Boost from EU funding for urban innovation agreements and area innovation networks
The new EU regional and structural policy programming period will further accelerate the development of urban innovation ecosystems and launch national innovation and skills network activity. On 10 February 2022, the Government allocated a total of approximately EUR 21.6 million of Innovation and Skills in Finland programme funding for the implementation of ecosystem agreements and approximately EUR 6.9 million for the launch of a national innovation and skills network in 2022.
In February 2021, the central government entered into agreements with 16 urban areas to strengthen innovation activities. During the year, cooperation networks of businesses, universities and other RDI actors focused on local strengths have been built, and impressive projects supporting the green and digital transition have been launched. This work has been supported with national start-up funding.
The two development instruments, urban ecosystem agreements and the national innovation and skills network, form a programme entitled Innovative Cities and Communities. The objective is to gain an international competitive advantage from experimental and innovative environments, develop new sources of growth, i.e. business network templates, and to scale up local solutions for the global market.
Innovation activity supported by national steering group
The Innovative Cities and Communities programme also gained a supporting steering group in January 2022. The role of the steering group is to monitor and guide implementation of work at the national level. The steering group will also promote dialogue and interaction with university cities and their key RDI actors.
“We have set a high level of ambition, and the goal is to create more attractive innovation clusters and environments that are able to utilise the best national and international expertise,” says Petri Peltonen, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
Key innovation actors, such as Business Finland, the Academy of Finland, various ministries, cities, higher education institutions and the business community are represented in the steering group.
“The programme being launched is exceptional because it takes a broad view of innovation policy and is highly diverse in terms of its content. The ecosystem work also combines urban and regional innovation activity with national innovation policy, which makes it a unique initiative,” says Under-Secretary of State Peltonen.
Innovation clusters and networks to be strengthened through European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
The grant authorisation for the implementation of ecosystem agreements is funding for sustainable urban development and is allocated to the 16 towns, cities or urban areas that have concluded an ecosystem agreement with the central government. Funding will be channelled through regional councils, acting as intermediate bodies. The allocation will be based on, among other things, criteria defined by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, negotiations held with the cities, the content of the agreements and the amount of self-financing earmarked by the cities for the activities.
Alongside the ecosystem agreements, implementation of the national innovation and skills networks theme will be launched. The objective is to improve the capacity of RDI actors to design and implement trans-regional and effective business-networked innovation, development and investment projects aimed at the large-scale commercialisation of innovations. A further objective is to enable actors in the future to utilise the EU’s competitive funding instruments, such as Horizon Europe and Digital Europe. The South Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) will act as the intermediate body for the funding of the national theme.
The breakdown of funding by element and region is presented in more detail in a memorandum on the Government decision (in Finnish).
Council of Tampere Region and South Savo ELY Centre to coordinate and support implementation
The implementation of the Innovative Cities and Communities programme and the work of its steering group will be supported by the Council of Tampere Region and the South Savo ELY Centre, to which separate funding will be allocated from the regional and structural policy programme.
The Council of Tampere Region will support the implementation of the ecosystem agreements between the central government and the cities and develop common funding practices. In addition, the Council will collect data on the results and effectiveness of projects, strengthen high-quality project activities and be responsible for national and international communications on the activities.
The South Savo ELY Centre will be responsible for the national innovation and skills networks theme (ERDF), and for processing project applications, selecting projects, and theme-related communications.
Olli Voutilainen, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 506 4919, [email protected]
Mika Pikkarainen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 506 3622, [email protected]
Riina Pulkkinen, Development Manager, Council of Tampere Region, tel. +358 40 708 0178, [email protected]
Tiina Arpola, Business Adviser, South Savo ELY Centre, tel. +358 295 026 131, [email protected]