Business seminar was organized in Joensuu, Finland

A seminar "Business Opportunities in the Barents Region" was organized in Joensuu on May 28th. The event brought together actors from Finland, Norway, and Sweden and was very fruitful in creating dialogue about cooperation possibilities in the Barents region.

Published 30.05.2024

Welcome speech by Wille Rydman, Minister of Economic Affairs.

The event began with a welcome speech by the Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs, Wille Rydman, who stressed that the need for cooperation in the Barents region has recently only deepened. Minister Rydman mentioned tourism, innovation hubs, and growth in the energy industry as important factors for the region.

Merete Nordland from Bodø Business Forum presents Nordland county.

All Barents regions were presented to the seminar audience. Topics such as tourism, nature values, recruitment of international talents, cross-border logistic centers, green hydrogen, and super computers were mentioned.

The audience learned among many other things that:

  • 7 out of 10 inland fishing licenses in Finnmark are sold to Finns.
  • City of Bodø is the European Capital of Culture 2024, the first city above the Arctic Circle to gain this acknowledgment
  • Norrbotten and Västerbotten are very attractive to majority of young Swedes and the region is gaining jobs from new green steel companies
  • The largest single investment in the forest industry in Finland is the Metsä Fibre bioproduction mill located in Kemi, Lapland
  • Northern regions are ideal locations for supercomputers due to lower cooling costs compared to the south. The fastest supercomputer in all of Europe is located in Kajaani, Kainuu
  • Joensuu is the European Capital of Forestry and is happy to share its knowledge on Forestry

Panel discussion on development, cross-border opportunities, challenges and solutions

The presentations were followed by an intriguing panel discussion covering a variety of vital topics, from mining and forestry to security concerns and the rights of local communities. Important remarks were made about the impact of the slow and complicated process of applying for mining permits. Future aspects of automation and digitalization and their effect on amount of new job openings were also discussed, along with the importance of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary education.

The panel concluded with several concrete proposals for cross-border cooperation projects:

  1. Developing a common framework and finances for cooperation.
  2. Joining forces in recruitment processes, showcasing young talents the opportunities of the Barents region.
  3. A common project on sustainable labeling of minerals.
  4. Creating and deepening existing innovation ecosystems in a cross-sectoral way.
  5. Common initiatives in hydrogen steel production to promote new carbon-free industries across borders.

The seminar was followed by business excursions to top companies in forestry and mining in the North Karelia region. In the evening, all participants joined together for dinner at the beautiful Villa Vainoniemi by Lake Saimaa.

Participant interviews

Two participants representing businesses from the Barents region shared their experiences attending the seminar.

Heikki Huuskonen from Vörk.

Heikki Huuskonen is the CEO and Co-founder of Vörk, an efficient and user-friendly project management application that brings together consumers, workers, and contractors in the construction industry. Vörk brings solutions and transparency to the construction industry.

Heikki Huuskonen heard from a friend that the seminar was worth attending and signed up to represent the younger generation. Heikki is very interested in hearing ideas on how to further develop the region. He is personally interested in Arctic railway networks and projects, believing it is important to further develop infrastructure, especially between Norway and Finland. He sees great potential in creating better connections from the Bothnian Sea to the Barents Sea.

Aina Borch from Kingsrose Mining Ltd. from Finnmark.

Aina Borch is the Managing Director of Kingsrose Finnmark, a mining company focusing on vital mineral deposits and playing a part in the energy revolution. Aina traveled from Lakselv, Norway, to Joensuu, Finland, seeing the seminar as a great opportunity to discuss relevant themes, challenges, and possibilities for the region. She noted that the regions have many similarities, making it beneficial to discuss and learn from one another. Aina mentioned that nature is our biggest common value; whether it’s minerals or forests, nature provides resources. The Barents regions are close to each other, so working together across borders brings opportunities for everyone. She highlighted that in mining, Norway looks to Sweden and Finland to learn how the industry has developed.

Aina Borch emphasized that Kingsrose is very focused on sustainability and wants to set new standards in this area. She also mentioned the importance of working together with local communities, considering nature, and maintaining open dialogue with the Sami people as important points that will take us further.

The business seminar was organized in cooperation with the North Karelia Regional Council, International Barents Secretariat, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, and regional business organizations from Finland.