Voices from the region: Good news for Smart Helsinki Region from the European Union!


This column is part of our new series “Voices from the region”. In the future months our stakeholders will write columns related to smart specialisation, EU affairs, research, development and innovations from their point of view.

Smart (regional) specialisation and innovation ecosystems will definitely continue to play an important role in the European Union in the next EU programming period 2021-2027.

What is smart specialisation  – and what kind of opportunities does it provide for actors, such as cities, regional authorities and development organisations, municipalities, universities, universities of applied sciences, companies, research centers, communities and citizens in Helsinki-Uusimaa Region? How does the European Union support smart specialisation in Helsinki-Uusimaa region?

The so called smart specialisation approach is a combination of industrial, innovation and educational policies that advise the regions to identify and choose a restricted number of sectors to prioritize for their knowledge-based investments. These strategies involve national and/or regional public authorities, together with private businesses, higher education institutions and the civil society in collaborative and mutually reinforcing processes.

Helsinki-Uusimaa, a pioneer in smart specialisation

Smart specialisation was developed around ten years ago and very rapidly it had a major role as a new regional development instrument on both regional and EU-level. Due to its strong focus on innovation-based development, the Helsinki-Uusimaa region became a pioneer in smart specialisation since the very beginning.

During the past decade, smart specialisation approach has strongly fostered the design and the implementation of place-based, innovation-driven economic transformation agendas in the regions and Member States of the European Union, which overall have developed more than 180 Smart Specialisation Strategies!

Helsinki-Uusimaa region has recently updated its own Smart Specialisation Strategy. The cross-cutting theme of the smart specialisation strategy for the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region is called ”Resource-wise Helsinki-Uusimaa”. This refers to three kinds of resource wisdom: environmental, economic and social. Helsinki-Uusimaa’s smart specialisation priorities include sustainable economic growth, carbon neutral Helsinki-Uusimaa by 2035, industrial modernisation and well-being in everyday life.

The horizontal goal is additionally to make processes better and increase the effectiveness and impact of measures. EU-level, as well as international and global co-operation, is an important part of Smart Helsinki Region.

Recovery, resilience and economic growth needed in Europe

Over the next EU programming period (2021-2027), Smart Specialisation is expected to continue to play an even larger role towards regional and innovation policy, regional development, and economic transformation. Europe needs recovery, resilience and economic growth. Well-functioning innovation ecosystems with a positive economic impact are needed more than ever. Smart specialisation will be a cross-cutting horisontal theme that will include many sectors, such as, regional and urban development, research and innovation, transport,  environment, industrial and company policies, tourism, culture and health.  

Smart specialisation will be an important factor in economic recovery after COVID-19. Also international dimension – and need for collaboration across the national borders – will become more important than before.

The importance of innovations, co-creation and smart specialisation are widely recognised in the forthcoming EU-funding programmes for the years 2021-2027. Smart Helsinki Region and its actors can benefit greatly from various EU-funding opportunities available. These funding programmes can be utilised for different kinds of projects that relate to smart specialisation in Helsinki-Uusimaa region.

There will be different kind of funding available – some programmes are administered on national or regional level, as some require participation – and competition –  on European wide calls of proposals.  But  there will be indeed many EU-funding opportunties! Such as European Regional Funds, Interreg programmes and Horizon Europe – Innovation and research funding programme. Additionally, also Digital Europe-programme, Erasmus + and CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) will provide interesting EU-funding opportunities for Helsinki-Uusimaa region to implement smart specialisation.

Summa summarum: European Union will provide plenty of funding opportunities for projects related to Smart Helsinki Region. In addition, participating to EU-funded projects will support greatly international co-operation and provide access to the European and global value chains.

Helsinki-Uusimaa has great chances to keep its position as Europe’s top leading innovation area, which it reached in 2019 in EU´s Regional Innovation Scoreboard!

Krista Taipale, Director, Helsinki EU Office

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