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State of the Nordic Region goes academic

The State of the Nordic Region 2018 report has now been chosen as part of the material used in the entrance exam for the business administration study in a number of Finnish universities. State of the Nordic Region is a flagship publication of the  Nordic Council of Ministers produced by Nordregio every other year. The various versions of the 2018 edition have been downloaded around 13.000 times a little over a year after publication. With the addition of the main report to the syllabus used for the test that constitutes the entrance exam for the bachelor degree in business administration at 20 Finnish institutes of higher learning another 13.000 downloads might be expected. Work on State of the Nordic Region 2020 has commenced with expected publication in February 2020.

‘Digital Västerbotten’, a rural success?

55 000 km2, 15 municipalities and 268 000 people, of which almost 80 % live in the four costal municipalities. Region Västerbotten is interesting in several ways: the area faces the same challenges as many other European rural areas with an ageing population and young skilled people leaving the small villages in the remote inland. What else, the long distances add another dimension of challenges. It takes approximately five hours to drive across the region from the remote western border to the east border by the Bothnian Bay and there is limited access to trains and flights within the region. Västerbotten is one of the case study areas in RELOCAL: A Horizon 2020 project. Nordregio’s work focuses on the regions work with digitalisation and in particular the project ‘Digitala Västerbotten’ (Digital Västerbotten). The project aims at increasing competence in digitalisation within municipalities to help them provide e-services to their citizens and to provide them with tools to lead the digital transformation. ‘Digital Västerbotten’ is highly relevant for many reasons. As stated above, distance and out-migration are two factors that play a crucial role. Because of the out-migration, public authorities are struggling to provide the same services to the inhabitants as other regions in Sweden. Also, private actors, such as food stores, pharmacies, banks and shops, are affected by the trend of centralisation as the basis for customers is constantly shrinking in the inland municipalities. To compensate the loss of physical service offices around the region and to overcome the long distances, digital solutions are being used in various ways. The region has a long history of advanced broad band connectivity and focus on digitalisation, which is shown by the region’s ‘regional digital agenda’ and the Centre for Rural Medicine (GMC) that has been a forerunner in telemedicine for 25 years. One of the project’s…

Nordic Nightmare Before Christmas

Have we failed to integrate Christmas traditions? Risalamande, luumukiisseli, malt og appelsin, gløgg, julmust, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul, Home Alone and Nightmare before Christmasare dishes, drinks and movies are all part of the Christmas season traditions in the Nordic Region. Nordregio, with the help of Santa, has done a very thorough study across the Nordic Region on Christmas traditions and one observation is quite striking: the Nordic Christmas traditions are very country specific and not integrated at all! Indeed, zooming in at the regional level, there is not much variation within a country how people spend their Christmas. In Norway for instance, pepparkakor and Julmust seem to be quite popular in all the regions, but there are differences among the favourite movies: Home Alone is the most searched movie in seven regions, including the newest administrative region of Trøndelag. The eight other regions of Norway, as well as Gotland and Österbotten, prefer Kalle Anka to accompany pepparkakor and Julmust. In Finland, Christmas seems to be connected to glögi and either rice pudding or Christmas cake. However, the main difference with the other parts of the Nordic Region is the favourite movie: Christmas comedies and romantic movies in Finland do not seem to be as popular as dark fantasy Christmas movies such as Rare Exports or The Nightmare before Christmas. In Åland, Sweden and Denmark, the large majority of regions highlight a preference for Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul along with snaps. The main difference is in the Christmas treat: risalamande in Denmark and pepparkakor in Sweden and Åland. Note that a number of administrative regions have a balanced Christmas profile, i.e. no specific dish, drink or movie is significantly above the Nordic average. It can be explained by a relatively significant mix of…

