Seminar sessions on Inclusive Digitalisation at the 8th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR

On the 13th – 14th of June, stakeholders of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region met for the 8th time at the annual forum in Berlin. Around 800 participants from governments, international organisations, NGOs, universities, local and regional authorities joined the forum for discussions on this year’s theme, connectivity.

Policy Area Innovation, in collaboration with Policy Area Bioeconomy, Baltic Development Forum and Nordregio, hosted two inter-connected seminars sessions on Inclusive Digitalisation. The first session focused on Tech StartUps and Digital Transformation in rural areas, and the second session on Digital disruption in the bioeconomy. Both sessions were a success, with though provoking  presentations and interactive discussions.

During the first session, Tech StartUps and Digital Transformation in rural areas, the perspectives of research, policy and entrepreneurs was presented. The speakers  of the session were Martin Andersson, Professor at Blekinge Institute of Technology and Lund University, Lena Carlsson, Chief Digitalisation Officer at the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, and Sylvia Brune, Founder of Ahoy Travel Ltd.

One topic that came up during the session was the key opportunity arising from digitalization, namely the possibility to act local while ensuring global outreach – building local advantages, competences and social networks – connecting the “Local buzz and global pipelines”. Lena Carlsson highlighted the importance of specialising and finding your own niche. Martin Andersson pointed to the need for regional policy linking up start-ups, and to the fact that current regional policies tend to look inward too much. Moreover, Martin Andersson talked about that many entrepreneurs are building a region when building a firm, and when scaling up bringing the region with it.

“When the winds of change blows, some build walls, but entrepreneurs build windmills.”

Sylvia Brune

Another key topic of the session was digital transformation. The importance of understanding the business model of the companies seeking to undergo a digital transformation was highlighted. Many companies in rural areas that have not gotten very far in the digital transformation process, it is necessary to clearly demonstrate to these the added value of the transformation.

During the second session, When Digi meets Bio – digital disruption in the bioeconomy, the focus was on the digital disruptions of production and consumption in the food and forest industry. Existing examples and experiences were presented by Jaakko Kuusisaari, Director, Head of Wood and Fibre Solutions at Tieto, Hörður G. Kristinsson, Chief Science and Innovation Officer, Matis and chair of the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel, Anders Olsson, Värmland, Sweden, Davis Bojars, Direcet Buying Movement, and Nelli Mikkola, Nordregio.

The presentations and discussions during the session showed ways in which the bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region could benefit from a digital ‘revolution’ as digital technologies can help the development of new, local and sustainable products and services, improving both the ecological footprint and creating new jobs.

According to Jaakko Kuusisaari from Tieto, Finland, digitalisation is not just a good business case, it can help realise a green industrial transition: “Bioeconomy and digitalisation is a perfect match for each other. They are both deeply connected to a profound change in consumer behaviour and in the way we look at the world. Their union will create abundant opportunities and drive green growth.”

In Latvia, new farms are being established to meet the demand from the newly founded Direct Buying Movement. As Davis Bojars explained: “Direct Buying movement in Latvia is built on three basic values; friendship, voluntary work and organic agriculture, and we need digital solutions to enable farmers to directly interact with consumers”.

Keynote speaker and chair of the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel, Hordur Kristinsson argues that the digital disruption is already here: “Disruption exists on all levels of the food industry – from farm to fork. We need to be ready and be leaders, not just followers.”

Moving forward, policy briefs will be made based on the two sessions on Inclusive digitalisation. These policy briefs will be published on the PA-INNO webpage at the end on August 2017. The policy briefs will then be reviewed by a Sounding Board, and finalised no later than October 2017.




Photos taken by Bernd Fiehöfer.