Assessment of the development of forest-based bioeconomy in European regions

A new open- access paper “Assessment of the Development of Forest-Based Bioeconomy in European Regions” has been published in Sustainability as part of the Special Issue Bioeconomy, Circular Economy and Sustainability. The article was led by NEIKER BRTA, with support of the Bioregions Facility’s secretariat, and is based on interviews with experts from the three founding members who inaugurated the Bioregions Facility in 2020: Basque Country (Spain), North Karelia (Finland) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany).

In recent years, the potential of the forest-based bioeconomy to provide competitiveness, differentiation, and sustainability to the European economy has often been claimed. Interestingly, regions, as territorial units with their own political and socioeconomic strategies, have been highlighted as the most suitable targets for the development of the European forest-based bioeconomy.

Barañano et al., using the case method, have evaluated the development of the forest-based bioeconomy in three European regions (i.e., North Karelia, North Rhine-Westphalia and Basque Country), by appraising the status of 10 previously identified key drivers through primary (interviews with experts) and secondary (literature review) sources of information.

In the analysis, North Karelia and the Basque Country obtained the highest and lowest score, respectively, with regard to forest-based bioeconomy development. In any case, for the successful development of the forest-based bioeconomy in a European region, it is essential to accept the unnegotiable, critically, of the long-term sustainability of forest bioresources and production processes, as well as the need to foster the required changes in consumption patterns.

Reference: Barañano, L., Unamunzaga, O., Garbisu, N., Briers, S., Orfanidou, T., Schmid, B., Martínez de Arano, I., Araujo, A., Garbisu, C. Assessment of the Development of Forest-Based Bioeconomy in European Regions. Sustainability. 2022; 14(8):4747.

Image: Jan Vašek via Pixabay

North Karelia co-organised Zero Carbon Conference for Students

The International Zero Carbon Conference for Students brought together students and teachers across the world. Several North Karelian education organisations participated in the organisation of the event that took place on 22-25 February: Karelia University of Applied Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, North Karelia Municipal Education and Training Consortium (Riveria) and ENO Schoolnet Association.

The conference featured four themes, one for each day: climate change, circular economy, microplastics and forest resources. Key note speakers included young climate activists and representatives from research, business and public sectors from Finland and Japan. Student presenters included participants from Finland, Japan, Spain, Kenya, Greece, Lithuania and France. The conference had over 1200 registered participants from 44 countries.

From North Karelian side, the event was arranged in the framework of ERDF funded Forest Bioeconomy Collaboration Project between North Karelia (Finland) and Nagano prefecture, Japan. The Regional Council of North Karelia has had wide-scale collaboration agreements in forest bioeconomy with Nagano Prefecture and Ina city since 2019.

New magazine from Eastern Finland – On the Edge of Europe

Three regions in Eastern Finland, North Karelia, North Savo and South Savo, have published a new magazine. On the edge of Europe contains stories, news and phenomena about renewed and skilled Eastern Finland. The magazine is available in the local language, Finnish, and focuses in particular on the results of EU regional and structural policy. In the 2014–2020 programming period, the Regional Councils of Eastern Finland and the ELY centers funded more than 2,500 projects. They have created a total of 3,315 new jobs.

The main article of this first edition features forest bioeconomy projects.

Read now Edge of Europe

New gas filling station in Joensuu will offer local biogas from North Karelian waste.

Wega’s gas filling station for cleaner energy solutions is the first in North Karelia and will offer biogas produced from the waste of the North Karelia region by the BioKymppi Oy. The expected gas refueling station will serve both gas-powered commercial vehicles of local companies as well as private drivers.

Wega will open the gas filling station in Joensuu. in the autumn of 2022 and construction work on Wega’s first gas filling station will start on Wahlforsinkatu in Joensuu in the spring of 2022.

Photo: WEGA

Biogas for transport use in North Karelia

BioKymppi Oy from Kitee will start processing biogas for transport use by the beginning of 2023. Pressurized biogas is sold at the Kitee and Joensuu filling stations. Construction work on the plant will begin in the spring as soon as the snow melts with earthmoving work and the installation of pipelines.

North Karelia and Japan to strengthen cooperation in forest bioeconomy

Cooperation in forest bioeconomy between North Karelia and the province of Nagano in Japan was officially started on Monday 10 May 2021 in a meeting between the Regional Mayor of North Karelia, Markus Hirvonen, Director General of Forestry Department of Nagano, Eiji Ide, and City Mayor of Ina, Nagano, Takashi Shirotori.

“To start with, we are looking for inter-regional partnerships for educational and RDI operators in both North Karelia and Nagano,” says Petteri Ryhänen, project manager at Karelia University of Applied Sciences.

The province of Nagano, with approx. two million inhabitants, is the third most forested region in Japan. Almost 80% of the region’s land area is covered by forests. Nevertheless, the forest-related business and bioeconomy sectors in Nagano are still in a development phase. Therefore, Nagano can benefit from the forest expertise and knowledge of North Karelia.

“Our inter-regional cooperation can bring about innovations and technological solutions for using the abundant forest resources in Nagano and North Karelia and new ways to develop forest-related business, education, and research,” says Ryhänen. The cooperation is also expected to open new export opportunities for Finland. “We are planning a visit to a national forestry machinery fair in Hokkaido, Japan, in October 2021, together with North Karelian companies involved in the project. In connection with the trip, we can also visit Nagano and get acquainted with the region and meet our cooperation partners face-to-face,” Petteri Ryhänen says.

The cooperation initiative is spurred by an ERDF funded project (2020–2022), led by Karelia University of Applied Sciences. Also involved in the project are the Regional Council of North Karelia, Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), University of Eastern Finland, Riveria Vocational Education and Training, and Business Joensuu. Finnish Forest Center and the North Karelian representative of Team Finland act as expert members.

As a result of this cooperation, North Karelia organises a webinar to introduce its forest bioeconomy to Japan. The webinar will take place on 15 December 2021.

Webinar programme


North Karelia tackles climate change with innovation

North Karelia aims at being a forerunner in climate sustainability in Finland by 2030. The region’s Climate and Energy Programme 2030 approved by the Regional Board in February 2021 shows the way to achieve this goal.  

The Programme is focused on finding solutions to mitigate and slow down climate change. It encourages regional operators to recognise opportunities offered by research and technological development and emphasizes collaboration across organisational boundaries.

The Climate and Energy Programme sets the following targets to be achieved no later than 2030:

  • North Karelia is a region full of life with a population full of well-being.
  • Biodiversity is safeguarded in all activities.
  • Energy is low-emission, produced in the region and comes from local natural resources.
  • Climate-sustainable construction and housing are enabled in both urban and rural areas.
  • The region’s natural resources are used in a sustainable and climate resilient manner, enabling diverse business operations.
  • Expertise and research data in the region are transferred to operators in a flexible way. North Karelia is an inclusive local society allowing for the active participation of its residents and communities.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in the region have decreased by 80 % between 2007 and 2030.  

The programme has been prepared through broad cooperation between actors in the region. The process is perceived to be inclusive, ensuring consideration of different perspectives. As central themes the programme highlights peatlands, biodiversity, sustainable use of forests and global responsibility.

The previous Climate and Energy Programme was launched in 2011 and complemented in 2017 by the Roadmap Towards Oil-free and Low-carbon North Karelia. 

A breakthrough in biochar based business is possible

A new, diverse, and highly researched business can be created around biochar. This is the strong message to the region’s companies and innovators from the BlackGreen biochar programme of North Karelia. The biochar programme offers companies a great opportunity to get help with research, development and innovation work.