Building a better future – the Nordic Way

Sustainable building and the new bioeconomy were in focus at the two Nordregio events at COP24. They were part of an extensive programme at the Nordic Pavilion, which for the fourth COP in a row created an exciting platform for dialogue and knowledge sharing. The UN Climate Summit was convened in Katowice, Poland, a heavily polluted coal town, where the need to change from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy was evident in the very air you breathe. The aim of COP24 is to create a rule book or a more concrete path towards realizing the lofty aspirations in the Paris agreement from COP21 in 2015. To highlight Nordic solutions and provide a venue for voices from both North and South, the Nordic Council of Minsters has for the last four years organized a Nordic Pavilion, where amongst many others Nordregio has contributed with events and speakers. Building and bioeconomy This year, Nordregio focused on energy efficiency in the building sector and the potential of the Nordic bioeconomy. This included a presentation based on the Interreg programme Social Green, that aims to increase the ability of European municipalities to make better use of funds for retrofitting old buildings to increase energy efficiency. Likewise, the bioeconomy event drew heavily on another Nordregio project, namely the State of the Nordic Region 2018 report published in February. – Buildings are one of the areas where there’s the most potential to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, said Nordregio Senior Research Advisor Ryan Weber in his presentation. The event also featured a presentation from James Drinkwater, European Director for the World Green Building Council as well as business panel with representatives from Rockwool, Danfoss and Velux, all companies heavily involved in securing a more innovative and sustainable building sector. In addition, a look…

Changing Ruralities – Nordregio Forum 2018

Rural development in a changing regional landscape was the headline for this year’s Nordregio Forum that brought some 130 participants from the entire Nordic-Baltic region together in Lund for an exciting two days of presentations and discussions. Nordregio Forum 2018 was held within the framework of the Nordic Thematic Group on Rural Development, one of the three working groups under the Nordic Council of Ministers for Regional Affairs. The Changing Ruralities conference was moderated by Norwegian-Italian Brit Pellegrino Riccardi ,whose declared aim was to challenge the images of regional development in a changing world for Forum participants.  International cooperation The opening speech was held by Director Johan Krafft from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, representing the Swedish chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers, who stated that in times where international governance is threatened, Nordic co-operation is more important than ever and that both European cohesion policy and Nordic cooperation require knowledge sharing so we can grow together and strengthen our global as well as local and regional development. He was followed by Director of Regional Development for Region Skåne, Ulrika Geeraedts, who exemplified his remarks by showing a promotional video for Greater Copenhagen, the perfect example or good cross-border cooperation. She furthermore underlined, that when it comes to regional development, urban and rural development supplement each other, it is not a zero sum game, but a question of cross fertilization. Voices from the field A recurring topic throughout the Forum was the need to listen more to people who actually live in the rural regions to get their perspective on the planning and development needs. Bjørn Egil Flø from NIBIO delivered a very critical discourse on what he saw as the carnivalization of rural life, reduced to a recreational zone for creative project makers from the city and neoliberal…

Buildings retrofits are vital to achieving Europe’s energy and climate goals

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. An estimated 97% of the current EU building would need to be upgraded to achieve high efficiency standards. However, a number of challenges, from eco-gentrification to funding application capacity, have limited the opportunity for energy efficiency retrofits in social housing. As part of the Social Green project, Nordregio studied the complex issue of how achieve retrofits without create new social burdens. A series of barriers were identified, including a lack of knowledge to access available funding; strict stipulations on how to use of public funds for social housing retrofits; limited benefits to social housing residents themselves; incomplete data to measure what matters; and a lack of focus on rural and sparsely populated regions. Solutions to these challenges were subsequently identified through engagement with Social Green partner regions, local stakeholder groups and good practices. The solutions underline the importance of European level policy improvement on one hand, and a place-based perspective in policy design on the other. It is vital to identify buildings as critical infrastructure, with designated thematic objectives and earmarked funds within all operational programmes. Combined with more flexible financing solutions and consistent monitoring, these improvements can respond to the practical challenges faced by the decentralised network of local actors while ensuring benefits for residents in both urban and sparsely populated regions. Ultimately, these actors are responsible for seeing out the transition towards a truly energy- and resource-efficient European housing stock. Addressing the challenges they face is central to a greener future in Europe. Full article: EU Policy, Neighbourhood Results: Towards Efficient & Impactful Green Building Projects in Europe Nordregio will participate with two events at the UN climate talks (COP24), one on energy efficiency in the building sector and one on the…

