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Hanna Mäkinen
Innovations in the Baltic Sea region
Electronic Publications of Pan-European Institute 3/2012

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The economic, political and strategic significance of the Baltic Sea region (BSR)2 has been constantly growing, and simultaneously the region itself has grown more prosperous. The Baltic Sea countries have intense import and export relations with each other and the trade within the region is of great significance for the BSR countries. The Baltic Sea region is also an important centre of economic power in Europe – for instance, the EU member states in the region account for some 30% of the EU’s GDP. The EU has also acknowledged the significance of the BSR and adopted a Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region – the first EU strategy for a macro-region – aiming to facilitate the development of the region. However, to maintain its global competitiveness in the future, the Baltic Sea region needs to preserve and improve its technological capability and innovativeness.

This research report focuses on innovations in the Baltic Sea region, particularly on external innovation drivers and the innovation environments in the Baltic Sea region and individual countries within the region. First, some definitions of innovations, innovation drivers and characteristics of a favourable innovation environment are presented. Second, the current situation of the innovation environments in the BSR countries is studied. Third, some innovation success stories in the BSR are presented, as well as potential sectors for innovation development are analysed. Finally, the research aims to conclude, as well as to analyse the future innovation development of the BSR. This report does not aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of the innovations in the Baltic Sea region. Rather it is to present some key characteristics of the innovation environments of the region’s countries in comparison with each other, as well as some examples of innovation success stories and potential sectors.

Concluding remarks

A capability to innovate is essential for a country’s competitiveness in a knowledge- based global economy. Innovations are also a key to a nation’s development and regeneration. Furthermore, in the face of growing global challenges, innovations can contribute to solving or mitigating them in a sustainable yet profitable way. Indeed, innovations are important for the Baltic Sea region to maintain its competitiveness in the future, to develop into even more prosperous region, as well as to even out differences in economic wellbeing.

A favorable innovation environment requires, among others, educated people, investments in R&D, collaboration between public and private sectors, functioning society and a certain degree of creativity and risk-taking for innovations to emerge. The historical development has led the BSR countries to varying paths, and they are at different levels with regard to their innovation capacities and performances. Still, they all hold great potential for innovation development in the future as they share several factors which are important for a fruitful innovation environment. Moreover, the Baltic Sea region as a whole has many of these characteristics, such as advanced universities producing educated people and high-level scientific research, open societies with functioning institutions and legislation, finance and support for R&D both in public and private sectors, and competitive private enterprises. Thus, although the countries in the region differ, they could translate these differences into strengths and complement each other with their varying capabilities.

The Baltic Sea region is rather small in a global scale. However, it could be turned to the region’s advantage as the region as a whole can benefit from the geographical proximity for example with regard to transfer of knowledge and information. Close location and direct interaction between different actors can facilitate networking and collaboration. Due to the current economic situation the countries in the region face some challenges which could affect innovation development as well, for example funding of R&D. Despite of that, investing in R&D and innovation development is important because innovation success stories can attract more capital, educated people and new companies to the region in the future. Still, realising the full innovation potential of the BSR would require the development of a common vision and identity of the region, as well as increasing the collaboration in practice not only at national level but also between actors at lower levels, such as various innovation clusters.

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