smart specialization development strategy for pohjois-savo

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    Pohjois-Savo is the sixth largest region in Finland. It has approximately 250,000 inhabitants.

    Pohjois-Savo hosts a high concentration of tech-nologically advanced international industrial con-cerns, which between them account for 40% of the regions exports and fully 20% of the workforce. Machine and metal industries include specialized transport solutions (Profile Vehicles Ltd.), forest-ry machinery (Ponsse Plc) and mining equipment (Normet Ltd). The region also boasts several world leaders in energy technology (Andritz Ltd, Amec Foster Wheeler) and mechanical and chemical wood processing (Keitele Group, Lunawood Ltd and Stora Enso).

    Educational services in the region are diversified and boast a high academic level.

    The areas of top expertise of the University of Eastern Finland are 1) health and well being, 2) forests and natural sciences and 3) new technol-ogies and materials. The university has 15 000 students.

    The region also hosts the Savonia University of Applied Sciences whose R&D priorities are 1) wel-fare products, 2) energy, the environment and safety, 3) integrated product development and 4) agriculture and foods. Number of students is 6000.

    Both universities are experienced and trusted partners in international collaboration projects and are actively seeking new international part-nerships.

    The smart specialization development strategy for

    POHJOIS-SAVO 20142017

    Also the SME sector is the cornerstone of the re-gions economy. Pohjois-Savo region is home to over 200 exporting companies whose innovative products and services represent the cutting edge of their fields.

    Pohjois-Savo is the strongest dairy area in Finland, with about 70% of all agricultur-al sales income coming from dairy production. Milk is used to produce cheese and other milk based products at two modern facilities (Maitomaa and Valio). The berry fields of the region produce one third of Finlands strawberries and a significant amount of black-currants. The food processing companies of Pohjois-Savo are also actively developing new and innovative products.

    Pohjois-Savo also has exper-tise in health technology and environmental technology.


  • The strengths of and challenges faced by the region of Pohjois-Savo are outlined in the four main lines of action (LOA): (1) regional financial rejuvenation, (2) a plentiful supply of skilled labour, (3) welfare services and general well being and also (4) a func-tional and accessible municipal structure. The Re-gional Council of Pohjois-Savo approved these lines of action in 2013.

    Development priorities form a broad framework for regional development. The five leading areas of smart specialization fit into the regional financial rejuvenation stated in the first line of action. This regional financial rejuvenation is aimed mainly at companies development projects as well as their operating environment, technological innovation, and encouraging research into companies service operations and international competitively.

    Lines of action 2 4 also support smart specialization

    The first line of action focuses on forest industry (inc. mechanical wood processing, bioprocessing, wood construction), technology industry, medical cluster and food production and environmental technology.

    Lines of action 2-4 also support smart specializa-tion.

    The second line of action relates to the availability of a skilled workforce, including training and edu-cation, extension of working lives and reduction of unemployment.

    The third line of action focuses on the development of social and health services as well as improve-ment of health and lifestyle changes. This increases the availability of a future workforce.

    The fourth line of action improves regional infra-structure, including telecommunications connec-tions.

    Project groupings of the lines of action for the peri-od 2014-2017 are mostly funded from the Europe-an structural and innovation funds as well as inter-national EU funding programmes. Public funding is used to help attract both national and international investors.



    The realisation of smart specialization in Pohjois-Sa-vo will also ensure the aims for population growth in the region.

    The aim for Pohjois-Savo is to have a population of 250 000 in 2030. To reach this goal, the region requires the main growth center of Kuopio to maintain a steady population growth greater than one percent. Population growth across the whole region turned positive in the year 2011. If Kuopio can maintain its growth rate of about 1000 a year and the rest of the region surpasses the predictions made by Statistics Finland then this aim of a popu-lation of 250 000 can be reached by the year 2030.

    If this level of population is reached then there would be a potential workforce of about 103 000, which is about 7000 less than in the year 2012. This reduction in workforce is explained by an ageing population. However, participation in the work-force would be required to rise to 74 percent.