Join the Nordic Region at the UN climate talks

People have high expectations of the COP24 climate negotiations in December but also significant concerns. Will the world manage to follow up on the Paris Agreement? The Nordic Pavilion will provide a venue to discuss Nordic challenges and solutions. Nordregio will participate with two events, one on energy efficiency in the building sector and one on the biobased society. Join the discussion in Katowice and on social media! The nations of the world will gather in the Polish city of Katowice 3–14 December to talk about how to implement in practice the pledges made in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5°. Dialogue and knowledge sharing A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since then. What impact will the troubled global political climate have on the negotiations? The Nordic Council of Ministers has no formal role at COP24, and the countries do not negotiate as a bloc. Nevertheless, we do work together via the Nordic Working Group for Global Climate Negotiations (NOAK). Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges will be the main heading for activities at the pavilion in Katowice – demonstrating how Nordic climate solutions can help reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions and encouraging dialogue and knowledge sharing about the main climate challenges faced by the Nordic countries. Theme days Each day of COP24 will have its own theme, starting on Monday 3 December with young people – those who will inherit what is perhaps the biggest challenge humankind has faced in modern times. How should we relate to these prospects for the future? By speaking up, taking action and making demands! Other themes on the following days will include transport, green construction, the bioeconomy, urban solutions, the Arctic, changes in the energy market, green financial markets and how to negotiate progress on the Paris Agreement.

New e-health project looks at telemedical solutions

For people living in rural areas, access to basic healthcare can be a major challenge. On 20 November, a kick-off conference was held for a new Nordic project that aims to measure how accessibility to different forms of health care in sparsely populated regions may improve with digital solutions and how such solutions may contribute to regional development. Nordregio will participate in a three-year project initiated as part of the Swedish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2018. Nordregio will contribute with studies on the effects that distance spanning technologies have on accessibility and regional growth as well as assist with support and ongoing evaluation. A kick-off conference was held in Storuman in Northern Sweden on 20-21 November. The kick-off included a visit to the Centre of Rural Medicine in Storuman, with a close look at two of the projects run there. One project deals with virtual community care rooms located in smaller rural towns. Here citizens can have consultations and basic health checks using telecommunication. Another project focuses on the development of a drone which could deliver medicine over long distances. Both projects are concerned with creating better and more accessible care and treatment for people living in remote, rural areas. The project involves a wide range of actors, including Nordregio’s sister organisations Nordic Welfare Center and Nordic Innovation

Land use – from a new rural bioeconomy to urban agriculture

The latest issue of Nordregio Magazine looks at land use from two perspectives: the potential of the new bioeconomy in rural areas and the development of urban agriculture in China and the EU. A new biobased economy opens an almost unlimited potential for regional and rural development. But it also leads to possible land use conflicts and a need for new regulations. By encouraging transdisciplinary networks, Nordregio tries to strengthen coordinated action and overcome barriers for bioeconomy development in the Nordic Region. Urban farming likewise shows the way forwards towards innovative land use development. The SIEUGreen project brings together stakeholders in China and the EU to explore the potential of new city-based farming technologies as a transformative and integrated part of resource-efficient and resilient urban environments. Read more in the latest issue of Nordregio Magazine on The Bright Green Future of Land Use.

Social Empowerment in rural areas

On 27-28 November, the final conference of the SEMPRE project “Make empowerment happen! Changing mindsets for better social services” will take place in Riga. For three years, the partners of the SEMPRE project have been working with different empowerment approaches in rural areas. The overall aim of the project is to identify ways in which social service providers can empower the users of their services – who often belong to marginalised groups – to take part in service innovation processes. Empowerment addresses three dimensions: the individual, organisational and societal one. All three dimensions are covered by the SEMPRE project and reflected in the project results which will be presented at the final conference. Nordregio’s Research Fellow Anna Berlina and Cartographer/GIS Analyst Gustaf Norlén will present a new “Empowerment Handbook” and a set of preliminary policy recommendations at the conference. Empowerment Handbook Nordregio’s role in the project has been to develop an “Empowerment Handbook” based on the collection of good practice examples from project partners and assist the partnership in the compilation and dissemination of recommendations targeted at social service providers and policymakers. This “Empowerment Handbook” is already available on the SEMPRE project’s website and will hopefully be used widely.

