Partnered for results in the next structural fund period: Eastern and Northern Finland aspire for closer cooperation between regions and ministries in programme work

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 12.2.2020 10.04
News item
Päivi Keisanen, secretary for regional preparations in Eastern and Northern Finland
Päivi Keisanen, secretary for regional preparations in Eastern and Northern Finland

Eastern and Northern Finland share a strong vision as they prepare for the new structural fund period. The two regions have many things in common: they are both sparsely populated areas, their strengths identified in the strategy of smart specialisation are the same, and they promote the same interests. The operating environments and challenges in the regions are similar. According to Päivi Keisanen, Development Manager at Council of Oulu Region and secretary for the region’s programme preparations, close cooperation is a conscious choice.

The objective of the programme work of Eastern and Northern Finland is to raise the employment rate, the level of R&D investment in the region, the level of education and competence, and awareness of decarbonisation. In terms of the programme content, key issues for Eastern and Northern Finland include enterprise activity development, promotion of growth, internationalisation and innovation, addressing skills and competence needs and the transformation of work, and reducing inequality. It is essential that climate objectives are linked to all activities.

Similarly, matters concerning the operating environment are of major significance for Eastern and Northern Finland.

“One of the measures proposed is an increase in the special funding for sparsely populated regions in Northern Finland. The funding would be used to improve the operating environments of the region’s businesses. This includes small-scale infrastructure projects that affect business growth. Broadband infrastructure improvement should also be included in the programme,” Keisanen says.

Support from Structural Funds plays a key role for livelihoods in Eastern and Northern Finland

Experiences gained from activities in the current programming period have been positive. The funding received has been very significant for Eastern and Northern Finland, and positive economic development has been achieved across the region.

“We have made considerable progress in responding to the IT sector’s structural change and in promoting tourism and wood industries,” Keisanen recounts with satisfaction.

Keisanen suggests that some changes should be made to the practices of the national structural funds operations for the upcoming programming period. More attention should be paid to regions and their individual needs. Structural Funds also involve a great deal of bureaucracy, therefore action should be taken to reduce the administrative burden of project partners and other intermediary bodies. 

In Keisanen’s opinion, preparations at the national level are strongly led by the central government. She would welcome an opportunity for the regional players to be more actively involved in the different stages of preparation and in the related discussions.

Keisanen also highlights the important role of municipalities in the Structural Funds activities.

“Municipalities play a key role in responding to the society’s challenges and in building a better business environment, which is why the programme should be more attentive to their views.” Corporate and municipal co-creation should be promoted.

Preparations carried out in the regions are instrumental for the preparation of the Structural Funds programme 2021–2027. Regional preparations in Eastern and Northern Finland are coordinated by the Council of Oulu Region.

This news item is based on an interview with Päivi Keisanen, who acts as the secretary for regional preparations in Eastern and Northern Finland. Preparations for the EU structural fund period 2021-2027 are being made in collaboration between various stakeholders in line with the partnership principle. Other interviewees in the series of news themed “Partnered for results in the next structural fund period” include Marja-Riitta Pihlman from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Tiina Huotari from the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, Mauri Yltiö from the Ministry of the Environment and Jussi Ahokas from the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health.

Successful measures taken to strengthen the growth and competitiveness of SMEs

  • Measures implemented with ERDF funding have improved the conditions for growth is SMEs. The impact on turnover and employment growth is likely to materialise in the longer term.
  • Programme measures have successfully promoted the internationalisation of companies. With programme funding, companies have been able to improve their internationalisation capabilities and build international cooperation networks.
  • Measures designed to generate new business and new jobs have been less successful. 

Source: MDI and the consortium (2019). Final evaluation report of the ‘Sustainable Growth and Jobs’ structural funds programme