    An increase in the available workforce is achieved by both an influx of new inhabitants as well as in increase in workforce participation across all age ranges. This can be achieved by a reduction in un-employment and an increase in the overall ability to work.

    Population growth in Pohjois-Savo has followed the regional aims in the last few years. A good develop-ment has been that Statistics Finlands predictions for the year 2014 exceeded an increase of 1000 in-habitants.

  • Other industry = mining, foodstuff processing, textiles, chemical indus-try, furniture production, machine maintenance, energy, water and waste management




























    Table 1. Pohjois-Savo Region target population 2030, population 1990-2014 and Statistics Finlands population projection

    Source: Statistics Finland, projection from 2012, Regional Development Plan for the Pohjois-Savo Region 2030/Regional Development Plan

    Regional Development Plans population projection 250 000

    Statistics Finlands population projection 246 000

    Population in 2014248 407


  • Based on a series of 170 interviews, Pohjois-Savo is particularly known for its expertise in five areas of innovation where knowledge, technical devel-opment and expertise can be used to promote en-terprise regeneration and competitiveness. These areas of expertise are: wood and bioprocessing, machine and energy technology, foodstuffs, health clusters as well as water and air processes.

    The regional economy is at present dependent on machine and energy technology, wood processing and foodstuffs. The region also has a strong tradi-tion of RDI expertise in these fields.

    It is essential for the region to perform in these fields and great effort is put into ensuring exper-tise, regeneration and a ready supply of skilled la-bour in them.

    Health clusters and water and air processes are new rising fields of expertise which involve high level interdisciplinary research and development. Pohjois-Savo is willing to take the risks involved to develop these fields into new important sectors of a growing economy.

    The above figure shows these five areas of smart specialization and highlights the most important development aims. The next segment describes the current strengths of each field as well as develop-ment potential and strong players in each field.


  • Wood and bio processing

    Mechanical wood processing in the region has managed to find new markets and develop new products as well as to increase the level of process-ing. Despite chemical wood processing (cellulose and paper) having a lower financial turnover than mechanical processing in the year 2010, it still re-mains an important industry in the region.

    Both chemical and mechanical wood processing can act as a growth media for wood based biopro-cessing. The cellulose and paper industries have made substantial investment decisions during 2014, which are renewing and increasing cellulose production as well as bringing new opportunities for growth in cardboard production.

    Bioprocessing creates new opportunities to make use of biomass of which possibly the most im-portant is wood. The use of pyrolysis can through a rapid high temperature process produce energy oil, while a slow and low temperature controlled pyrolysis process can be used to release numerous wood molecules. These can be utilised in multiple products, including coatings, medicines, pesticides, herbicides, and food additives. Pyrolysis also pro-duces charcoal, which can either be utilised in it's raw from or processed into synthetic gas. A third product of pyrolysis is gas, which can be used for such purposes as heating. One potential biopro-cessing plant is a cellulose factory, which can easily be modified for alternative production.

    Bioprocessing and the development of new bio products is an interdisciplinary project which takes many years. The first commercial products (biofu-els and coatings) should be coming onto the market in the next couple of years. One potential method of facilitating bioprocess development is to create bioprocessing projects supporting the wood pro-cessing companies which already have the required raw material and the financial resources required to run multiyear development projects.

    The forests of Pohjois-Savo contain plenty of wood. Currently only a portion of potential logging is uti-lised. Taking sustainable forest growth into account, harvesting of industrial wood could be increased by 36 % and energy wood by 163 %.

    The University of Eastern Finland (UEF) campus in Kuopio hosts physics and chemistry departments which are ideally suited to develop wood based molecular production methods. The departments of microbiology, toxicology, medical chemistry and pharmacology, and nutritional sciences are essen-tial in discovering suitable uses for the molecular products of bioprocessing.

    Other academic institutes based in Pohjois-Savo (THL, VTT, MTT, Metla and Savonia) have much to contribute to the development of bioprocessing. Cooperation with other universities is also essen-tial.


  • The machine industry

    The machine and energy technology industries have grown into the financially most important in-dustries in Pohjois-Savo. The fields financial turn-over excluding service and multiplying effects is 1,4 billion euros.

