A head start to pilot actions in Tampere Region: Our Common Responsible and Sustainable Future workshop

Written by Lisbet Frey, Project Manager at the Council of Tampere

After the summer holidays on August 24th, tetRRIS project partners, The Council of Tampere Region and VTT organised Our Common Responsible and Sustainable Future:  Co- creating a future vision through the upcoming Regional Development programme and Smart Specialization -workshop in cooperation. The purpose of the workshop was to reflect together on the future of the region from the perspective of sustainability transition, with a particular focus on building a sustainable vision for the future of business and industry. Based on the discussions and presentations of the event, a visualization was made through graphic recording (available only in Finnish). From the project’s perspective, the event worked as a head start to regional pilot actions.

Building a sustainable and vibrant future for the region is a common goal and the sustainability transition must be promoted, built and visioned systemically across sectoral boundaries. The anticipatory future dialogue requires multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches. Thus, representatives from central government, the EU- office, regional government, the higher education sector, as well as companies and business lobby organisations were invited to the workshop.

The actual workshop was preceded by four presentations. The presentations were selected to give the participants a systemic picture of how sustainability transition is promoted at different levels of the society. The first presenter, Milla Kouri, a Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of Finance, talked about the upcoming ‘EU taxonomy for sustainable activities’. The EU taxonomy is a sustainable finance framework/ classification, which will enter into force on national level at the beginning of next year. The EU’s sustainable finance framework system, more familiarly EU taxonomy, will broadly define the future of sustainable financial markets under the European Green Deal. The taxonomy act is part of the EU’s climate policy and the Green Deal. The taxonomy includes a system for classifying the sustainability criteria for measures which provides a comprehensive basis for assessing financing and investments from the perspective of sustainability transition. The purpose of taxonomy is therefore to facilitate the orientation of funding and investment towards measures that really contribute to a sustainable future and ecological transition.

Elina Kamppi, sustainability expert in Finance Finland, commented on Milla Kouri’s speech and said that the taxonomy framework brings long- awaited clarity to the promotion of sustainable financial markets. Finance Finland as an organization represents the whole national financial sector. Thus, the taxonomy contributes to helping investors, businesses and business operators and EU Member States to plan and direct funding towards low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainability transition measures. EU taxonomy is a constantly evolving tool that will enter into force in national legislation from the beginning of 2022. Read more about taxonomy and the upcoming legislative reform here.

From the EU- and national level, the conversation shifted to the regional level. Marko Mäkinen, Head of Planning at the Council of Tampere Region, talked about the ongoing preparatory process of the region’s sustainable future on the strategical level from the perspective of the upcoming Regional Development Programme and smart specialization strategy. The new Regional Development Programme is currently under construction and is being prepared in broad cross- sectoral cooperation between the actors in the region. Building a sustainable future is also at the heart of the regional programme and the Smart Specialization Strategy. The Regional Development Programme is a common vision for the region and a roadmap for the future. The preparatory process emphasises inclusion and extensive cooperation so that the end result is a mutual and collective vision of all the organizations in the region.

The final presentation before the actual workshop, was centered around a business perspective on sustainable future. The presentation was about Kiilto ltd’s sustainability and future story, as told by Raija Polvinen, the company’s Director of Research and Innovation (RDI). After sustainability policy presentations, it was interesting to hear what happens in practice in a company that has put sustainability and future thinking at the heart of its business development. Kiilto ltd is an international family-owned company that employs the fourth generation of the family. In the family business, anticipation and the future generation’s aspect and rights are emphasized and each generation responsible for running the business feels that it is important to preserve the business for future generations, as well as the considerations of the future generation’s rights in general. Kiilto ltd is building a sustainable future for its part and sustainability solutions have been considered in the business from the environmental footprint of products to the company’s energy solutions. Kiilto ltd is a sustainability frontrunner.

After the introductions, the actual workshop section began and the participants were divided into groups to discuss the region’s common responsible and sustainable future, especially from a business perspective. The subject was approached through ecological handprint thinking; when could the region’s business- and industry sector have a positive ecological handprint and what does this require, how can this be achieved? Many groups stated that, at least in terms of the carbon neutrality target, the region is more ambitious than the national target and the region could achieve carbon neutrality as early as 2030 (Finland is set to achieve cardon neutrality by 2035).

However, building a sustainable future requires more systemic and cross-sectoral cooperation, dialogue, and new partnerships. All actors in the region must be committed to a common objective in order to achieve it within the target time. Discussions also highlighted the fact that, although the transformation of sustainability in the region presents challenges, there are also many new opportunities to increase the vitality of the region. The region’s pioneering role in the sustainability transition was considered important. Could we be the most sustainable region in the world’s most sustainable country? (Finland is ranked as no. 1 in the UN’s sustainability ranking in 2021) The workshop’s discussions also highlighted the importance of the sustainability transition and the societal responsibility of the innovations and measures that promote it. The wider societal impact of the innovations that aid the transition must be taken into consideration in all levels and sectors of the society. We should strive for a sustainable future, but keep in mind the many aspects of societal impacts that the transition will bring. It is important to reach the sustainability goals but let us not forget how we reach them and how we shape society along the way. Ensuring that the regional innovation systems enhance the aspects of responsible research and innovation when moving towards a sustainable future will contribute to a better tomorrow for us and the future generations to come.

Based on the discussion in the workshops, it can be stated that the common sustainable future of the region is everyone’s dream and vision. There are many paths to the sustainable future, and it is important that we move responsibly together towards our goals, continuing to discuss the challenges and opportunities we face along the way.

The event was carried out under the Horizon 2020-funded project TetRRIS: Territorial Responsible Research and Innovation in Smart Specialisation. The Tampere Region pilot will focus on strengthening dialogue between regional innovation ecosystems, based on enhancing the ‘reading level’ and awareness on responsible research and innovation aspects and promoting the cross sectoral sustainability transition.

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