The purest and safest food in the world from East and North Finland!

The purest and safest food in the world from East and North Finland!

The East and North Finland in Industrial Transition working group together with Food Valley organized an EU Green Week  side event on 26 May 2021 with the headline “Purest and safest food in the world! – Sustainable food production in East and North Finland”. The recording and presentations of the event can be found on ELMO-website. Here is a brief summary of the content of the event:

Emeritus Atte von Wright opened the event by telling about the challenges of the northern location. Although the northern location does not allow large volumes of food production, it offers significant qualitative advantages. Long and challenging winters reduce the need to use pesticides and plant protection products. Because the environment is clean, there are few contaminants or heavy metals found in the food we produce globally. New challenges are constantly emerging in food production, but Finland has the know-how and tools to meet current and future challenges.

Sari Iivonen, from the The Finnish Organic Research Institute, told that organic production has been a pioneer in sustainable food production. Increasingly, sustainable measures such as organic production are also being used in conventional production. Especially in Eastern Finland, there are a relatively large number of agricultural areas covered by organic production. The European average for the share of organic production in total agriculture is 3%.

Ardita Hoxha-Jahja from Savonia University of Applied Sciences mentioned that Finland consumes the most milk per capita in the world. Pohjois-Savo is one of the leading milk-producing municipalities and Kuopio is the largest milk-producing municipality. On global scale milk production facilities are small,, but milk is produced in large quantities per cow. Animals are not treated in vain and GMO feed is not a problem as cows are fed on grass. The value chain of milk has been digitalised from the farm to the store shelf. This allows for individual monitoring and follow-up and early intervention of potential problems.

Jenni Korhonen spoke about new technologies being researched at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) to increase food safety. Forest-derived antimicrobials, such as compounds isolated from the pine biomass by-product, may find new ways to inhibit the growth of pathogenic food bacteria. In connection with high pressure processing (HPP) technology, UEF is cooperating with a company that owns the HPP equipment, Toripiha. The effect of HPP treatment has been studied e.g. norovirus growth inhibition in berries. In addition, the use of LED technology is being explored as an opportunity to reduce the use and processing of additives to improve food preservation.

Jouni Ponnikas from the Regional Council of Kainuu spoke about the Berry + partnership under the EU’s Smart Specialization Platform, which has been built between eight European regions under the leadership of Kainuu. From Finland also Uusimaa region is currently involved in the Berry + partnership. The nterregional partnership and it’s complementary cooperation opportunities have been built through value chain analysis. The aim of the Berry + partnership is to increase the efficiency of the processing of renewable natural products and their by-products into value-added products.

Finally, Susanna Luostarinen from Nordic Koivu Ltd explained how the birch sap they produce can be traced all the way from the store to the forest area from which it was originally collected.  Nordic Koivu is able to collect hygienically high-quality birch sap from a clean environment with the help of innovative technology. The quality remains good also because the birch sap is not being frozen, but at the same time its shelf life is excellent.

– Jenni Lappi, Project Manager, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

For more information

Jenni Lappi
Project Manager
Savonia University of Applied Sciences
jenni.lappi(a)savonia.fi


Food Valley network
Recording and materials on the event website

A new search engine combines almost 50 innovation platforms in East and North Finland

A new search engine combines almost 50 innovation platforms in East and North Finland

Regions of East and North Finland (ENF) collaborate to develop new approaches based on smart specialisation. One of the goals is to develop new practices that support companies in utilising the expertise and versatile network of innovation platforms in the ENF area.

The innovation platforms in East and North Finland have been collected to the East and North Finland Industrial Transition website. The website contains almost 50 service providers, or the so-called innovation platforms. The purpose of the site is to provide information of the different services offered to companies across the seven regions of East and North Finland, and to encourage interregional and international collaboration.

“Our aim is to make the services of innovation platforms more accessible for companies. We believe that through the website also the service providers can find each other and benefit from mutual interaction”, says Paula Heikkilä, the project manager of The East and North Finland Industrial Transition – From Strategy to Practise (ELMO) –project.

