Clusters meet Regions East and North Finland
Innovations and new partnerships greeted each other in Levi
On 25-27 April 2023, the European Cluster Collaboration Platform organised the Clusters meet Regions conference in Kittilä, Levi, Finland, bringing together a wide range of European clusters, Commission representatives, civil servants and regional developers, as well as a range of clusters and other stakeholders from East and North Finland. The participants discussed and shared ideas, research results and experiences on strengthening raw materials value chains and promoting their sustainable use. The event was part of a broader effort to increase the self-sufficiency of EU Member States in critical raw materials supply, processing and recycling. It was highlighted how clusters play an important role in research, innovation and knowledge sharing in order to achieve this goal.
Clusters work is also work for the future of Europe
The opening day of the conference focused on the role of clusters in the sustainable use of raw materials. Jakub Boratynski, Director of Networks and Governance at DG GROW (European Commission) and Elsi Katainen, Member of the European Parliament, introduced the topic. Boratynski emphasised that the work that clusters do is also work for the future of Europe. Katainen, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of raw materials to the economy of East and North Finland. She also reminded that the EU's Critical Raw Materials Act brings the Union closer to the 2030 climate goals, in which East and North Finland's expertise can play a strong role. Following this introduction, Dr Jan-Philipp Kramer presented the report on East and North Finland's innovation readiness produced by the ECCP.
East and North Finland’s clusters have solutions to promote the sustainable use of raw materials
The first panel discussions of the conference were led by East and North Finland clusters. The exchanges in these roundtables underlined the importance of technology and digital solutions, circular economy and water management expertise in promoting the sustainable use of raw materials. During the panel discussions, East and North Finland clusters widely presented their own expertise and innovations on these themes. The general consensus was that collaboration is the only way to come up with solutions, but also that a common goal is needed to achieve meaningful results.
The afternoon panel discussion focused on the practical implementation of the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan, as well as on ways to strengthen sustainable supply chains. Some key takeaways were that the Critical Raw Materials Act sets a good vision – one on which we now need to act, with clusters playing a key role in research, innovation and skills; that bringing mining back to Europe needs social acceptance; and finally, that mining is not sustainable per se, but there are sustainable approaches for the extraction and processing of materials which are being worked on.
Clusters and SMEs found new partnerships at the matchmaking event
As part of the event, a matchmaking session was organised for mining clusters, operators and companies to find new partners and promote sustainability through digitalization and industrial circular economy. The policymakers’ roundtable discussion, in turn, discussed ways to strengthen sustainable and just mining through collaboration between companies, municipalities, regional actors, universities, ministries and the European Commission.
The first day of the conference culminated in the Green Transition Gala organized by Biocluster Finland, where the Green Growth Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded.
On the second day of the event, the focus was on the comprehensive strengthening of value chains related to critical raw materials at the European level. The discussions revolved around the importance of regional, national, and EU-level policies and financing to support the responsible use of raw materials in the EU. In his closing remarks, Mika Riipi, the County Governor of Lapland, summarized the two-day conference in three key terms: a shared motivation, a passion for development, and a realism for implementation.
The event was organised by the regions of Eastern and Northern Finland, together with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and the MINE.THE.GAP network. The practical arrangements for the event were handled by the Smart Specialisation in Eastern and Northern Finland 2022–2027 (ELMO II) project, which is supported by the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) and funded by the North Savo Regional Council.
We would like to say a big thank you to all participants, East & North Finland, MINE.THE.GAP and ELMO for making this event what it was!
Find more information about the event here.
Find information on upcoming Clusters meet Regions events here.
Read the Clusters meet Regions East and North Finland input paper here.