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Clusters meet Regions East and North Finland:

A sustainable approach to raw materials.

25 - 27 April 2023, Kittilä, Lapland, Finland

The European Cluster Collaboration Platform, on behalf of the European Commission and in partnership with East & North Finland and MINE.THE.GAP H2020 InnoSup, organised the Clusters meet Regions workshop and matchmaking on 25-27 April 2023 in Kittilä, Lapland, Finland. The event was dedicated to a sustainable approach to raw materials, focusing on circular industrial economy and digitalisation. It aimed to bring together clusters and policymakers from a range of levels to learn, from each other, how to strengthen industrial ecosystems and support economic development.

The event provided a platform for interregional collaboration, strengthening the capacity of regional ecosystems and creating a more integrated approach to connecting upstream and downstream industrial value chains.

There were around 150 representatives in-person from European clusters, local, regional, national, and European public authorities, as well as industry and civil society stakeholders, who shared their experience and provided insights into the role of clusters in increasing the responsible utilization of raw materials. 



15 regional workshops are being organised in those EU regions that expressed an interest to host such a workshop in the period 2022-23 as part of the “Clusters meet Regions” cycle. These events bring together clusters and policymakers of the EU, at national, regional, and local levels, to learn from each other how to better use clusters to strengthen industrial ecosystems, serve national/regional economic development and liaise with other regions facing similar transition challenges.

Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need to strengthen the European Union´s strategic autonomy and reduce our dependence on imported critical and strategic raw materials. The EU needs to increase domestic raw material production. Solid and integrated industrial ecosystems must be developed to boost the green transition and strong EU economy. That all depends on the success of guaranteeing the supply of the needed strategic and critical raw materials.

The Circular Economy has become one of the main concepts in the EU industrial development as most of the EU industrial value chains depend on natural resources. Closing the loop in the different stages of industrial value chains is the core while developing resource efficiency. Focus on the circular industrial economy is crucial for the regions rich with raw materials. The pumping of resources back into use has to begin in the early stages of the production value chain. The circular industrial economy is accompanied not only by the promotion of environmental issues but also providing tremendous emerging business opportunities for the specialised industrial service sector. Industrial modernisation, digitalisation and Industry 4.0 give the foundation and tools for developing industrial circular economy solutions. The industry wants to use the best available technologies and digital solutions, enabling the most efficient industrial circular economy.


East and North Finland is the EU’s most prosperous territory with strategic and critical raw materials crucial to reach for the decarbonisation pathway. The balanced combination of industry expertise and commitment to sustainable development is the core of refining the natural resources in East and North Finland (ENF).

The natural environment plays a far more important role in the ENF regions than in other parts of Finland and the European Union. The ENF regions have a mixture of abundant natural resources. Vast deposits of natural resources provide business opportunities and generate investments and employment. At the same time, there is a pressing need to create and nurture a sustainable balance between these industries, other sectors and the vulnerable northern ecosystems. Sustainable refining of natural resources and strong technical expertise have built the foundation for economic development in the regions.

Maintaining the preconditions for sustainable development is challenging under northern conditions of harsh climate and fragile nature. The long distances and declining population in ENF regions require the development of next-generation innovation platforms, living labs, distance-spanning clusters and Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), better connected to the public Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) resources. Complementary competencies, such as ICT, and other digital, chemical and technological expertise, support the traditional industries and are also growing business sectors themselves.

ENF regions participated in DG Regio’s Pilot action for Regions in Industrial Transition. ENF regions sought to strengthen the regional industry’s ability to continuously adapt, innovate, facilitate investment in new technologies and implement changes supporting the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy. In ENF regions the collaboration is referred to as ELMO (Itä- ja Pohjois-Suomen elinkeinot murroksessa – pilotti).

The ELMO cooperation launched a new phase in developing ENF inter-regional collaboration. The recognition of common strengths and complementary competencies reinforces collaboration across regional borders. ELMO work will continue to lay the foundation for stronger collaboration. The process is built on a strategic analysis carried out with external experts. The analysis has also served as the basis for the East and North Finland industrial transition – a smart specialisation strategy.

📑To learn more about the cluster landscape of East and North Finland, read the Input paper: Clusters meet Regions event “A sustainable approach to raw materials” – the case of East and North Finland


The event aimed to demonstrate how the East and North Finland clusters contribute to responsible raw materials production and refining by developing inspiring circular economy solutions and digitalisation. East and North Finland invited European cluster actors and regional policymakers to learn about good local practices, exchange ideas and meet new partners. In addition, the event provided a platform to continue the dialogue between the region rich with raw -materials and EU policymakers to find the best available solutions supporting the regions to develop the operational ecosystems for responsible raw material production.

Interregional collaboration is strengthening the capacity of regional ecosystems and creating a more integrated approach to connecting upstream and downstream industrial value chains.


Industrial and innovation clusters, Cluster Policy Makers, EU business community, Investors, Project coordinators, SME. There were around 150 representatives of European clusters, local, regional, national, and European public authorities, together with industry and civil society stakeholders,  who attended the event in person, sharing their experiences and providing insights into the role of the clusters in increasing the responsible utilisation of the raw materials.

The objective of the matchmaking was to strengthen the capacity of the regional ecosystems and clusters to support sustainable and responsible raw material exploration and refining by increasing the industrial collaboration in the EU by bringing together the circular industrial economy and digitalisation-related technology providers and businesses to support the cross-sectorial partnership, creation of new and improved value chains.

“Welcome to learn, experience, observe, adapt, network, and match-make.”

Download the final agenda and Participants' booklet.

Presented materials in the frame of the event:

26 April 2023

East and North Finland in industrial transition - Shaping the future together.

Round Table I: Modern Digital Solutions and High Technology

Round Table II: Industrial Circular Economy in East and North FinlandThe role of Clusters in developing the regional industrial ecosystem

Round Table III: Arctic Water Excellenceshowcasing Interregional Clusters Collaboration

Keynote speech – Green Deal Industrial Plan for the Net-Zero Age: ensuring secure and sustainable supply chains for EU’s green and digital future, Jakub Boratynski

Roundtable dialogue – putting the Green Deal Industrial Plan into practice in teh regional context

27 April 2023

Session IV: Strengthening EU’s critical raw materials capacities along all stages of the value chain: a coordinated effort

Dr., Dr.H.C. Santiago Cuesta COFFEE BREAK -López General Manager ISMC-ICAMCyL

Debates: To synergise regional, national and European policymaking to support responsible raw material utilization in Europe - recommendations

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