    In Finland and Europe the machine and engineer-ing industries have been criticised for shifting pro-duction to cheaper countries in a similar way to the electronics industry.

    The leading machine industry concerns in Pohjois-Savo still have solid success and growth potential as long as basic resources (skilled labour, infrastructure and contacts) are maintained and the companies endeavour to continuously improve production and innovation. This renewal and prof-itable production strategy is known as Pohjois-Sa-vo's counter-current strategy.

    A counter-current strategy requires new tools, in-novative working methods and improvements of service provision. Increased production is created by automatization. Welding, machining, coating and assembly need to be automized. 3D printing needs to be utilized. Planning and manufactur-ing processes digitalisation is automated and an efficient network of design and manufacturing is essential. Production development management

    (PDM), industry internet, enterprise resource plan-ning (ERP), customer records management (CRM) and product life management (PLM) are vital for efficient product customization, conception and service providers. Customer service is becoming an increasingly important part of the industries financial turnover including schooling in products and maintenance.

    Efficient service provision also helps to speed up product and service innovation. The future will bring surprises. One area where surprises might be found is in rapid manufacturing technologies.

    The below figure presents the expertise of various organisations which aid companies development projects and which can assist in technology trans-fers. Savonia University of Applied Sciences (UAS) plays a leading role in networking and development work, as well as specialising in automatic welding and digital production methods. Alongside Savonia is a network of universities and UAS specializing in skills development and research. An important part of this network involves international cooperation. Institutes of vocational education and regional de-velopment associations are also involved in compa-nies development projects.

  • Energy techniques,processing techniques,production economics

    Foster Wheeler, Andritz, MY Power, Warkaus Works, SSG Sahala,

    Honeywell, European Batteries, Gebwell, HgforGST, OKE, GFN,

    Store Enso, UPM, Ekovoimala, Kuopion Energia, Savon Voima, sawmills, wood

    processing, energy companies

    Energy technique training,automative techniques,

    machine techniques

    energy techniques,optical sensors,new measuring


    Savonias research lab & Navitas & universities,

    Private enterprise and other actors

    The waste incineration plant as a development


    Planning, automative, programming and

    installation companies

    Particle research and environmental information,

    material research and coatings

    Engineering training,process managing training


    Lappeenranta Technical UniversityThe Technical

    Research Center of Finland (VTT)

    Savonia UAS

    Vocational education

    Development environment

    Private enterprise



    Energy technology

    Two of the three world leaders in combustion en-ergy plant manufacturing are based in Varkaus in Pohjois-Savo. Energy technology makes up a signif-icant part of exports. In the last decade technology created in the region has expand to include geo-thermal heat, waste incineration, biogas and bat-tery technology. Leading companies in the field are concentrating on planning, marketing, project delivery and maintenance. They are surrounded by a network of producing and support companies. A growing proportion of production has been trans-ferred to developing energy markets e.g. the Far East. Pohjois-Savo has concentrated its efforts on development and plant design.

    Leading companies have developed technology for the burning of bio based energy sources. Energy markets are once again in flux, with an uncertain fu-ture to be determined by new as yet undiscovered energy sources, various sources of renewable en-ergy and the ongoing competition between cheap coal, natural gas and nuclear energy in many coun-tries. However, in countries with a plentiful source of bio energy reserves such as Finland, there is a strong believe in the future of renewable energy.

    Pohjois-Savo is an ideal environment for the de-velopment of energy technology and bioenergy. Leaders in the field of energy technology are driv-ing forces in new technology and they have part-nerships with world class research institutions. Pohjois-Savo has expertise in combustion particles and environmental impact assessment, materials and corrosion, measurement and control technol-ogy, development of automation and machinery design and engineering.

    Savonia UAS trains energy technology engineers as well as machinery, tool and automation designers. The growth and marketing of companies in these fields needs to be encouraged. A dedicated energy research center is being built in Varkaus by Savonia UAS in cooperation with the Technical University of Lappeenranta, UEF, Navitas Development Ltd and various private companies. The waste incineration power plant being built in Leppvirta will also be an industrial scale research environment.