The innovation platforms listed in the website are services that support the development of companies’ products and services. They also provide environments for conducting various experiments and tests, as well as for developing prototypes. For example, laboratories, learning environments, studios, simulation environments, expert services, and combinations of these are included. Most platforms are physically located in educational institutions or research institutes.

The services published on the website were selected based on the joint Smart Specialisation Strategy of East and North Finland, which is focusing on the regions’ shared excellences. The innovation platforms in the East and North Finland have been systematically financed with the regional development funds for more than ten years. The platforms and development environments are established to support business creation and innovation among SMEs.

Increasing awareness of the innovation platforms and supporting networking between them are one of the key ways for East and North Finland to succeed in the global competition. Innovation platforms enable the development of new types of innovation partnerships and links, for example between public and private actors or different industries as well as European partners.

For more information

Paula Heikkilä
Project manager
paula.heikkila(at)lapinliitto.fi

East and North Finland Industrial Transition (ELMO) collaboration has been funded from the European Regional Development Fund. For more information on the project, see HERE.

First in Lapland: Arctic Development Environments Cluster gains Digital Innovation Hub status

First in Lapland: Arctic Development Environments Cluster gains Digital Innovation Hub status

The European Commission has approved the Arctic Development Environments Cluster as the first official digital innovation hub in Lapland.

Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) are multi-stakeholder consortia that aim to accelerate the digitalisation of SMEs and the public sector in their area. DIHs offer services that support digitalisation, such as training, testing and trial services, financial advice and support for networking.

Digital innovation hubs are part of the EU’s digital strategy to promote the competitiveness of European industry and the continent’s carbon neutrality goals. The strategy aims to support the uptake of digital technology opportunities, new business opportunities and services, and sustainable growth and prosperity.

The Finnish Government Programme outlines the opportunities of the development and introduction of digitalisation, especially in the public sector. One of the goals of the program is to support digitalisation throughout the country and to develop it to serve business as well.

The services of the Arctic Development Environments cluster support Lapland’s companies and public sector actors in the digital transition. With the national and international networking of digital innovation hubs, an even wider range of different services related to digitalisation are available to businesses and the public sector in the region.

– The status of a digital innovation hub is an important recognition of our development work. It opens up new opportunities for businesses’ development and efficiency, as well as for improving the accessibility and quality of products and services. We should now utilise the opportunities brought by the status in Lapland, says Mr. Raimo Pyyny, manager of the Arctic Development Environments Cluster.

This article was originally published in ECCP website.

For more information

Raimo Pyyny
Manager, Arctic Development Environments Cluster
Development Manager, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
raimo.pyyny (at) lapinamk.fi
tel. +358 40 555 8065

Arctic Development Environments Cluster on the DIH Catalogue

Arctic Development Environments Cluster service portal – ARDICO

 

Reinforcing cluster collaboration in East and North Finland

Reinforcing cluster collaboration in East and North Finland

The regions of East and North Finland (ENF) have long traditions in cooperation. The area as a whole is one of EU´s Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA) which have also been viewed as a special target area of territorial cohesion in the regional and structural policies of the EU. A new phase in the ENF collaboration was launched in early 2018 when the area was chosen as one of European Commission´s pilot areas to develop new approaches based on smart specialisation. The pilot was called Regions in Industrial Transition or as we like to call it, ELMO

The first phase of the ELMO collaboration produced the East and North Finland in industrial transition -smart specialisation strategy 2019-2023 that leads the way to identifying regional strengths and competences. The cross-cutting competencies that ENF regions possess specialised expertise and technologies in are, clean technologies and low-carbon solutions, industrial circular economy, ICT and digitalisation and innovative technologies and production processes.

The industries of the ENF area are strongly focused on the utilisation of natural resources and conditions. For this reason, sustainable development is of vital importance for the future of the industries in East and North Finland. The utilisation of industrial side-flows promotes the resource-efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. The ENF area is already a pioneer in the development of solutions for an industrial circular economy, which is one of the most significant growth sectors in the area.

East and North Finland smart specialisation priorities.

