Ecosystems and clusters are a resource for businesses and organizations. They enrich knowledge and increase attention value in national and international markets.
Several cooperation networks have been established in the Kuopio region in recent years. Collaboration between these networks has created strong, multidisciplinary knowledge, which in turn has produced cooperation patterns and innovations that have attracted attention both in Finland and abroad. The City of Kuopio has been a strong influencer in the activities of the business clusters by providing development and testing platforms to businesses and educational institutions. This is also in line with the aim of the Invest and Grow in Kuopio Region (INGROW) project: to succeed together.
“The role of ecosystems as a driver of growth, included in Prime Minister Marin’s Government Programme, has launched negotiations between the government and university cities and centres concerning joint ecosystem agreements. The nominees from Kuopio are the ecosystem of health and wellbeing expertise and the cluster of water expertise, says Strategy Director of Kuopio Sirpa Lätti-Hyvönen.
Kuopio Health, the Open Innovation Ecosystem committed to health, wellbeing and nutrition, is the first network in Kuopio to operate under the ecosystem model.
“Our activities are based on interaction between our members, where everyone gains something from the others and shares what they have. This creates a positive interdependence where the members work together to serve the greater common good while also utilizing each other’s strengths,” says CEO of the Kuopio Health Co-op Aki Gröhn.
The network operates as a co-operative, and all businesses and organizations working directly or indirectly in the sector are welcome to join in. Research and educational organizations are also an integral part of the ecosystem.
“Our role as a co-op, on the other hand, is to be active in the ecosystem, organizing meetings and promoting the creation and progress of projects between members.
Kuopio Health currently has 25 members. Membership fees depend on the size of the member company or organization. Each member company or organization receives one vote in the co-op meeting, regardless of the amount of its annual fee.
“This way, each member has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard. Membership gives companies access to member-only events, gives them more visibility and access to European networks. The ecosystem can also conduct partnership surveys of international operators on behalf of its member companies.
Sometimes networks seem to spring up on their own when multiple operators in the same sector settle in the same region. Located in Savilahti, the Kuopio Water Cluster is unique in Finland: a group of six organizations aiming to facilitate the development of new innovations in the water sector in cooperation with businesses both in Finland and around the world.
The Cluster is formed by Savonia University of Applied Sciences, the University of Eastern Finland, GTK, THL, the Finnish Food Authority and Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke. The Cluster’s partners include producers of water solutions (technology providers) and end clients who typically consume large volumes of water and generate equally high emissions. The special focus is on the so-called water-intensive industry and the water service sector of communities.
“For example, the Finnpulp softwood pulp mill planned in Sorsasalo would be an extremely interesting client for us. The continuous development and optimization needs of large mills offer us an excellent testing platform for developing new technologies and water treatment processes,” says Research Manager at Savonia Eero Antikainen.
In spring 2020, the Water Cluster was given official cluster status by the EU, which improves the international visibility of water knowledge in Kuopio and makes the Cluster eligible for EU funding. During the summer of 2020, it was rated the first bronze-level water cluster in Finland in an international comparison.
“The ERDF funding granted by the Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo allows us to raise our operations to a new level, an all-inclusive RDI service where businesses and industrial plants will soon be able to obtain all the water knowledge that they need under one roof.”
The Water Cluster is currently working in active cooperation with Kuopion Vesi, among others, to plan the infrastructure of the Savilahti district. The aim of the Cluster is to make Savilahti an exemplary site in terms of the monitoring and digitalization of water services networks, which would also provide an extensive model for future town planning.
The Kuopio region also boasts strong competence in the energy industry. The Energy Cluster founded in the beginning of June 2020 consists of 20 businesses who together make up a total of 20% of the energy technology exports of Finland. New members are welcome to join and are recruited constantly.
“The Cluster allows us to improve the opportunities of businesses in the energy sector to utilize the services of research institutes, develop products, innovate and thereby grow and succeed, also in the global market,” says Manager of Education at Savonia Markku Huhtinen.
Cluster operations are currently being developed under the project aimed at building an RDI ecosystem for North Savo Energy Technology, funded by the Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo. The intention is to apply for membership in the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), which would bring the Energy Cluster greater international visibility.
Under the approach now under development, the Energy Cluster operates in RDI teams formed by businesses and research institutes, working around key themes selected as targets for development.
“There are currently six RDI teams, and the largest is a team studying and developing the emissions of combustion and combustion in a furnace. RDI teams are created flexibly according to need.”
As part of the activities of the international ESEIA network, the Energy Cluster is involved in organizing an international seminar, Climate Friendly Bioenergy Solutions, aiming to work on behalf of energy solutions in Tanzania.
“Our member companies have a chance to be involved in our national and international projects, build test environments together and advertise the products tested in these environments. In addition, the Energy Cluster also includes big companies that make their multidisciplinary expertise and extensive subcontractor networks available for all cluster members to use,” says Huhtinen.
Text: Maiju Korhonen
The article is part of the communication of the Invest and Grow in Kuopio Region (INGROW) project. Invest and Grow in Kuopio Region project is coordinated by the Business Development Services of City of Kuopio (1.1.2018–30.9.2020). Funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Leverage from the EU 2014–2020, Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo and the City of Kuopio.