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4 Ongoing Projects

Small Town Attractiveness

The aim of this project is to explore current Nordic planning practices and strategies to enhance small town attractiveness. Urban attractiveness is a highly subjective value. As Hidman (2018) points out: “[Attractiveness?] What is the term intended to mean? How is the term understood in local contexts? How is the term transformed into buildings, parks, squares, streets, homes and other built environments?” In this project, we examine smaller Nordic towns that are considered attractive places to live and work in by the many. However, attractiveness has been studied from many angles in the Nordic countries over the years. In smaller town studies, employment opportunities are often in focus. Here, we explore a different emphasis, focusing on town characteristics that attract and retain population outside of work hours, which can be influenced through urban planning. More precisely, we explore the nexus Public space – Housing – Connectivity. Public space concerns the outline of urban space and architecture, services and living town centers, leisure and culture as well as blue-green infrastructure. When it comes to housing, a diverse and qualitative housing supply that fits present and future populations and its strategic localization is in focus. Digital and physical connectivity is important both within the town and with other towns and rural areas. Tying it all together, the connections between housing, public space and workplaces/schools​ that makes the urban structure are important. The project will explore current discussions on attractivity in the five Nordic countries and illustrate these with case studies of five towns.

Measuring Urban Sustainability in Transition (MUST): Co-Designing Future Arctic Cities in the Anthropocene 

MUST project seeks to organize wide-ranging collaborations among the international Arctic research community that will facilitate convergent research on the natural, social, and built environment transitions taking place in and around Arctic cities now and in the future. Arctic cities face multiple challenges from a changing environment, deteriorating infrastructure, and new pressures on the governance system. The key drivers behind these challenges are the changing climate, the accelerating energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables, demographic pressures, and demands for equity. In order to respond effectively, policy makers need a clear set of indicators that will help them measure changes in the natural environment to devise infrastructure and governance strategies that will assist Arctic cities to achieve future prosperity. A long-term research agenda and platform around Arctic urban sustainability as well as using cities and indicators as the centralizing organizing theme helps to integrate diverse theories and empirical evidence with new data. The focus on Arctic urban spaces and inclusion of Russia and other international partners addresses areas that need more attention. Creation of the indicators will establish a solid foundation for starting community conversations, clarifying values, measuring both the status quo and progress going forward, and understanding the linkages among the various elements of urban sustainability in extreme climatic conditions. The indicators introduce a shared vocabulary and explicit measures and assumptions that will allow studies across a variety of disciplines to validate, challenge and speak to each other. This collaboratory effort builds on previous NSF-funded work that developed a database measuring 128 indicators across 19 topics in 46 Arctic cities providing a snapshot of current conditions. This effort will make it possible to develop theories and test hypotheses in the natural, social, and urban planning sciences by adding historical data to the existing dataset making it possible to explore…

Transformative capacity in energy, food, and water (TANGO-W)

TANGO-W is an applied research project that uses the concept of Urban Transformative Capacities (UTC) to evaluate cities’ potential for sustainability, specifically at the intersection of food, energy, and water systems. By doing so, the project aims to help cities tackle challenges associated with climate change and encourage more sustainable urban development.  The food-energy-water nexus is a framework that takes into account the synergies and conflicts of the production, consumption, and scarcity of food, energy, and water systems. TANGO-W proposes tackling these challenges by using the concept of UTC. UTC encompasses the collective ability of multiple stakeholders to conceive of, prepare for, initiate, and perform transformative change at social, organisational, and ecosystem levels. The idea is to enable systematic change that ensures long-term transformation for food, energy, and water systems, thus enabling sustainable future development.   The project builds transformative capacity on two levels: 1) the urban level, through the design and implementation of Urban Living Labs (ULL), and 2) the European level, through establishing a transdisciplinary Community of Practice (CoP) among research partners and municipalities. Both levels provide spaces for the development of UTC, thereby accelerating urban change in a sustainable direction. The project will result in policy recommendations for replicating UTC practices; training tools connected to the working at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems; and pilot courses that support capacity building in the ULL cities—Weiz (Austria), Kalgenfurt (Austria), Stockholm (Sweden), Norrtälje (Sweden), Alytus (Lithuania), Halden (Norway), and Marker (Norway).  Nordregio coordinates the efforts of the Swedish partners (Campus Roslagen and the City of Stockholm); contributes to demonstration, peer learning, and analysis of UTC among all ULLs; and leads the communication and dissemination of the project.  TANGO-W is a transnational project funded by the ERA-NET Co-fund Programme. This programme, designed for the implementation of the European Research…

