East and North Finland – the realm of pure nature, high technology, and human wellbeing

East and North Finland are home to thousands of lakes, pristine nature and abundant natural resources. Sustainable utilization of these natural resources and environment generates the backbone for the region´s economy. Smart development and use of ICT solutions support the regions in turning challenges into opportunities.


East and North Finland (ENF) consist of seven regions in total: Lapland, Oulu Region, Central Ostrobothnia, Kainuu, Pohjois-Savo, North Karelia, and South Savo. In ENF, the natural environment plays a far more important role than elsewhere in Finland or the European Union. The ENF regions are a mixture of abundant natural resources. Vast bases of natural resources provide business opportunities and generate investments as well as employment. Simultaneously, there is an urgent need to create and nurture a sustainable balance between these industries, other sectors, and the vulnerable northern nature.

Industries utilizing and processing the natural resources in the ENF regions provide the foundation for economic development. Traditionally, the regional ecosystems in ENF have been a mix of large, medium, and small-scale actors. Industrial activities among them have catalyzed a number of innovative start-ups in close interaction with regional RDI actors.

The ENF industrial ecosystem provides a diverse breeding ground for new emerging industries, supporting the management of industrial symbiosis, new energy solutions, renewable low-carbon materials, and clean-tech solutions to all industrial sectors. The tourism industry is gaining importance in the regional economy. It is crucial to ensure that the growth of the global tourism sector is balanced in the long term, bringing equal benefits to all parts of the region.

It is challenging to maintain the preconditions for sustainable development under Northern conditions of harsh climate and vulnerable nature. Therefore, introducing the principles of circular economy and resource efficiency to all industrial sectors and enterprises of all sizes is crucial for the sustainable economic development.

The long distances and declining population in the ENF require the development of next generation innovation platforms, living labs, clusters spanning over long distances, and digital innovation hubs (DIH), better connected to the European RDI resources. This is a critical prerequisite for overcoming the issues linked to the lack of critical mass in the region. In the sparsely populated regions, digital solutions can make distances shorter, improve services for rural communities, and support growth and job creation.

As one entity, the ENF regions sent the Expression of Interest to participate in a pilot on industrial transition and were accepted among 11 other regions and countries. Together, all seven regions are seeking to strengthen regional industry´s ability to continuously adapt, innovate, facilitate investment in new technologies, and implement changes supporting the transition to a low-carbon energy and circular economy.

East and North Finland are seven NUTS III regions having their place-based Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) that highlight each region´s specific advantages. These strategies share common features to find the best way to capitalize the natural resources and conditions maximizing the added value for the regions, to sustain the vital cities and dynamic rural areas and to engage regional stakeholders to the practical implementation.

The regions also have complementary competences, such as specific expertise on ICT, advanced manufacturing, chemistry, circular economy, pharmaceuticals and health technology. Each of the seven S3s fosters an open, inclusive and participative method to achieve a higher integration of regional RDI assets. S3s are aiming to strengthen the regional playground, taking advantage of the broad based innovation – creating a breeding ground for cross-sectorial collaboration.


ENF is formed by Lapland, Oulu Region, Central Ostrobothnia, Kainuu, Pohjois-Savo, North Karelia and South Savo

  • land area 202593,9 km2, 67 % of all Finland
  • 1,3 million inhabitants, 25 % of the population of Finland
  • population density less than 10 inhabitants / km2
  • constitutes 19,4 % of Finland´s economy (2016)
  • provides 19.6 % of Finland´s export (2015–2017)
  • tourism demand 40 % of total national demand (2016)

Expertise on managing and refining natural resources and conditions

  • forest bioeconomy and wood products
  • rock, mining and metal industries
  • chemical industry, environmental and water technology
  • food industries
  • tourism and Arctic expertise
  • material and mechanical engineering
  • wellness and health technology
  • information and communication technology, printed electronics and measuring technology

Education and RDI

  • wide network of regional vocational education institutions
  • 3 universities and 3 university consortiums
  • 7 universities of applied science with several regional locations
  • sector specific research institutions

ENF consists of seven NUTS III level regions – seven S3s built on each region´s strengths and opportunities

Common features:

  • natural resources – minerals and stone, forestry, fields and water
  • sustainable capitalization of natural resources
  • tourism and vital rural areas

Complementary specializations:

  • managing of circular economy
  • utilization of KETs and ICT
  • advanced manufacturing – wood, materials, steel machinery, energy, etc.
  • chemistry
  • pharmaceuticals and health technology