REVIVAL kick-off meeting in Kazbegi, Georgia

On 1-2 November, the REVIVAL project kicked-off in the stunning mountainous municipality of Kazbegi in northern Georgia, along the Russian border. The project aims at exploring new approaches to study local and regional development in mountainous and sparsely populated areas. The project will investigate the concepts of transitional labour markets and residential economy in two case areas, one in Georgia and one in North West Russia. Some of the methodologies will be based on the experience from another Nordregio project, the ESPON Bridges project. The kick-off meeting was also a good opportunity to get to know the local culture. All project partners participated in two workshops. The first one was on making a local dish khinkaly (Georgian dumpling). The second workshop took place at the venue of the meeting, that actually was in the local felt house – a great opportunity to learn about local craftsmanship, one of the core focus areas of the project. Nordregio, the Leontief Centre and Kazbegi LAG are the three partners of the REVIVAL project, funded by the Swedish Institute.

Nordic Council Prize for Arctic project

The Natural Resource Council of Attu on the west coast of Greenland has been awarded the Nordic Council Environment Prize 2018 for its work on documenting the marine environment and proposing new ways of managing it. Project leaders Per Ole Frederiksen, Pâviârak Jakobsen och Nette Levermann received the prize from the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, live on TV from the gala at the Opera House in Oslo. The theme for the Nordic Council Environment Prize 2018 was “protecting marine life and helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals”. The Attu activities are part of one of projects supported by the Nordic Arctic Programme that Nordregio manages on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. See an overview of all the latest projects The jury said: Fishermen and hunters in Attu, West Greenland, have been providing input into the local Natural Resource Council for several years. This exemplary project documents their observations and wide-ranging knowledge of local nature and feeds it into research aimed at developing new ways of managing living resources. The Natural Resource Council in Attu, established in 2014, is one of five similar bodies active in Greenland. under the auspices of the public-sector PISUNA* programme set up in 2009. PISUNA uses accessible and innovative methods to involve local people in the documentation and management of the environment and living resources. Their observations demonstrate how democratic participation enhances knowledge of the marine environment, improves management and enhances the sense of responsibility for and ownership of nature and the environment. The councils also create a sense of social community that promotes dialogue and co-operation between ordinary people, science and those who manage resources. The initiative is scalable and has already inspired similar projects in Finland and Russia and looks set to spread to other countries and industries,…

REVIVAL: exploring regional development in Georgia, Russia and Sweden

On 1-2 November, partners from Nordregio, the Leontief Centre and Kazbegi Local Action Group are gathering to kick-off the REVIVAL project in Kazbegi town, located near Mount Kazbek, one of the highest peaks in Georgia, rising over 5000 meters. This first meeting is a great opportunity to get to know each other, as well as to learn about regional development in Georgia, Russia and Sweden. Two main sessions of the kick-off meeting are based on the workshops organised by Nordregio. They will focus on two main concepts explored in the ESPON Bridges project, namely Transitional Labour Market and Residential Economy. The main expected outcomes of two workshops are to transfer knowledge of these two concepts, to identify areas for case studies that have geographic specificities (mountainous, insular, sparsely populated or coastal) in Georgia and Russia and to prepare a framework for the case study analyses. A study visit in Kazbegi organized by local partners will end the two-day meeting and provide a better perception of this mountainous locality to the Russian and Swedish partners. The REVIVAL project aims at exploring new approaches to study local and regional development in mountainous and sparsely populated areas.