Integrating climate into macroeconomic modelling (ICMM)

The project aims to strengthen cooperation between experts and practitioners developing, working, and using integrated macroeconomic climate-economy models and tools for the design of climate policies and green transition strategies in the Nordic Region.   In the pursuit of ambitious climate targets and carbon neutrality till around mid-century, all Nordic countries have been developing and using modelling frameworks for simulating the potential socio-economic impacts of climate policies on public finances.  As countries use a very heterogeneous collection of models in nature, focus, level of development, application, usage and even ownership and governance of the tools, the case for further coordination and Nordic cooperation in these issues can be made. Main objectives to advance expert and policy-planning knowledge and networks among the Nordic countries on modelling decision when it comes to integrating and assessing climate and finance policies;  to enhance the Nordic countries’ international outreach and engagement by advancing common experiences and results from climate and finance integrated models; to identify future Nordic and international collaborative opportunities at both expert and policy-planning levels. Structure and implementation The project is structured in 9 main events divided in Technical Workshops (4 events with model experts and practitioners), High-level Policy Events (2 events with policy officers and planners from the ministries with competences on climate policies); and 3 coordination meetings with the Steering Group, at the project start, interim and finalisation stages. The exact timing, location, logistics and specific agendas and thematic focus for each technical and policy meeting will be determined as outcome(s) from of the kick-off meeting with the Steering Group and the network.

Planning for socially mixed and inclusive neighbourhoods

While Nordic cities have traditionally had relatively low levels of segregation, more recently, there have been growing concerns about increasing disparities between different population groups, which is reflected in greater socio-economic and ethnic segregation in many cities. There are especially concerns that certain neighbourhoods are developing unfavourably and falling into a state of decline. Hence, Nordic governments and cities have increasingly taken actions to reduce segregation and promote social inclusion through various policy and urban planning measures.  This project seeks to deepen the understanding of different types of approaches and interventions for creating more socially inclusive and mixed Nordic cities. The notion of creating more socially inclusive cities and neighbourhoods can be understood as creating communities where people can take part and feel included regardless of their resources, lifestyle, background, or abilities. The project examines actions taken at different territorial levels, ranging from national level strategies to prevent segregation in cities to policy and planning interventions carried out at the city or neighbourhood level, with the aim of strengthening social inclusion in local communities.  The project is carried out through five different activities, each with a specific focus but all related to the overarching theme of the project. These include carrying out a policy outlook of national level policies to counteract segregation and promote social inclusion in Nordic cities, analysing how indicators are used to support policy and planning interventions, examining different types of participatory planning approaches, and focusing on interventions to improve physical living environments. A core interest also concerns multi-level governance aspects and how the interplay between the state, municipalities, and other organisations and actors looks like in terms of promoting social inclusion and preventing segregation. The project is part of an assignment from the Nordic Thematic Group for Green and Inclusive Urban Development. More information about the…

