In recent years, there has been a convergence of several global megatrends which are having a major impact on all aspects of the Nordic economy, society and environment. Climate change, migration, rapid demographic developments, digitalization and automation, increasing urban-rural divides, and growing socio-economic inequalities are some of the main threats facing the Nordic Region. Nordregio is focused on identifying practical Nordic policy solutions to help overcome these challenges and promote socio-economic growth and environmental sustainability across the Nordic Region.
The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 has been written as a collaborative effort by our staff members in close cooperation with Nordregio’s Board of Directors, which represents the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. The strategy outlines our main mission and core research focus areas, which have been carefully aligned to address the key objectives and needs of policymakers and practitioners outlined within Nordic cooperation steering documents.
The overarching goals that guide Nordregio’s research are outlined in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Action Plan for Vision 2030, which is approved by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation. The Action Plan defines the work to achieve the objectives of the Vision through a series of initiatives linked to the Vision’s three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region.
During the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio is committed to delivering high quality scientific, evidence-based research designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with sustainable policies to help overcome the main challenges faced by Nordic regions and municipalities. Our research will contribute substantially towards Nordic cooperation and synergies, while also showcasing Nordic policies, experience and competences internationally.
The Board approved the Nordregio Strategy on the 15th of April 2021.
Bjørn Kristen Barvik, Deputy Director-General
Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation of Norway
Dr. Rolf Elmér
Nordregio is recognised and respected as a leading Nordic research institute within the broad research fields of regional development, policy and planning. We specialize in applied research that analyzes and evaluates the latest development trends in policy areas central to Nordic regional economic growth, competitiveness and sustainable development. Nordregio contributes towards meeting existing and future challenges facing the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland, by facilitating cooperation, knowledge sharing and learning between national, regional and local stakeholders in the search for sustainable Nordic policy solutions.
Nordic cooperation is based on the idea that the Nordic countries are stronger and can achieve more by working together. Cooperation creates Nordic synergies and added value, generating social capital, innovative thinking and learning in the search for shared solutions to global and regional challenges. Now, more than ever, Nordic collaboration is needed to help overcome the socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Working together is also essential for meeting the challenges posed by global megatrends, including climate change, digitalization and automation, rapid demographic developments, increasing urban-rural divides, and growing socio-economic inequalities. Nordic cooperation transcends national borders and political barriers; collaboration is based on open knowledge sharing and the pooling of resources, which strengthens Nordic countries both internally and on the global stage.
Figure 1. Nordic cooperation.
Nordregio's mission is to provide Nordic policymakers and practitioners with new knowledge and tools to support the formulation and implementation of effective socio-economic and environmentally sustainable regional development policies.
By facilitating cooperation between Nordic stakeholders, we generate Nordic synergies which create added value and contribute towards meeting the Nordic Vision 2030 and the implementation of the Nordic Regional Cooperation Programme 2021-2024. These include the integration of horizontal perspectives on sustainable development, gender equality, and a youth perspective. Our research also contributes towards the implementation of global policy objectives, including those outlined in the United Nation's Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the European Union's Macro-Regional Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, Green Deal, Urban Agenda, Digital Agenda, and Circular Economy and Bio-Economy Initiatives.
To fulfil our mission and generate Nordic synergies, the following objectives and principles guide our everyday operations:
Figure 2. Our vision 2030.
As a strategic research institute, we align our research competencies to meet the needs of our main stakeholders, including the Nordic Council of Ministers and the national and regional authorities responsible for regional development in the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. Our main research areas are closely connected to the prioritized themes of the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Policy and Planning and the Nordic Vision 2030. The goal of the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Policy and Planning is to promote learning and knowledge building for national, regional, and local policymakers and practitioners within the fields of regional development and physical planning. The Cooperation Programme contributes towards implementing the three strategic priorities for a green, competitive and socially sustainable Nordic Region outlined in the Nordic Vision 2030. For the period 2021-2024, these priority cooperation areas are mirrored within three thematic groups (TGs) composed of senior officials from relevant ministries in the five Nordic countries, in the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland, from regional authorities, cross-border committees, and the North Atlantic Cooperation (NORA):
Thematic group A: A green and inclusive urban development
Thematic group B: A green and inclusive rural development
Thematic group C: Green, innovative and resilient regions
Regional development: Promoting regional development is an essential element of Nordic cooperation. Nordic countries are committed to working together to find innovative ways to enhance regional economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability. Nordregio's research on regional development covers a range of different geographic areas, thematic policy fields and sectors. We contribute to regional development in four main ways: 1) monitoring economic, social and environmental regional development trends across the Nordics; 2) identifying challenges and enablers for sustainable regional development; 3) providing practical ideas and recommendations for maximizing regional development and growth opportunities, and 4) encouraging the development of regional innovation ecosystems and cross-sectoral synergies through the facilitation of collaboration between policymakers and stakeholders. In the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio's research in this field will focus on identifying and exploring Nordic regional development challenges and opportunities in relation to green, innovative and resilient regions. This includes research on blue and green growth, labour market policies, mobility of competencies and skills, as well as regional leadership.