Developing joint cluster activities

The development of joint cluster activities was identified as a fourth development priority during the strategy process. A cluster mapping was carried out in the ENF area during 2019 in the priority areas of the strategy in order to identify the existing competencies and networks in the regions. As a result of the mapping, five thematic areas for clusters were identified in the process that East and North Finland has existing clusters and extensive knowledge in.

5 thematic area for clusters in East and North Finland

A series of networking events and training were designed and implemented during 2020 to facilitate cluster development but also to enable cross-regional cluster networking. Enhancing better utilisation of the RDI services offered by innovation platforms in the regions was also set as a common goal. In East and North Finland, the construction of innovation platforms has been systematically financed in recent years. The basis has been to create new businesses and to support SMEs in producing new or improved products, processes and services. To support innovation activities and to increase the awareness of the platform in East and North Finland, a search engine was established in 2020 that includes almost 50 innovation platforms from the area in the priority areas of the joint smart specialisation strategy. Boosting the visibility of innovation platforms as well as improving the collaboration between the service providers will ensure that the regions can better meet with the development needs of the business sector in the regions.

Article was originally published at ECA website.

For more information

Paula Heikkilä
Project manager
East and North Finland Industrial Transition
paula.heikkila(a)lapinliitto.fi
+358 40 483 7798

Innovation from Kuopio, ECG jewelry, reliably detects arrhythmias

Innovation from Kuopio, ECG jewelry, reliably detects arrhythmias

Excellence in international medical and biosignal processing as well as local jewelry design were combined with the idea of ​​entrepreneur Helena Jäntti. With the help of the network, a service was created that can be used to reliably identify arrhythmias and streamline the guidance of arrhythmia patients to treatment.

Heart2Save is a Kuopio-based health technology company founded in 2015, whose core competence is the development of medical devices and software aimed at identifying arrhythmias. The founder of the company is Helena Jäntti, a primary care physician and researcher at Kuopio University Hospital, who has seen the consequences of patients’ arrhythmias in her work.

Globally, up to one-fifth of people have a cerebral infarction before old age (age 65) and up to 40% of these are caused by atrial fibrillation. In Finland, cerebral infarction is diagnosed in up to 18,000 people every year.

“We started with a clinical need, to make a product for risk groups. A medical device that would easily detect atrial fibrillation and allow the user to seek treatment well in advance, thus preventing the complications associated with atrial fibrillation, of which stroke is the most significant. ” Jäntti says.

From idea to product development with the right partners

The journey from idea to commercial product has been a long one. Helena Jäntti emphasizes the importance of finding the right partners and experts on the journey of a medical device from idea to product. The first steps in the right direction were cooperation with physicists at the University of Eastern Finland, who built algorithms to identify arrhythmias. The AiVoni analysis service was born, which can be used to analyze the heart rhythm and generate an ECG report for each measurement.

Cooperation with Suunto, which has experience in the development of sports watches and heart rate monitors for more than 80 years, started in 2017.

“Cooperation with Suunto was started to find a sensor that would be suitable for measuring at home and would serve as a source of reliable information. The enormous size of the equipment used in hospital environments did not even come into question in this case. ”

A collaboration between a strong and experienced international player and university researchers created a product that can detect atrial fibrillation at home.

Local cooperation leads to a design product

 A revolutionary step was the collaboration with Saurum Oy and Lumoava, which started in 2019, which led to the birth of a new generation ECG jewelry. Combining the know-how of a well-known design jewelry brand with health technology gave birth to a completely new kind of medical device that travels unobtrusively with the user both in everyday life and at work. The product will be available on the market in early 2021 after the licensing process and branding have been completed.

“People don’t necessarily want to be stigmatized as sick. A medical device designed as jewelry was a good solution to this challenge. ” Jäntti says.

Product validation in the international scientific community

The safety, fit for purpose and performance of a medical device must always be demonstrated before the device can be certified and put up for sale. The process is often lengthy and considerably expensive. The Finnish scientific community was used for the clinical validation of Heart2Save’s innovation, and the results were also published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. According to Helena Jäntti, the solution has required a lot of guidance for thesis workers, but it has been an effective way to get both young enthusiastic scientists into their network and to present research results at European cardiology congresses. At the same time, the innovation has also gained a lot of international visibility.