National support initiatives 

The Nordic countries have ambitious cross-sectoral national targets (e.g. climate, biodiversity, segregation, etc.) that require necessary actions to be taken in urban areas and city-regions. The aim of this project is to provide a Nordic comparative overview of different national initiatives (e.g. agreement-based approaches), national funding mechanisms, regulatory measures, and the demand for national support measures, that appear in the evolving planning landscape in the Nordic countries, and assess their green and social implications on regional and local development in urban areas. Despite the ambitious national targets, the Nordic states have limited power to influence local level planning priorities, whereas municipalities have the most influential competences when it comes to regulating land-use as well as in a range of policy areas with implications on sustainable urban development. This raises the questions of if, how, and to what extent central governments, can, should, and have the willingness or tools to support and collaborate on the development and implementation of different kinds of local urban development projects. It also raises questions of if, how, and to what extent local and regional planning authorities need or would like further national support on the development and implementation of local urban development projects. One key aspect for national support initiatives is thus to both understand the regulative and national support aspect (top-down) and the needs aspect (bottom-up), to achieve the national cross-sectoral targets.  At the same time, other types of planning approaches which change the conditions for local level planning are emerging. For example, agreement-based planning approaches which include Stadsmiljöavtalen in SE; byvekstavtaler in NO and MAL-agreements in FI. Common to the emerging planning approaches is that they may limit or challenge conventional planning processes and deliberative local planning approaches. The inclusion of citizen participation in planning processes highlights the role of the civil society…

Reducing loneliness among older adults in times of covid-19 and beyond: Experiences from three Swedish Municipalities (REDLON)

This project investigates the use of digital technologies to address loneliness and isolation among older adults living at home with home care services and in caring homes in three case study municipalities in Sweden: Huddinge, Eskilstuna, and Storuman. The focus is mainly on challenges, opportunities, and solutions that have emerged during the covid-19 pandemic. Loneliness and social isolation pose significant challenges for older adults living alone and in senior housing facilities, affecting their mental and physical health. Due to self-isolation requirements during the covid-19 pandemic, these challenges have been further exacerbated. The use of digital technologies within elderly care has a potential to combat social isolation, for instance by providing increased access to home care services and possibilities to take part in social activities. Even so, previous knowledge on effectiveness of digital interventions to tackle loneliness of older adults is quite limited. In Sweden, the utilisation of digital tools within welfare sector in municipalities has been mainly only focused on the objectives of increased effectivity and quality of care. Based on a previous Nordregio project (VOPD), this project analyses if and how the identified benefits and potentials have been utilised within elderly care during the prevailing recommendations of self-isolation. Semi-structured interviews with municipality authorities, social care providers, and older adults is applied as the main method. Besides identifying good and transferrable practices, this project will provide information on how to ensure that digital solutions and services for older adults are socially inclusive – in order to minimise the risk that some groups of older people become even more socially excluded due to the increased use of digital tools. The gained learnings from the case study municipalities will be disseminated to decision-makers, social care providers, and other municipalities in form of a report and a workshop. Nordregio is leading the project…

Update of the VASAB-LTP for the Territorial Development of BSR

This project aims to update the strategy VASAB Long Term Perspective (LTP) for the territorial development of the Baltic Sea Region – BSR. The revision of this transnational strategic spatial planning document on territorial integration builds on relevant topics of existing VASAB LTP (1994, 2009) and will incorporate a future-oriented perspective. The revision will consider current and future trends that are likely to influence the territorial development of the macro-region. The update of the long-term vision is envisaged as an iterative and participatory process involving a wide range of relevant stakeholders. Together with Spatial Foresight, Nordregio will develop a background synthesis report that will cover the experience and lessons learned from the current VASAB long-term perspective; important trends shaping future developments in the Baltic Sea Region and key relevant policy documents to which the long-term perspective need to relate to. This report will be fundamental to guide the new spatial vision that will endeavour for a sustainable, inclusive and digital Baltic Sea Region in 2040.

