Southwest Finland Partnership Forum
Southwest Finland Partnership Forum (”Varsinais-Suomen kumppanuusfoorumi”) sparks and supports cooperation between regional actors such as municipalities, universities, companies and NGOs to make Southwest Finland a region where the quality of life is at its best. The Forum brings together stakeholders to work on regional strategy and Smart Specialisation objectives, and is coordinated by the Regional Council in cooperation with many regional partners.
The Regional Strategy for Southwest Finland was adopted on June 16, 2014 by the Regional Assembly. It contains two essential regional development documents: the Regional Scheme, which sets the direction for the region towards year 2035+, and the Regional Programme, which indicates the measures to be taken to reach these goals and is updated every four years. These two documents have been formulated in broad cooperation with regional authorities, municipalities, educational institutions and associations, and together form the Regional Strategy for Southwest Finland.
The Regional Strategy sets the vision – In Southwest Finland the quality of life is at its best. The successful and prosperous region is built through cooperation and partnership – and the four following priorities for regional development:
- Future is shaped by choices now – Responsibility
- Together across the borders – Cooperation skills
- Approachable gateway of the Baltic Sea – Accessibility
- Innovative forerunner – Resource efficiency
This vision and priorities shall be implemented through partnership in which the aim for the region’s future is shaped together. Partnership is a way of thinking where the common goal is considered more important than single benefits. It is continuous dialogue and joint learning. All corners of the region have an identity of their own and a significant role in our joint work, and developing these strengths and characteristics is seen more valuable than the mental and geographical borders. Genuine partnership requires commitment to a joint venture and common means to reach the goals.
Partnership Forum as the main strategic action
The main tool for regional strategy work in Southwest Finland is the Partnership Forum. It is an umbrella for regional networks and acts as a facilitator of cooperation and a communication channel for those that implement the Regional Strategy. Currently there are 10 networks working on tourism, land use and traffic, culture, environment, education, blue growth, natural resources, international cooperation, open information and NGO cooperation. The networks are informal and fund their own operations. Regional Council offers support through maintenance and development of the communication framework, models of follow-up, contacts and through its experts who often coordinate the networks.
Each network has adopted a way of working that suits it best. Some focus on communications and delivering information, some meet regularly to discuss actual projects and processes, some work on joint roadmaps and for some a certain project forms the core of cooperation. No matter how they operate, they are all open for all interested parties and discussion on developing further. Together these networks will have a stronger voice and more effective implementation, and their members will benefit from joint learning and peer support.
Regional Programme identifies focus areas and implementation for 2018-2021
The Regional Programme identifies the current themes and actions to be taken to reach the Regional Strategy’s vision and priorities. Southwest Finland is a resilient region with a diverse industrial and trade profile, where education and know-how are held in key role. The region is currently undergoing a strong acceleration of technology industry (especially ship building and automotive) and positive economic development, which continue to rise the employment rate. At the same time the so-called positive structural change demands increase in higher education in technical fields, promotion of mobile labour force and ensuring sufficient housing options for the workers. In order to meet their full potential the positive growth objectives need a favourable structural environment.
For the period 2018-2021 the Regional Programme focus areas are the following, as adopted by the Assembly on December 11, 2017:
- Smart Specialisation focuses resources to regional strengths, which are: blue growth and industrial modernisation, innovative food chains, and life science and health technologies
- Open data is a central raw material of the digital society and a prerequisite for data business, and promotes for example the creation of regional geographical information systems
- The five most pressing environmental focus areas are sustainable consumer choices, nature and cultural habitats, local waters, food and resource efficiency
- Common and joint structures for land use and building strengthen the attractiveness of the region; Southwest Finland belongs to the so-called Northern Growth Zone which covers the main ports, international airports, border crossing points, top universities, and +50 % of people, jobs, GDP and R&D&I in Finland
- Being a centre for Baltic Sea region cooperation requires accessibility and continuing activity in promoting and coordinating cooperation in support of e.g. EUSBSR
- Cooperation of education and business sectors is a prerequisite for predicting needs for change in education and know-how, and for developing regional answers to them
- Circular economy builds a carbon neutral region, which is sustainable in using its natural resources
- Creative Southwest Finland is based on creative economy and understanding the social significance of art and culture as a resource for wellbeing
- Synergy of attractive environment and tourism is a combination of the ability to read and understand nature, the unique archipelago and the cultural environment, and to make them sustainably accessible for tourism