  • Foodstuffs

    Pohjois-Savo is the strongest dairy region in Finland. Alongside milk production and processing, the re-gion also has a high profile for berry and specialist plant production, juice and related drinks produc-tion and a fairly newcomer, fish processing. The de-velopment of foodstuff clusters in Pohjois-Savo is based on a comprehensive education, research and innovation network.

    Vocational education facilities have a base of strong agricultural entrepreneurship and production pro-cesses development. Training and development highlights increased productivity as well as animal health and welfare. Savonia UAS is responsible for developing dairy production as well as issues relat-ing to the whole food chain. Issues of the environ-ment and energy and their comprehensive man-agement are showing huge potential. This whole process involves a wide and close knit innovative network including MTT, VTT and UEF.

    Milk proteins, berries, plants and fish are sources of healthy food. Making use of their health benefits involve research into nutrition, foodstuffs and med-icine which still have a lot to give.

    UEF's strengths in the area of food are related to nutrition sciences and foodstuff development. UEF is strengthening and widening its cooperation with the foodstuff industry. This also applies to other re-search institutes. Water usage and runoff from the food industry is high, which means that coopera-tion between different research institutions is vital (VTT, GTK, UEF, THL and UAS) to develop knowl-edge about water usage and technology. Interdisci-plinary exchange of knowledge and technology will play a growing role in developing the competitive-ness of food processing. This will assist in improved water, energy and nutrient use; improve measure-ment and control systems, increase health benefits and food safety, as well as creating new ideas for product development.

    Local development groups have their own pro-files within the region based on their own strong food product and processing development and ex-perience. Yl-Savo is known for milk production, Sis-Savo for berries, and Varkaus for fish process-ing.


    Health clusters

    Medicine is one of the strongest disciplines among Kuopio's research and education institutes. Inter-nationally cutting edge medical sciences in Kuopio are central nervous system diseases, heart and blood vessel diseases, diabetes, cancer and muscu-lar skeletal diseases. Technological strengths in the field are imaging, human measuring and health-care related IT. Areas of business growth have been research and medicine development as well as li-censing agreements and sales of service. Kuopios strengths also include assessment of nutritional health benefits, and healthy nutritious foodstuff development. International markets for treat-ments and medicines as well as healthy and safe foodstuffs are growing fast.

    Kuopio also undertakes significant environmental health impact assessments and prevention work. Equipment and methodology for the detection pre-vention and eradication of environmental health problems is an international growth area.

    Health clusters in Kuopio cover the entire chain medical research development: medicinal and pharmaceutical vocational education, treatment technology, nursing sciences, life sciences, genetic technology and chemistry, medical research, ethi-cal animal research, treatment trials in the univer-sity hospital, medicine production including clean rooms for biomedicine production as well as med-icine control and official permit regulation and re-search into the effects of health care procedures.

    Health clusters in Kuopio and their development re-sources are indicated in the below figure. Alongside the presented resources, skills are being improved through numerous national and international proj-ects.

  • Water and air

    In Pohjois-Savo, water and air knowledge and skills are concentrated around Kuopio where there is a grouping of versatile interdisciplinary organisations and enterprises. Water and air skills are centered on process risk management, efficiency and clean development, environmental safety and human re-lated health issues.

    Critically, areas lacking protection are rapidly in-dustrialising countries as well as growing energy production and control of traffic emissions. A need for water technology is therefore growing both in Finland and worldwide. Industrially, closed water circulation systems must be increased, which de-mands new water processes. A topical problem is mine waste water and mineral refining waste water. Alongside industrial concerns, there is an increas-ing global shortage of clean drinking water. The fig-ure below presents water specialists in Kuopio.

    Traditional strengths of the water profession have been water hygiene safety or water micro-biology (THL and UEF), water chemistry (UEF), ground wa-ter and mining related water issues (GTK) as well as water purification and monitoring skills (Savonia). What is still lacking is development of real time wa-ter distribution management. In Kuopio, this is be-ing solved by the development of new measuring and analytical technology as well as adapting indus-trial solutions to the needs of the water profession. Kuopio has a large skills base for the improvement of water safety.