Covid-19 Economic Impacts in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how closely health and economy are linked. This project analyses the economic impacts of the pandemic in the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) region, as well as Canada. The main aim is to set out the recovery roadmap with recommendations for positive action and policy that can create more sustainable and resilient communities and economies. The project gathers 13 partners to examine how Covid-19 hit the countries’ economies and what responses, innovations and transformations took place as a result. The partners are coming from very diverse background geographically, institutionally, and in terms of expertise. That will assure the vast diversity of knowledge and perspectives to the project. The project will give special attention to peripheral areas in the NPA region and to young people and entrepreneurs (up to age 40), to gain their unique perspectives and innovations on Covid-19 responses and sustainable development. It will also add a human rights perspective on the inequities of health systems/economies, including for peripheral and indigenous communities within the NPA. Nordregio will provide relevant comparative data (economic and health) across the Nordic Region and the Arctic, including harmonised data across the NPA region. Also, the partner will share the relevant findings from previously conducted relevant projects. The ultimate goal is to set out a recovery roadmap with recommendations that will improve health, wellbeing as well as social, cultural and economic benefits for peoples across the NPA. The findings of the study will be presented in the form of the report in the spring of 2021, as well as via webinars and social media channels.

Perspectives for the north: a review of European initiatives localising the SDGs

The project aims to analyse the localisation of the SDGs and Agenda 2030, as well as to assess social sustainability efforts that are taking place across European institutions, networks and projects. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has commissioned Nordregio to do a review of the efforts to localise the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across European institutions and organisations. The evaluation includes initiatives and projects under the European Commission, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), and other relevant sister organisations and networks working with Agenda 2030 at the regional and local levels. The review culminates in a report available here. For more information visit:

How does place impact the possibility to follow restrictions during corona times? (PORECO)

The extraordinary times in the first part of 2020 have been prominent in the media and policy debates. The coronavirus and its social and economic effects have been widely covered. The coverage is on statistics, different strategies, politics, the economic and social effects of the crisis, and various other aspects related to the crisis in one way or another. One of these aspects is how the corona crisis has struck ethnic minorities and this where Nordregio wants to contribute. Nordic neighbourhoods that are considered segregated or vulnerable have gained attention in the media due to a rapid spread of the coronavirus. Segregation refers to a separation of socio-economic and ethnic, racial, religious, or other minority groups at the residential level of an urban area. Segregation indicates social injustice and is a significant challenge for cities. The corona crisis thus reveals and reminds us about the serious effects of segregation and unequal societies on citizens, and necessitates a closer look at the potential injustice involved. Poverty and social exclusion represent the most basic manifestations of inequality, leaving behind people with fewer resources to withstand and overcome the consequences that a crisis like a pandemic creates. It is important that Nordic societies increase their understanding of why some neighbourhoods were more severely affected by the corona pandemic than others in order to be better prepared for future challenges and crises. The main objective of this project is to have a closer look at what were the resident’s possibilities to follow public recommendations during the corona crisis in areas that were severely affected by corona?

Fields of Goals

– Co-production and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in regional and local planning – The project addresses the urgent call for implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional and local level. The overall ambition of the project is to develop a framework for implementing the SDG in local and regional planning. This framework will be based on lessons learned from Local and Regional Agenda A21 and output from workshops and focus groups where relevant SDG goals and targets will be contextualized with the help of regional scenarios and indicators. Specifically, the project will: – Assess the former and current position of sustainable development in regional and local planning – Explore regional and local pathways (procedures) for contextualizing the SDGs, with the help of regional scenarios and indicators – Test the pathways and wider framework in practical planning and provide policy guidelines based on these experiences – Integrate the SDGs in study programmes for societal and spatial planning – Strengthen the concept of sustainable development in regional and local planning through co-production of knowledge and social learning across sectors and stakeholder groups, as well as an ambitious plan for public outreach and engagement.

