Ecosystem agreements are part of the government’s efforts to create the world’s most functional experimentation and innovation environment in Finland by 2030. Ecosystem agreements between the state and cities are also an essential part of the new partnership model outlined in the national Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap, with the aim of enhancing collaboration between the public and private sectors in RDI activities.
Through the state and city-level innovation ecosystem agreements, innovation ecosystems are developed, which are tight collaborative networks. These agreements strengthen areas of expertise and enhance the impact of RDI activities. The agreements enable large future investments and procurements made by cities to be effectively utilized for innovation activities.
At the same time, research is consolidated into larger centers of expertise that utilize networks of different actors. The common factor among the cities involved in the agreement is that their development is based on university-driven high expertise and its utilization.
The innovation ecosystem agreement between Kuopio city and the state was prepared in close collaboration with key stakeholders involved in the implementation of the agreement, such as educational institutions and research organizations, throughout the year 2020. Other collaborative partners in the agreement include the University of Eastern Finland, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, North Savo Regional Council, North Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, North Savo Hospital District/Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio Health Cooperative, and the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of the Environment.
The agreement was signed on February 9, 2021, and it is valid until December 31, 2027.
The core idea behind ecosystem agreements is to create innovative cities that leverage digitalization, new technologies, and carbon neutrality to accelerate business transformation and sustainable urban development based on their own strengths.
These agreements reinforce the development of attractive centers of expertise and innovation environments while connecting Finnish actors to international RDI networks and value chains. The agreements aim to develop innovation ecosystems by strengthening collaborative networks, enhancing areas of expertise, and increasing the impact of RDI activities with a city-based approach.
Key instruments include urban development projects, innovative public procurement, utilization of research results, new business ecosystem formation, start-up communities, and strengthening expertise through international professionals. These measures are expected to generate new local development dynamics, significant new growth opportunities, and intensified inter-city cooperation in the agreement’s priority areas.
The city-state innovation ecosystem agreement supports city-led growth, competitiveness, vitality, employment, and internationalization.
At the heart of Kuopio’s innovation ecosystem agreement lies Kuopio Savilahti, one of Finland’s most versatile urban development projects. The total investment in the area’s development is estimated to reach €1.5-2 billion by 2030. This encompasses the creation and development of a new city district as well as an internationally recognized center of excellence. Well-being, intelligence, low-carbon solutions, a culture of experimentation, resource efficiency, circular economy, smart mobility, and sustainable development are taken into consideration in all activities. The goal is to develop Savilahti into a functional, attractive, and unique European learning and innovation environment.
Kuopio city’s agreement priorities are health and well-being technology, as well as water expertise. In both priority areas, Kuopio city has the ambition and readiness to take a leading role in coordinating and building cooperation and networks as a national coordinator. These areas emphasize smart digital solutions that utilize data analytics and artificial intelligence. The activities in these priority areas are supported by integrating innovative procurements into the ecosystem’s development.
Kuopio is leading the innovation theme group for the national “Hankinta-Suomi” program (2020-2023), which promotes national cooperation in innovative procurements, for example, with the KEINO network. The themes of the ecosystem agreement align with those of the Metropolitan Area Agreements in the Kuopio region, where Kuopio Savilahti is being developed as a nationally significant testbed for sustainable, circular, and low-carbon urban solutions.
Kuopio city’s ecosystem agreement initiation projects received funding decisions and started their operations in September 2021. There are two initiation projects, one for each of the agreement’s priority areas.
The water-focused initiation project within Kuopio city’s ecosystem agreement aims to create conditions for Kuopio Savilahti to develop into Finland’s most attractive water-related test and innovation environment by 2027. The measures focus on intelligent water supply solutions, intelligent recovery processes, and zero-emission water treatment facilities. The project is carried out by Savonia University of Applied Sciences and coordinated by the Kuopio Water Cluster. The project duration is from September 1, 2021, to December 31, 2023.
The Kuopio Water Cluster is a comprehensive water expertise center involving six research organizations concentrated in the Savilahti area. It develops technical solutions for the water sector in collaboration with the business community.
The initiation phase of the health and well-being technology priority is carried out by Kuopio Health Cooperative. The strategic vision for the health and well-being technology priority is: “Kuopio Savilahti – The most exciting European learning and innovation environment for smart health and well-being solutions.” The aim is to facilitate sustainable and preventative changes in healthcare while creating significant business opportunities through the development of smart solutions. The focus is on evolving the Kuopio Health ecosystem into Finland’s leading research, development, and innovation platform for health data-driven intelligent solutions. The initiation phase aims to establish practical operational models with key actors in health and well-being technology and to begin preparing and partially implementing the measures defined by the strategic priorities. The project implementation period is from September 1, 2021, to August 31, 2022.
The Kuopio Health innovation network brings together the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio University Hospital, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Kuopio city, and numerous business operators in the Savilahti competence center area.
Collectively, ecosystem agreements constitute the sustainable urban development plan for sustainable cities within the EU’s regional policy program. The implementation of ecosystem agreements is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) framework of the Innovative and Competent Finland 2021-2027 program, which is part of Finland’s regional and structural policy program.
Kuopio city has established a steering group for the ecosystem agreement, including representatives from Kuopio city, Kuopio Health Cooperative, VTT, the University of Eastern Finland, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Kuopio entrepreneurs, Chamber of Commerce, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Kuopio University Hospital. A representative from North Savo Regional Council is included in the steering group as an expert.
The ecosystem agreement steering group is preparing to open the first sustainable urban development ERDF funding call for Kuopio’s ecosystem agreement. The call is set to open when the EURA2021 system becomes available and allows for group project submissions. Group projects are essential for the realization of Kuopio’s ecosystem agreement, as the development themes and priorities of the agreement require collaboration and joint efforts among organizations. Specifically, shared solutions need to be developed for data-related aspects and platforms.
The calls for applications will be published through both Kuopio city’s and North Savo Regional Council’s communication channels.
Kuopio is one of the InnoCities in Finland implementing ecosystem agreements. InnoCities support and promote new ways of thinking and act as pioneers of change. The goal is to
expedite the reform of trade and industry and to improve people’s lives in urban environments. InnoCities support innovation and engage in the practical application of research and pilots. Read more about the InnoCities.