Cooperation in regions´s networks

Know-how and entrepreneurship related to welfare technologies have been growing in Pohjois-Savo region in recent years. Welfare technology is also one of the smart specialisation priorities identified in Pohjois-Savo. The Kuopio Health cooperative,  which is an open innovation ecosystem that operates in the region, promotes know-how, research and business life in the health, well-being and nutrition sector. The cooperative is one of the clusters identified by the European Cluster Cooperation Platform, which supports its members in internationalization.

Helena Jäntti and Heart2Save have been involved in developing the region´s innovation ecosystem and have been among the first customers involved with Kuopio University hospital’s Living Lab and the National Neuroscience centre. All in all, the purpose of the region’s network is to provide a wide range of support and product development and testing services to companies in the field of health technology. According to Jäntti, the company’s story is marked by the courage to do and try and to talk about things openly and directly. Many things have been tried in recent years, such as the pitching in the ski lift in the Tahko Ski Lift Pitch event in 2017 for private equity investors.

Now that a long and expensive phase of product development is behind us, Helena Jäntti envisions for her company with a twinkle in her eye, quoting the Bible, seven obese years. In the future, the German market, where the digitalisation of healthcare is on the rise, will be a big boost. Plan is to increase export expertise through export training, the contents of which have already been discussed with the actors in the region. What ever it will require to take this next step, lack of courage will certainly not be in the way this time either.

For more information

Helena Jäntti
helena.jantti@heart2save.com
https://heart2save.com/

Clusters can play a critical role in the recovery of Finland

Clusters can play a critical role in the recovery of Finland

It is often referred that crisis can be seen as an opportunity to develop something new. Covid-19 epidemic showed clusters playing a crucial part in supporting businesses, creating social initiatives and pushing funding for SMEs. Clusters have shown to be agile and creative during crises and bringing about resilience to its members. In Finland, the regions should also take an initiative to invite clusters to take role in implementation of regional recovery plans.

A webinar held November 25, 2020 provided a forum for discussion on the role of clusters in recovery. A high-level panel concluded during the webinar that clusters are in ideal position to develop essential industrial and economic resilience as Europe recovers from the impact of Covid-19. Ulla Engelmann and Eva-Maria Revilla-Peñaranda from European Commission shared their thoughts on the role of clusters for a sustainable EU recovery. Antonio Novo Guerrero from European Cluster Alliance (ECA) shared practical examples on how cluster are speeding up the recovery and Mikko Härkönen from Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment gave an introduction to the ecosystems concept in Finland.

“Clusters ability to raise our capacities and our resilience is why clusters are critical for recovery plans”, stated Antonio Novo from ECA in his speech.

Currently, European regions are developing their recovery plans, complementing the national recovery and resilience facility. Each member states will submit national plans 1st of April 2021 latest. Regional authorities are in the key position to recognise the role of the clusters and invite them to support regional ecosystems in the recovery process.

It is important to understand the difference between clusters and ecosystems in order to see clear complementing roles. Ecosystems are independent networks between enterprises, researchers, public administration and third-sector operators. Clusters are more formalised form of collaboration and catalyst strengthening the operations in the ecosystems. Clusters should be seen as contributors facilitating innovation, channelling funding earmarked for recovery and resilience and finally, achieving the green and digital transition.

“We can see this crisis as an opportunity to build something new. Clusters have a role in planning how we can do things differently. To not only to survive but to create something new for the businesses”, concluded Mikko Härkönen from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

Webinar: How can clusters accelerate regional ecosystems in the recovery of Finland? 25.11.2020

The webinar recording and presentations are available HERE. 

For more information

Kristiina Jokelainen
SmartNorth 
+358 40 501 9856
kristiina.jokelainen(at)smartnorth.eu

Ilari Havukainen
East and North Finland in industrial transition
+358 40 621 6116
ilari.havukainen(at)elmoenf.eu

Small enterprises in forestry and wood product sector received crucial innovation support in East and North Finland High Impact Action

Small enterprises in forestry and wood product sector received crucial innovation support in East and North Finland High Impact Action

The East and North Finland High Impact Action (HIA), funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, ended in June 2020. This was a new type of funding model for consortia of SMEs and research and development organisations operating in East and North Finland. The goal of the funding was to result in product innovations in the tree, wood and timber value chain, in particular to find new innovative solutions based on circular economy and digitalisation. The East and North Finland High Impact Action funded seven projects involving organisations from all regions of East and North Finland. Regions were supported in implementation and evaluation of the High Impact Action by IDEA Consult experts.