Nordic cooperation for Agenda 2030 implementation at the local level

In 2024 – the final year of this project – we have produced a Nordic Voluntary Sub-National Review (VSR). This joint Nordic VSR is the first of its kind, developed by Nordregio together with the Nordic Associations of Local Governments. The work was presented to a global audience during the UN High-Level Political Forum in July 2024. The Nordic VSR builds on a fresh survey sent to all Nordic municipalities about their work to localise Agenda 2030 and integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their operations and steering documents. We asked about their priorities and progress, obstacles, and resources. By sharing results and experiences of how to develop inclusive and sustainable communities, we want to inspire locally on a global scale and facilitate peer-learning between Nordic and global actors. Usually, a VSR is the result of a country-wide, bottom-up reporting process on the implementation of the global goals at local and regional levels. What’s unique about this Nordic VSR is that it combines the five Nordic countries in one joint review of progress and remaining challenges. The Nordic countries have a long tradition of strong local governance. With the Nordic VSR, we want to showcase the vital role of local governments to make progress towards a more sustainable world. As emphasized by the UN and OECD, at least 105 of the 169 SDG targets cannot be reached without proper engagement and collaboration at the local level. One unique feature of the Nordic VSR is the specific focus on youth inclusion, with subchapters from both youth actors and civil society actors. The Nordic VSR report is a bottom-up initiative by the five Nordic Local (and regional) Government Associations (KL, KS, Kuntaliitto, Samband and SKR). Several of them already submitted national VSRs. The editorial process was managed by Nordregio. Besides showing the survey results,…

Study on taxation in support of green transition

The objective of this study is to map tax measures (taxes and tax incentives) targeting greenhouse gas emissions as well as harmful subsidies across the EU (and beyond). The Commission wants to understand what tax measures countries use to reduce GHG emissions. While there is quite a lot of discussion on some measures, e.g. on carbon taxes, and there is no comprehensive overview of the measures out there. Nordregio supports Ecorys and W-IF-0 (Austrian Institute for Economic Research), in this study for DG TAXUD. Nordregio will carry out analyses for these countries: Denmark Iceland Norway Sweden The aim is to gain an overview per country of: what measures exist what their key features are what their effects are which ones are functioning particularly well

National Claims in Spatial planning

The objective of this project is to provide a Nordic outlook of three Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland and Norway) with regards to the planning systems’ national planning instruments or other important national policy documents which guide or steer the spatial development. The project limits itself to the planning systems’ main national planning instruments and aims to identify potential other “national claims” of importance with effects on the spatial development. Boverket (The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning) has been assigned by the Swedish Government to produce an international outlook of national claims in spatial planning, including the Nordic countries. Nordregio has been commissioned by Boverket to conduct a Nordic outlook for Finland, Denmark and Norway, and the project aims to describe the Nordic countries’ planning systems in regards to national values and claims in spatial planning. There are two aims for this project. The first is to provide a general description of the planning systems in the three countries, and the second is to provide a more in-depth description of the relevant national planning instruments/policy instrument (in Swedish, Planinstrument och styrmedel) with focus on their impact on local spatial planning. The main focus will, therefore, be on the effects of the national planning instruments and which impact these instruments have on local spatial planning. This will be exemplified with a few examples and could be combined with initiatives such as “stadsmiljöavtal” where funding is available.

NORDGREEN – Smart Planning for Healthy and Green Nordic Cities

How are human wellbeing and access to green spaces integrated into city planning? The aim of NORDGREEN is to support integrated planning efforts for urban sustainability by developing and implementing smart planning and management solutions for well-designed, high-quality greenspace that promotes equity, health and wellbeing. The starting points are the connection of green space accessibility and public health effects, the social sustainability challenges of segregated and densifying cities, and the need for strengthened links between citizen participation and implemented plans. NORDGREEN involves sets of local and regional health and greenspace data, Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) applications and surveys, and analysis of ongoing planning and management. By examining the health-greenspace nexus with the help of environmental psychology and epidemiology data, the knowledge base for public health strategies and policies on greenspace planning, management and design will be strengthened. By applying methods of PPGIS, the understanding and integration of citizens’ needs, demands and use of greenspace into the planning process will increase and the links between citizen participation and implemented plans will be strengthened. NORDGREEN includes participatory co-production with cities and citizens – and pays attention to socio-economically vulnerable citizen groups. It uses both quantitative and qualitative methods and materials and involves six cities and towns from four Nordic countries – Aarhus (DK); Stavanger (NO), Vilhelmina (SE), Täby (SE), Espoo (FI) and Ii (FI). Studying and supporting greenspace planning in practice in the six cities will increase the understanding of how different approaches to planning and management influence the outcome, with particular focus on health, social sustainability and co-production. The research will result in co-created, scalable and transferable knowledge-based planning and management tools for the six cities, as well as for other cities in the Nordic region and beyond. Visit the project website for updates and to learn more:


