With a population of 163.000 people, North Karelia is the easternmost region of continental Europe, sharing a 300km border with Russia. The strongest industrial sectors are the construction, metal industries and the wood, paper and printing industry.
More than two-thirds of the sparsely populated land area is forest, so it is no wonder that forest biomass represents almost all available biomass for North Karelian entrepreneurs. The forest bioeconomy is a vital part of the North Karelian Smart Specialisation Strategy and is characterised by a strongly collaborative environment.
Home to important forest machinery companies and their strong photonics sector, the region is rich in top wood processing companies and has activity within the bioenergy market.
There are about 20,8 tonnes of biomass available for every North Karelian citizen. This available biomass could substitute almost two-thirds (64%) of the materials consumed in North Karelia.
The forest bioeconomy is a vital part of the North Karelian Smart Specialisation Strategy and is characterised by a strongly collaborative environment.
North Karelia has a strong innovation profile and a very active forest bioeconomy start-up ecosystem relative to its population size. Most start-ups function in the wood processing and wood construction sectors.
Facts & figures
Forest bioeconomy is the cornerstone of the region’s business and industry sector. North Karelia has strong research and expertise in the forest bioeconomy sector with many contributing actors. Educational organisations, such as the University of Applied Sciences and University of Eastern Finland, research institutes, such as the European Forest Institute, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Finnish Environment institute, companies and other actors all contribute to North Karelian forest bioeconomy knowledge.
The forest bioeconomy plays a key role in the region’s roadmap towards becoming a climate resilient and low carbon region. Presently, the carbon footprint of North Karelians is 36% smaller than that of an average Finn and renewable energy accounts for 64% of the total energy consumption. In 2030, North Karelia wants to be 100% free of fossil oils, have a high as possible share of renewable energy in the total consumption and achieve a net reduction of greenhouse gasses of 80%. They also want their bioeconomy to reach a turnover of €2.7 billion (currently €2 billion).
Within the bioeconomy, North Karelia aims to be a forerunner in wood construction, produce a wide range of value-added bioproducts, create jobs, ensure ecosystem services, have an efficient use of forest industry by-products, climate smart forestry, apply research to business, use digital forest data and provide education at all levels.
Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3)
The North Karelian Smart Specialisation Strategy consists of two essential parts: 1) New solutions for the forest bioeconomy; 2) Technologies and materials as growth enablers. Within both parts, six areas of expertise are defined.
Forest bioeconomy has the strongest research and expertise in North Karelia. As expressed in their Smart Specialisation Strategy, they want to use this opportunity to develop the forest bioeconomy further. The forest bioeconomy sector is characterised by a strongly collaborative environment. The main challenges of the forest bioeconomy sector are the transfer and application of research knowledge to the needs of businesses and the incorporation of an entrepreneurial angle to the sector’s development work. The sector should aim at producing products and services with higher added value. The RIS3 strategy states that “the mobility and transfer of experts from research institutes and educational organisations to companies should be increased and used to create a spill over effect for the entire industry”. Bioregions Facility membership provides North Karelia with additional support to increase entrepreneurship in the forest bioeconomy sector.
Several of North Karelia’s areas of expertise within technologies and materials also have potential in the forest bioeconomy, e.g. photonics, ICT applications and chemistry-related materials expertise.
North Karelia Ecosystem
The forest bioeconomy ecosystem can be grouped into ten different categories.
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