respirators. During last few weeks, we have seen some newcomers to the medical markets. A ski hat manufacturing company Husky in Lapland started their production in facemasks made of fabric and a printing company Teippari has started a production of protective visors. In North Karelia a company called Muovisola has developed a mask model where only one piece of filter fabric is needed, and production capacity can be scaled-up up to 5000 units per day. Oulu region, a home to numerous health & life science companies has also seen many companies stepping up to provide innovations and support in crises. iSTOC, for example, has developed a mobile diagnostics solution for screening and mapping the spread of viruses.

Clusters supporting businesses

Clusters have also played a crucial part in supporting businesses as well as local hospitals and health care workers during crises. We have seen clusters offering instructions and information to companies as well as webinars and training for free. For example, MicroENTRE, a cluster that promotes growth and internationalisation of micro-entrepreneurs, provided free online education on digital sales and marketing to members.

In response to the new situation, clusters not only support their members but also take part and create social initiatives. Higher education institutions as members of clusters have donated hospital beds and respirators from their teaching labs to the local hospitals. Higher education institutions, like Lapland University of Applied Sciences and University of Eastern Finland are offering free webinars for companies facing rapid changes in their business. They also offer the chance to get supplementary training free for those that have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis. Clusters are helping to map the situation and share the information about needs of businesses in regional and national networks.

Intermediaries, chamber of commerce and business associations are supporting SMEs in many ways. Arctic Industry and circular economy cluster in Lapland is helping industrial SMEs in crisis management, foresight services and rapid projects to ensure future of local business in Kemi and Tornio area.

Pushing funding for SMEs and clusters

Clusters, intermediaries and public sector is pushing funding for SMEs in East and North Finland. New measures have been taken on the agenda during the spring months in every region. Regional Councils play a key role in supporting regional stakeholders who operate directly with businesses. National actions have been rapid, and government has committed and prepared more direct funding for some lagging lines of business suffering from the new situation.

Public authorities have put in place several ad-hoc funding instruments for SMEs due to coronavirus outbreak. Sole entrepreneurs and self-employed persons without employees can obtain finance from municipalities through public development organisations consisting of a lump sum payment of EUR 2,000 towards the costs of running their business in the current circumstances.

Micro-enterprises that have suffered from market and production disturbances can apply for business support from an ELY Centre (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment). The support covers all types of companies. The ELY Centre’s business support can be granted to businesses with no more than five workers.

In addition, business development funding is directed for SMEs operating in Finland and employing between 6 and 250 people. The funding is available at almost all sectors where business activity has been hit by market and production chain disruptions as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. With this funding, businesses can identify, plan and implement new development measures to deal with these effects and address any further disruption. Funding is available through Business Finland.

Most of the East and North Finland regions have launched a specific call for corona crisis related projects. The funds are allocated from ERDF or other regional funds. The first calls are already closed, and it looks like there will be at least 5 million € allocated for projects selected from more than 60 proposals in East and North Finland. Oulu region, Pohjois-Savo, Kainuu, North Karelia and Lapland have been taking rapid actions for helping SMEs and stakeholders in corona crisis.

For more information

The ECCP COVID-19 Response Forum

The forum is a place to share ideas, knowledge and discussions on how to fight the coronavirus crisis. It collects relevant information, needs, offers, and events from all European countries and helps to find best practices, funding opportunities and supporting policies that can be adapted and learned from.

https://www.clustercollaboration.eu/forum/covid-19-response-forum

Contact

Ilari Havukainen,
ilari.havukainen@elmoenf.eu

Paula Heikkilä
paula.heikkila@elmoenf.eu

Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster – The forerunner in the sustainable utilisation of natural resources

Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster - The forerunner in the sustainable utilisation of natural resources

Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster  is an interregional cluster focusing on the sustainable utilisation of the arctic natural resources. The cluster is focusing on the development of the ecosystem for the SMEs providing industrial services for utilisation of by-products and residues of steel, forest, energy, mining and wood product industries. The cluster is combination of over 100 SMEs, LSEs, development organisations, universities and research institutions. The cluster is led by Digipolis –Technology Park.

Kemi-Tornio is the world’s northernmost concentration of bio, metal, mining and energy industries. The innovation area of Kemi-Tornio is unique in its size, since all the companies operating in the area are located within a diameter of 25 km.

The Kemi–Tornio region with a total population of 60,000 people, represents only about 1% of the total population of Finland. The Kemi-Tornio process industry, however, is an important cornerstone of the Finnish economy. The region represents an industrial system with a large number of mines and metal producers, pulp and paper mills, cardboard factories and also fertilizer and fine chemicals producers.

Kemi-Tornio circular economy platform

The region has a long tradition of utilising the circular economy. Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster connects process- and mining industry companies, SMEs serving industry, universities, research institutions, funding and regional authorities to a same co-operation network. Common goal for Lapland is to be a forerunner in sustainable utilisation of natural resources and sustainable industry and circular economy activities. The work in progress for sustainable industrial refining has been notified on national, Nordic and EU levels. Systematic cluster development started in 2014, when Lapland was chosen as one of the model regions of European cluster initiative with six other regions. Lapland has been able to innovatively benefit from natural strengths of the region for cluster development.

By 2020, the Industrial circular economy in the Kemi-Tornio region has become an international showcase with innovative solutions to develop eco-innovation parks.  The industrial symbiosis at the Kemi Tornio region is one of the forerunners in the Finnish circular economy.

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra started cooperation with Digipolis company in Kemi in 2016 to promote education and know-how of industrial circular economy in national scale. Sitra named spreading of good practices, largely based on the experience by the Kemi-Tornio Industrial Circular Economy Innovation Platform as one of the key projects of the Finnish circular economy road map development.