Alvdal is in the radar of Attractiveness project

Which Nordic municipalities are good examples for attracting people to rural areas? This question leads Nordregio researchers to explore fourteen areas, Alvdal in Norway is among them. There are two main criteria for choosing municipalities for the study – it must have bigger immigration than emigration rate and the municipality must be good at creating jobs. Alvdal fulfils both criteria, says Nordregio’s Research Director Karen Refsgaard in the interview to the local media “Alvdal midt i væla”. The project “Rural attractiveness in Norden” is a part of the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development. The final report on the attractiveness topic will be presented next year in spring. Read the full article here (in Norwegian).

Yle Nyheter and Vasabladet about the Attractiveness project

Earlier in October, Nordregio’s Senior Research Fellow Michael Kull visited Närpes – a city in Western Finland where one of the case studies for the Attractiveness project took place. The visit was covered by Yle media and Vasabladet. “Rural attractiveness in Norden” project seeks to capture why certain rural areas are doing better than others. Funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the project compares fourteen cities in the Nordic region from the perspectives of public authorities, businesses and entrepreneurs, high school students and families. Among other areas, Närpes demonstrates positive migration, population development and employment rate which are the main reasons why the city was included into the study – Michael Kull explains in the articles. The project “Rural attractiveness in Norden” is part of the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development. The final report on the attractiveness topic will be published next spring. Read the full articles here (in Swedish): Yle Nyheter – Nordiska forskare intresserade av Närpes – vill veta varför staden är så tilldragande Vasabladet – Närpes är ett nordiskt exempel på attraktiv landsbygdsort  

Arctic changes and challenges – new issue of Nordregio Magazine

The Arctic is changing both for better and for worse. A warmer climate causes major disruptions, but also leads to new opportunities. The new issue of Nordregio Magazine looks at some of the latest developments within demographics and social change in the Arctic. And it also dives into a new learning platform developed as an empowerment tool for remote, sparsely populated areas like many of the communities you find in the Arctic Region. The Horizon 2020 project Nunataryuk is exploring the issues of permafrost thaw and changing arctic coast lines. A main goal of Nunataryuk is to determine the impacts of thawing land, coast and subsea-permafrost on the global climate and on humans in the Arctic and to develop targeted and co-designed adaptation and mitigation strategies. Another EU funded project, REGINA, aims to empower small communities with resource-based economies to manage changes due to the introduction – or indeed the demise – of major industries in sparsely populated areas. REGINA stands for Regional Innovation in the Nordic Arctic & Scotland and the project has involved both local communities and research institutes who together have developed a new learning platform with tools for local planners and policymakers. Read more in the latest issue of Nordregio Magazine.

Working with geospatial analysis and visualisation in the Nordics

Large amounts of geo-data, easy access to geo-data via websites and applications, as well as the availability of online visualisation tools, all contribute to a larger production of maps in less time than before. However, it remains a delicate exercise to design suitable geo-data visualisation products, since several choices have to be done between the collection of the geo-data and the finalisation of a map. Furthermore, it is not only important to present the right facts on a map. It is also important to tell a story – a fact-based story using a suitable geo-data visualisation. On 16-18 October, the 11th European Forum for Geography and Statistics (EFGS) conference invites stakeholders, scientists, statisticians and others to discuss the integration of statistics and geospatial information in Helsinki. More insights on the joys and the challenges of producing maps of socio-economic indicators in the Nordic Region will be shared by Julien Grunfelder, Head of the GIS department at Nordregio. His key-note speech “The delicate exercise of geo-data visualisation” will be given on the second day of the conference. Together with Cartographer/GIS Analyst Shinan Wang, he will also present the web-mapping tool Nordmap, which allows you to create maps and time-lapses in the Nordic region. More at:

State of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels

Nordregio has been included as part of the official program at the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels, October 8-11. The event gathers key stakeholders from all walks of life within the regional sector in Europe, including key EU actors and fellow European research centers. State of the Nordic Region is a flagship publication of Nordregio and the last edition from February 2018 has now been downloaded nearly 11.000 times. The publication keeps attracting attention, most recently with two articles in Greenlandic media in August in connection with a presentation in Nuuk by Nordregio Academic Director Karen Refsgård. An event centered on State of the Nordic Region has now also been accepted as part of the official programme of the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels. Activities at European Week of Regions and Cities The event, entitled Fact-based macroregional co-operation for better decision making will present results from State of the Nordic Region showing key socioeconomic features of the Nordic countries to a key European audience. But more importantly, it will also address the issue of macroregional and cross-border co-operation as well as the value of this type of fact-based collaboration. It will take place on October 11, from 11.00-12.30 at the Square in central Brussels. There are already more than 50 persons signed up, but a few places remain. Sign up here. In addition, Nordregio Senior Research Fellow Jukka Teräs will deliver a key note speech at an event on October 9, held by the Brussels based network for Northern Sparsely Populated Areas in the Scottish House. And Nordregio Research Fellow Leneisja Jungsberg will participate in the annual high-level Master Class hosted by the EU Committee of Regions and the Regional Studies Association.

Nordregio researchers involved in a series of new publications

A number of new publications within planning and development feature contributions from Nordregio staff. They range from focusing on growth conditions within rural regions in Denmark, over global financial processes within agriculture to urban policies in Europe. Nordregio is keeping its researchers busy in a wide range of both national, as well as Nordic and European projects. But they also publish articles and contribute to academic publications in their own right as a series of publications this week testify to. Nordregio Academic Director Karen Refsgaard has contributed a chapter on the bioeconomy to a new book (in Danish) on development perspectives in rural areas in Denmark, with a focus on general living conditions and visions for future action. Karen’s contribution explores the potential of the bioeconomy to act as a major dynamo for growth in rural regions, with a special focus on the importance of ownership and access to resources. In addition, Nordregio Senior Research Fellow Elin Slätmo has contributed to a new book on The Financialization of Agri-Food Systems, about the impact of financial institutes and logics on the development of global food systems and rural economies. Elin has written chapter on ongoing processes of financialization in Sweden by analyzing recent rural policy, with a focus on suggestions to change the land acquisition act to allow for limited companies to own agricultural and forest land. Finally, Nordregio Research Fellow Mats Stjernberg has contributed with a chapter on Helsinki in a new book on “Housing Estates in Europe: Poverty, Ethnic Segregation and Policy Challenges”. This book focuses on post-WW2 housing estates, which can be found all over Europe, and explores the formation and socio-spatial trajectories of these types of neighborhoods, while also examining policy measures that have been used to address challenges in housing estates throughout Europe.

ICES Annual Science Conference 2018

On 24-27 September, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) holds its Annual Science Conference (ASC) in Hamburg. Andrea Morf, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio and co-chair of the Working Group on Marine Planning and Coastal Management (WGMPCZM) leads an interactive conference session, which focuses on assessing and analysing marine and coastal spatial planning and management, together with colleagues from the Marine Spatial Planning research network. The session C “Assessing and analysing marine spatial planning – knowledge – indicators – visions“ aims to open up perspectives on marine spatial planning (MSP) and integrated coastal management. Participants discuss how coastal and marine planning are conceived (visions), what knowledge is drawn on (inclusiveness), and how progress and success in planning could be measured and assessed (indicators and evaluation). Key focus is on natural and social sciences indicators and on existing approaches and achievements as well as remaining gaps. The session also invites reflections on marine planning at a meta-level, considering its nature and where and how it needs to be broadened for a more sustainable governance of the seas. Presently, there are numerous on-going and recently concluded MSP projects and initiatives in the Baltic Sea and beyond, where interesting results and lessons learned can be shared across marine basins. Notably, Nordregio has participated in Baltic MSP development through the project Baltic Scope and is currently participating in its follow-up Pan Baltic SCOPE. Pan Baltic SCOPE work by Nordregio in the Land-Sea Interaction Work Package is present through an oral presentation of Sarah Mahadeo, Helena Calado and Andrea Morf on a framework to analyse Land Sea Interactions in MSP. Sarah is a former MSP ERASMUS+ Intern at Nordregio and has recently successfully defended her Master Thesis with a refined version of the framework. Also BONUS BASMATI researchers are present discussing…