The final seminar of the High Impact Action projects was held on September 9 2020 online. In the seminar, projects presented results of a half-year cooperation and the product and service innovations that were developed. The projects have developed, among other things, digital tools for work management between forest companies and for planning and optimising wood harvesting work. From the point of view of the circular economy, the pilots developed methods to increase the value added of forest biomass and to combine industrial by-products into a new carbon-negative product.

We are pleased to notice that during the process, cooperation has also emerged between different projects. This cooperation will certainly continue in the future, says Päivi Ekdahl, Development Director of the Regional Council of Lapland.

East and North Finland Industrial Transition (ELMO) cooperation and HIA piloting are based on the long-standing cooperation between the regional councils of East and North Finland. The goal of the co-operation is to seek new ways to support business life in the regions.

The world has changed a lot since these projects took off. On the other hand, themes such as circular economy and digitalisation are more relevant than ever. With these projects, we have seen how SMEs in East and North Finland can benefit from cross-regional and cross-organisational cooperation, says Mika Riipi, County Governor of Regional Council of Lapland.

For more infomation

Päivi Ekdahl
Development Director, Regional Council of Lapland
paivi.ekdahl (at) lapinliitto.fi, +358 400 383 578

https://elmoenf.eu/hia/

A missing piece of quality control for solid biofuels is now being found

A missing piece of quality control for solid biofuels is now being found

Puumit’s test measurement unit

In the quality control of solid biofuels, techniques have been developed for many years to make it possible to analyze the moisture content of samples collected from loads immediately at the time of sampling or immediately afterwards. Especially here in the North, the biggest problem during the winter is the effect of snow and ice on the measurement results. In addition, the degree of difficulty is raised by the ever-changing measurable fuels, each of which must be calibrated to the measuring equipment separately. Now a solution is being sought in Finland with the help of two top professional companies.

There have long been two major problems with quality control of biofuels. The first challenge is to automatically take representative samples of each load and the second is to obtain real-time information on the moisture content of the material before unloading. Prometec, a Kajaani-based company which focuses on quality control of biofuels, has solved the first problems by launching a fully automatic sampling equipment that takes samples by drilling them out from each incoming fuel load. Prometec currently operates in three different countries. Now Prometec has focused on solving another major problem together with Puumit Oy, a Kuopio-based manufacturer of measuring equipment. Puumit’s measuring device has been successfully tested in a pilot project in Kajaani throughout the winter and spring. Innovatively, combining measurement techniques, Puumit enables moisture analysis of samples collected with Prometec’s Q-Robot sampler and obtaining results immediately after sampling before the truck leaves the sampling station. Thus, the driver can be instructed to drive to specific unloading locations depending on the quality of the fuel and real-time data on the moisture content of the load is provided to both the power plant and the supplier

Real-time measurement of representative samples

Unlike typical electromagnetic moisture measurement methods such as microwaves or radio waves, Puumit Oy utilizes the frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum, where the permittivity of ice corresponds to the permittivity of water. Thus, with impedance spectroscopy, it is possible to accurately measure moisture even from frozen material. Utilizing machine learning methods and artificial intelligence, spectral analyzes can be performed individually for different biofuels. The method is also self-learning, which contributes to improving the accuracy and reliability of the method.

“Sampling and measuring are the most important processes in determining fuel quality. Billing is based on these samples. Now when we can connect a reliable measuring device to the Q-Robot, we think we have found the missing piece for our offering, ”says Juha Huotari, CEO of Prometec.

“Cooperation with Prometec is vital to us. In this way, we get hundreds of samples measured and analyzed per month and we can develop our product more accurately, ELMO funding has made it possible to develop this new technology, ”says Heikki Sonninen, CEO of Puumit Oy.