Sitra and Digipolis started a joint project where the Centre for Industrial Circular Economy was established in 2017. The project focuses on describing the model for industrial symbiosis on an operative level to national and international actors, with a strong emphasis on cooperation with other eco-innovation parks in Finland and internationally. The founding members of the Centre were Digipolis, the City of Kemi and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences.

The Centre assists companies to develop their business and products in circular economy e.g. by providing specialist guidance, applying for financing, bringing together businesses and creating networks and consortiums, and assisting in creating pilots and scaling up operations. The Steering Group of The Centre includes a broad-based group or experts ranging from big industry to public sector authorities. An essential part of the activities of the Centre for Circular Economy is coordination of the network of Eco-Industrial Parks in Finland.

Kemi-Tornio industrial circular economy: Key achievements 2016-2020

  • New industry pilots of industrial circular economy
  • More than 200 key stakeholders reached by eco-innovation park network
  • New operating model 2.0 of eco-innovation parks
  • Major development in industrial circular economy education
  • High international visibility (including e.g. significant role in Sitra’s World Circular Economy Forums in Helsinki 2019 and Yokohama, Japan, in 2018)

Key success factors​

  • long-term tradition of industry cooperation with the CE principles
  • systematic development work of Digipolis
  • the role of Sitra
  • high ambition level to become internationally leading actor   
  • broad-based private-public setting, including steering group
  • industry in focus –  concrete pilots
  • Nordic cooperation playing an important role!

For more information

arcticsmartness.eu/arctic-industry/

Tuomas Pussila
Programme Manager
tuomas.pussila@digipolis.fi
+358 50 461 1236

CEMIS – Your reliable partner for RDI in cleantech, bioeconomy, and sports, wellbeing and healthcare

CEMIS - Your reliable partner for RDI in cleantech, bioeconomy, and sports, wellbeing and healthcare

CEMIS – Centre for Measurement and Information Systems, was founded in 2010 in Kajaani and Sotkamo, Finland. CEMIS’s mission is to produce top class experts, new technology and new business for companies developing and using measurement and information systems by offering research and development services and university education in an innovative and international environment.

CEMIS is a contract based research and education centre of University of Oulu, University of Jyväskylä, Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT, CSC – IT Centre for Science and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. The centre’s focus is to develop measurement and information technology solutions for cleantech and bioeconomy, and for sports, wellbeing and healthcare. The centre also supports the development of new international business based on its innovations and expertise with partner companies.

 

CEMIS members

In cleantech and bioeconomy, CEMIS has a strong expertise in on-line measurements for process and mining industry. The offering in this area include environmental monitoring and water treatment solutions, analysis of metal concentrations in industrial wastewater, process analyser development (like for bioethanol production), and recycling and repurposing of industrial sidestreams. In bioeconomy CEMIS works also with natural raw ingredients, like berries, for food supplements and food industry.

In sports, wellbeing and healthcare CEMIS offers measurement and testing solutions with the latest sensor technology, and simulation solutions based on 3D, and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technology.  Examples of these include advanced sensors for sports equipment (like for Nordic ski and biathlon), non-invasive biosensors for the healthcare sector, and solutions for recognising symptoms related to ocular diseases.

In addition to the previous main sectors, CEMIS offers traceability and calibration services for force, torque, large masses and water flow, and education and expertise in data engineering and data analytics. High-Performance Computing (HPC) services and capacity will be offered in 2021 when one of the most competitive supercomputers in the world, LUMI EuroHPC, is taken into use in Kajaani.

CEMIS is a trusted partner for education, research and development. We offer a wide range of services including R&D projects, testing and test facilities, education and training, analysis and calibration services. In addition, CEMIS Business Development (CBD) which is responsible for technology commercialization provides technology and business consultation for new business ideas, startups and SMEs. CBD focus on international technology business and has strong track record in projects and cooperation in Europe, Russia, Latin-America, Middle East and China.

Currently CEMIS employs near 100 measurement and information system experts, and runs over 40 projects annually. The annual funding of the centre is around 12 million euros, and since 2010 its operation has resulted in over 35 spinoff companies, over 30 commercial inventions, and over 200  peer reviewed academic publications.

Cemis

Key technologies

· Optical spectroscopy
· Imaging technologies
· Bioanalytics and biosensors
· Biomechanical and physiological measurements
· Force and torque sensors
· IoT – wireless, embedded sensor networks
· Data-analytics and machine learning
· Computer games and simulators
· Virtual and augmented reality

CEMIS Services

· Top-level research and development services
· Extensive testing and calibration services, including special
analytical services
· Specialised training and consultation
· International business development services

LUMI – EuroHPC Pre-exascale Supercomputer Ecosystem

For more information

www.cemis.fi/in-english

Director Mikko Kerttula
mikko.kerttula@cemis.fi
+358 44 715 7095

Forest Bioeconomy Cluster in North Karelia leads the way to a more sustainable region

Forest Bioeconomy Cluster in North Karelia leads the way to a more sustainable region

Forest bioeconomy

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

North Karelia
North Karelia is the easternmost part of Finland with large forest resources.

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.

“With its strong and dynamic forest cluster and a world-class knowledge
hub in forest research and expertise, North Karelia is a forerunner in smart
forest bioeconomy.”

Bioindustrial sites in North Karelia:

For more information

Sari Pitkänen
Forest and Climate Expert
Regional Council of North Karelia

sari.pitkanen@pohjois-karjala.fi
+ 358 40 518 6326

Forest bioeconomy in North Karelia
Smart forest bioeconomy in North Karelia