InnoEnvi: seven regions unite for the environment
The private and public sectors of seven regions in the south of Finland unite for the promotion of ventures targeted on the environment.
When it comes to the environment the Finns are known for setting the bar very high and their expertise is recognized throughout the EU. On the other hand, the companies active in this sector, although numerous (3600 in the country as a whole) are often of modest size. In order to grow, small and medium businesses need to collaborate systematically with suitable partners both national and international. This was the aim of the InnoEnvi project in the south of Finland: to create thematic groups (“clusters”) and sub-groups (“mini-clusters”) of environmental operatives in order to assist them in finding new business opportunities and increasing their potential for export.
InnoEnvi’s aim was to ensure the development of know-how relating to the environment and to create genuine cooperation between companies operating in the same niche, as well as between technological centres, universities, etc. Means used: inventory of companies working in the sector, completion of studies on the market and resources, identification of know-how and new approaches to the environment. All this was supported by a portal for online services giving regularly updated information.
From bioenergy to treatment of contaminated ground, from irrigation pipe manufacturing to geotechnology consultancy, the palette of services has considerably enlarged. The five subgroups (clean energy, management of clean and used water, ecological evaluation of mining operations, solid waste management and environmental control) were a central element in the project. They offered small and medium businesses the chance to make use of the resources and experiences of larger companies, centres of expertise and national and international NGOs.
Activities initiated in close concertation with companies include strategic planning, marketing, production of publicity material, participation in fairs and "road shows", establishment of techniques for research and development, etc.
InnoEnvi’s partners (Green Net Finland, principal partner, Lahti Science and Technology Park Ltd, Häme Polytechnic, Lappeenranta Technical University and Turku Science Park Ltd) are regional organizations with recognized skills in supporting environmental companies, sufficiently motivated to continue the work beyond the confines of the project. To put it plainly, the partners as a whole assured themselves of the project’s sustainability before it was begun.
The principal external service – consultancy in the group workings – was assured by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). Helsinki Technical University (Dipoli) was given the task of organizing scientific conferences via video on the internet.
InnoEnvi has had a significant snowball effect on the development of environmental businesses throughout the country and even on an international level. This was the first time that a number of Finnish regions united in carry out work in clusters for the systematic development of a specific commercial sector.
A network of private and public companies was established throughout seven regions in the south of Finland. While, at the outset, the list stretched to 700 companies, there are today ten times that number, coming from seven countries. Four online services have been developed to facilitate exchanges between the sub-group members and 33 publications have appeared. InnoEnvi has now set up over 50 second- and third-generation projects. A high level of motivation, skill and an excellent work atmosphere between partners brought about this success.