Prometec´s employee Risto is making a comparison measurements.

Traditionally, trucks transporting biofuels have been sampled manually with a shovel. This causes an error in the moisture determination because obtaining representative samples manually is very challenging and time consuming. It is not possible to spend too much time on sampling per load, as during the busiest times of the heating seasons over one hundred trucks can arrive to the site and all of them needs to be sampled. Prometec’s sampler collects samples automatically, reliably and representatively before unloading.

“We have often been asked that either we can also measure the moisture of samples in real-time. That is why we have joined this development project, because our customers want these solutions and we want to serve them as well as possible. We see the measurement of samples as a challenging but potential task. It is clear that measuring equipment will be integrated into every Q-Robot, because it has so many benefits for customers, ”says Huotari from Prometec.

Future quality control is comprehensive. Both sampling and quality measurement should be automatic and accurate. By combining an automatic sampler with Q-Robot and Puumit measuring equipment, this big leap towards automatic quality control right at the receiving point, is possible to do.

Intelligent Biomass Analyzer (IBA) is a project funded from the East and North Finland Industrial Transition High Impact Action Call 2019. The High Impact Action Call targets to stimulate digitisation and circular economy in the tree, wood and timber value chain. The outcome of the IBA project will be better valorisation of the circular bio-economy side-streams including wood chips, tree bark, and saw dust. The project includes investigations of technical feasibility including in-site testing and investigations of the main industrial challenges with different type of end-users. A detailed roadmap, operations and business plan for full upscale is one of the main results of the project.

 

“Cooperation with Prometec is vital to us. In this way, we get hundreds of samples measured and analyzed per month and we can develop our product more accurately, ELMO funding has made it possible to develop this new technology, ”

says Heikki Sonninen, CEO of Puumit Oy.

For more information

Markku Tiitta
Technical Director
Puumit Oy
markku.tiitta(at)puumit.fi
+358 44 5810 166

Circular economy connects Biovalley

Circular economy connects Biovalley

Biovalley, located in Central Ostrobothnia, is a center of expertise in circular economy, bioeconomy and chemistry, where the region is being developed in such a way that natural resources improve the quality of life and business life sustainably. The combination of chemistry, mineral economy and rural industries as a profile of smart specialisation is unique and distinguishes the region from other regions in Finland and Europe.

Biovalley involves 23 organisations, whose common goal and extensive networks create good conditions for various development platforms and cooperation. Biovalley combines industrial applications, diverse primary production and high-quality expertise. Biovalley is the largest concentration of inorganic chemical industry in Northern Europe and we are pioneers in the circular economy. Education and research support diverse business operations and battery chemical expertise is of an internationally high standard.

Biovalley is accelerating the internationalisation of Central Ostrobothnia

Biovalley Finland project, which started in summer 2019, is a support and promotion project aimed at internationalisation of Biovalley. The goal is for Biovalley to become an internationally attractive circular economy ecosystem, creating new businesses, jobs and investments. The result of the project is a strong circular economy area in which the three industries, the chemical industry, primary production and the extractive industry, operate synergistically.

The Biovalley Finland project supports joint content research and development work in the region, as well as the product development of companies. During the project, events will be organized from both a business and research perspective; A key part of promoting the visibility of Biovalley is the Kokkola Material Week event, which brings together the excellence of the chemical industry, bioeconomy and mineral economy every year. As a result of the Biovalley Finland project, the visibility of Biovalley will increase nationally and internationally. In order to develop international co-operation, Biovalley collaborators are planning  to build co-operation within the framework of the international Vanguard Initiative network and to apply for a bronze cluster label from ESCA. Biovalley will also apply for the European Cluster Collaboration Platform in order to facilitate international networking and cluster development.  

Kokkola Material Week is an annual high-level networking event that includes a review of current research and development prospects in the chemical industry, bioeconomy and mineral economy. The event has been organized successfully since 2013. The next Kokkola Material Week will be held from 7 to 12 November 2020.

For more information

https://biolaakso.fi/en/

Tiina Aittola
Biovalley coordinator
Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius
tiina.aittola(at)chydenius.fi
+35840 6695151

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