The project aims at analysing and comparing the digitalisation of planning data in Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. The research team will provide an overview on digitalisation of planning data in 12 additional representative ESPON countries in order to offer a wider context for a better comparison. The study includes the scope, organisation, financing as well as the current and potential future uses of digital planning data. DIGIPLAN will contribute to the extended use of territorial evidence adding a European perspective to policy development at national, regional and local level.

Legislation and policies of urban green areas in the Nordic countries

The aim with the project is to gain an overview of which instruments – i.e. legislation and examples of national policies, that are associated with and regulates urban greenery, green spaces and green values in urban areas in each of the five Nordic countries. The project aims to briefly describe what the identified instruments specifically regulate or their guidance. The project will also provide examples in concrete projects, plans or programmes when it comes to developing, preserving and protecting green urban areas. The project limits itself to the five Nordic country’s planning legislation and related environmental legislation (e.g. the Environmental Code in Sweden) or other relevant legislation. Two European countries’ legislations and policies will also be mapped.

Regional Development Network Cooperation Model VALUMA

The Government of Finland has ordered a study that produces information on different operating models and financing options for networking in regional development. The aim of the project is to support the launching of regional and urban development network cooperation as well as the preparation of priorities and instruments for the national development of regions. The project is part of Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities. MDI implements the project together with Forefront Ltd and Nordregio. Nordregio conducts benchmarking study on international policies, tools and best practises (eg. RegLab in Sweden). In addition, two Finnish development networks are partners in the project: LHT network (MALverkosto) and regional cities network (Seutukaupunkiverkosto). The main goal of the project is to: 1. Identify options for operating and funding models for networking in regional development; 2. Make suggestions for networking and partnership between urban, rural and island policies. Information is needed to better support the networking and cross-sectoral development of regions. In addition, e.g. preparing the new Act on Regional Development and national priorities for regional development affects the operation of regional development networks and their expectations. The project explores, what kind of operating model would best support the regions’ own and diverse networking and learning. Secondly, the project will look into how networks can support the implementation of priorities and objectives of the national development of regions. The project will focus on the ex-ante evaluation of the different operating models as well. The project identifies and evaluates the impacts of these different models. The options for operating models are assessed and formulated to suit the operational environment, the different regional levels, and both cities and rural areas.

Carbon Neutral Islands

Agenda 2030, the UN sustainability goals and the Paris Agreement encourage all a heavy reduction of climate emissions towards 2030. The Faroese Energy company SEV won in 2015 the Nordic Councils Environmental Price for their work with renewable energy sources and vision “100by2030” about 100% green electricity supply at the Faroes within 2030. The Faroes self government is aiming for that the whole energy consumption at land must be electrified and covered by renewable energy sources in 2030. Further is the Nordic Energy Policy Cooperation Programme 2018-2021 emphasizing that : “Norden and the Nordic energy cooperation is also characterised by the potential specific challenges in the energy area at Greenland, Faroes and Åland. This also applies to areas being more isolated and not connected to the common market for power”. This project is an initiative with the aim to establish a network of Nordic islands with ambitions and possibilities for becoming carbon neutral. During 2019, the project will: – Map earlier and ongoing R&D and other types of projects at Nordic “Islands” with the aim to achieve a carbon neutral energy system. – Map relevant Nordic R&D groups as well as other local resources, supporting or working towards a carbon neutral energy system. – Analyse the local impacts of carbon neutral solutions for local communities (entrepreneurship, jobs, local economic and social effects for businesses and citizens, new educational opportunities, innovation within renewable energy production and consumption etc.) – Investigate the possibilities for establishing a university department with the heading of the UN University on Isolated Carbon Neutral Systems – Hold a workshop for the island representatives