    A special strength of the water profession in Kuopio is skills in mineral related water management, in-cluding mineral extraction and processing research and an understanding of mineral dissolution in nat-ural waters. The environmental safety of mining, process circulation and water purification technol-ogies are at the core of water technology develop-ment.

    An interdisciplinary scientific community offers new possibilities for the development of analysis, measurement and purification technology. Mea-surement, modelling, process regulation and pu-rification have the opportunity to make major ad-vances using new methods. The chemical research professions have to find new methods for, among other issues, better control of heavy metals in in-dustry, especially the mining industry.

    The Eastern Finland GTK campus situated in Kuopio has responsibility for matters of the environment and water. In this work, GTK's mining environmen-tal research group is supported by its subsidiary in Outokumpu, the MINTEK mine and mineral labora-tory. Meanwhile, UEF is emphasising water based biochemical research and together with THL has a strong base on which to assess water related health and environmental risks. In 2014 the UEF created a water professorship, whose area of expertise is water chemistry research including in the mining industry.

  • Private enterprise UEF physics

    Development of measuring


    SYMO, Microbioni, Venacontra, UPM,

    Forter Wheeler, Andritz, Metso, Fortum,

    Green Fuel Nordicimpact of biogenic


    Energy technology

    Health effects of exposure,internal air,

    environmental risks,environmental health

    Climate change,modelling of changing

    emissions and emission distribution

    Combustion technology,emissions from energy production

    (bioenergy, fossil fuels),emissions control,

    measuring and monitoring,health effects,

    nano materials,internal air

    UEF environmental sciences

    The Technical Research Center of Finland


    National Institute for Health and

    Welfare (THL)

    Savonia UASFinnish Meteorological Institute Kuopio campus



    Research conducted by UEF's department of phar-macology has discovered new openings in mine water processing, especially new more effective water purification chemicals for to deal with heavy metals. The UEF department of physics and VTT's new measuring and modelling systems, new chem-icals, and Savonia's new purification technology and readiness to pilot new innovations will improve water technology in the mining and mineral indus-tries, in heavy industry, as well as municipal water and waste water purification plants. Development of measuring and control technology is also pro-ducing commercial products.

    Water research is being undertaken in many lab-oratories, with the largest being Savonia, GTK and THL's water and waste water laboratories and mo-bile research and purification stations, THL and UEF's microbiology, chemistry and pharmacological laboratories, commercial research laboratories and the MINTEC mineral laboratory. There are currently over 40 researchers and experts working in these departments and that number is growing.

    There is no similar concentration of expertise in the whole of Finland, and this gives regional actors unique potential to create new innovations, new methods and new business possibilities in the fields of water and mine safety. This expertise can also be adapted to other water intense industries such as the cellulose and paper industries and the chemical industry.

    Air research in Kuopio is a similar interdisciplinary environment to water research and technology: involving various departments of UEF, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT, THL and private en-terprise. Research is centered upon particle emis-sions from energy production, emissions from the specific area of bioenergy and new energy sources as well as the health effects of nanoparti-cle emissions from energy production. The group concentrating on research into the health effects of airborne emissions in Kuopio is the strongest in Finland and is also highly regarded internationally. THL's internal air quality is the leader in its fields on moisture damage and its underlying health effects in Finland and also has a high international profile.

    The strongest areas of scientific research into air are aerosol and small particle research, environmental toxicology, aerosol physics, environmental epide-miology and environmental microbiology. There are several large groups conducting air research in Kuopio. About twenty companies are involved in a project funded by Tekes. Important segments of the research involve emissions from energy and heat production, as well as research into moisture damage in buildings and assessment of health is-sues. Researchers are involved in the development of combustion processes as well as air filtration and techniques for the detection of microbial damage.

  • Picture: Mauri Leivo

    Picture: Soile Nevalainen

    Regional Council of Pohjois-SavoSepnkatu 1, P.O.Box 247FI-70101 KUOPIO, Finland

    Tel. +358 17 550 1400