The European Commission visited northern Sweden between the 24th and the 26th of February. Mikel Landabaso, Director for Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development, Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, and Ulrich Krause-Heiber, Deputy Head of unit, European Commission, participated in Europaforum Norra Sverige (EFNS) in Piteå at the invitation of North Sweden European Office. During the three-day event, they had the chance to meet different stakeholders from northern Sweden and take part in activities in Piteå and Luleå.
Mikel Landabaso has previously worked as Head of Cabinet of Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu and been responsible for the EU’s smart specialization within the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The focus of the visit was therefore on regional examples of smart specialization through innovation clusters and use of the region's assets in innovative ways.
Visit to Piteå Science Park on the way to Europaforum Norra Sverige
On their way from Luleå Airport to Piteå Havsbad the European Commission officials visited Piteå Science Park, where CEO David Sundström illustrated the activity of the centre and how it supports enterprise growth through a holistic approach to society, combined with a focus on a few specific areas. Among other things, the importance of creating Sweden's best primary school in order to encourage people to settle down in, and move to, Piteå came up in the discussion. This example was then highlighted by Mikel Landabaso in his presentation at Europaforum Norra Sverige (EFNS) on the following day.
On the second day of the visit, the team from the European Commission attended the seminar organized by Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA) in relation to the OECD round trip in northern Sweden, for the ongoing study on the challenges of the Arctic region. Mikel Landabaso gave a speech and participated in a panel discussion during the EFNS together with members of the OECD team and Gunilla Nordlöf, director of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (SAERG), as well as Maria Stenberg, from the County Council of Norrbotten (see links below).
Meetings with the regional stakeholders
In addition to meeting and talking with many different regional stakeholders during Europaforum Norra Sverige (EFNS) in Piteå, the European Commission officials also had the chance to take part in the OECD’s visit, and to participate in a meeting with businesses, universities and public actors, as well as in one of EFNS’s sessions on the Arctic region.
On Friday the European Commission team had the opportunity to meet Hakan Ylinenpää and Daniel Örtqvist, professors at Luleå University, about their work on smart specialization strategies in sparsely populated areas. Before leaving for Brussels, the European Commission officials visited the Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS), in order to get an insight into the ongoing work of the project Cloudberry, creating an innovation system that links the Node Pole’s efforts to establish data centres in northern Sweden and SICS’s construction of a unique test facility for future data centre solutions.
The data centre industry already uses more energy than the whole of Germany, with a climate impact that is larger than that of the aerospace industry. Moreover, the need for new data centres is growing exponentially. Northern Sweden is creating a unique European innovation environment for data centres in a region with safe, clean energy and natural cooling.
Follow-up meeting in March in Brussels between NSPA and the European Commission
The European Commission officials were very impressed by what they had seen during their visit, including the work that is carried out by EFNS and NSPA. Overall, they were very appreciative of the positive reception they had received. The next meeting between representatives of the NSPA and the European Commission’s DG Regio is scheduled for March in Brussels for an update on the ongoing OECD study.
/ Mikael Janson
(Translation: Michele Cicchetti)