Rural development: Nordregio carries out research on rural development from a social science perspective considering the different aspects of sustainability for rural, remote, and sparsely populated regions across the Nordic countries. We contribute to knowledge building and rural development policies in different ways. Firstly, we carry out comparative research on socio-economic and environmental issues through both quantitative analyses and qualitative studies. Secondly, we analyse the challenges and opportunities associated with the diversity of rural areas, which helps build the knowledge base on rural issues by highlighting good practices, making policy recommendations, and fostering collaboration across sectors. Nordregio’s research in rural development for the upcoming 2021-2024 period will provide answers to the present challenges and potential areas of development with rural areas. This research will focus on large societal transformations related to the wellbeing of people, economic opportunities for businesses, development of skills and the functioning of labour markets, integration of newcomers, and the overall quality of life and sustainability of rural communities. The future opportunities of rural areas are connected to value creation in diversified economies, the utilisation of the abundance of natural resources, and the development of human and institutional knowledge about the management of a just and green transition, benefitting local communities and regions and contributing local solutions to mitigate climate change. Further, there are still challenges connected to regional social and economic imbalances between urban and rural areas in terms of population growth and access to jobs and services. Achieving a socially just and green transition is also of primary importance for the future of rural areas. Finally, our research contributes to ensuring social sustainability through the inclusion of groups with different cultures, gender, age, or education within local communities.
Urban planning: From a social science research perspective, Nordregio contributes to increasing knowledge on the main challenges, drivers, and enablers to support ecologically responsive, socially just, and economically inclusive Nordic cities. This involves monitoring Nordic planning systems and investigating planning processes and practices, strategies, and solutions in the built environment. It also includes understanding the different roles of planning authorities across different levels of governance and their roles in supporting and regulating local land use. Equally important is the analysis of the relationship between public and private actors in shaping and implementing these processes. Nordregio’s research underlines questions, such as, how to plan for climate-neutral cities, while striving for equality, social inclusion, and opportunities for all urban citizens, regardless of age, life situation, functional ability and income. Finding a balance between efficiency and legitimacy is another stronghold of Nordregio’s enquiry, with attention on how particular policies, programs and/or technological solutions enable or hinder the participation of people in urban life. As part of a critical approach to urban planning, Nordregio brings forward new planning and design visions that shed light on how to bridge principles that, at first glance, seem contradictory, such as densifying urban structures whilst preserving green spaces. During 2021-2024, Nordregio aims to advance knowledge on the transformative capacities of cities to deal with emergent challenges such as adapting to a changing climate, coping with resource scarcity, increasing segregation and growing urban health inequalities. Nordregio also aims to continue comparing the Nordic planning systems and how various stakeholders contribute to achieving national cross-sectoral targets (e.g. climate, biodiversity) through the means of urban and regional planning. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on urban areas, such as town centres, access to green spaces and recreational areas, office spaces, university towns, and the impacts on both transport systems within and between cities, will also be of importance for Nordregio.
Demography: Population changes affect Nordic society and the economy, at both the national and regional levels. The populations of the Nordic countries continue to slowly increase but are ageing which has implications for the sustainability of the Nordic welfare model. In recent decades, about two-thirds of the population increase in the Nordic Region has come from net immigration. This has resulted in much more diverse populations but there are integration challenges, especially when people arrive as refugees. At the regional level, there has been a long-term trend of urbanisation of people migrating from rural and peripheral areas into the larger urban settlements in the Nordic countries. This presents challenges of equal welfare provision across all regions, when rural areas loose younger and more educated persons – a majority of whom are women - and their tax base shrinks. The Nordic countries are unique in a European context in having large, sparsely populated areas as part of their northern regions. Over the 2021-2024 period, analysis of the social and economic implications of these demographic trends continues to be a key research focus of Nordregio. This will include a section devoted to the demographic implications of the covid-19 pandemic in our flagship publication, the State of the Nordic Region.
Governance: The Nordic Region has a long history and tradition of cross-border, interregional and intermunicipal collaborative governance. Nordregio's innovative approach to governance research contributes to increasing knowledge of the main drivers, challenges and enablers of Nordic cooperation. We possess extensive in-house knowledge and expertise in relation to a range of key governance concepts - territorial governance, collaborative governance and multi-level governance. Our main role in several projects is to observe, monitor and evaluate governance processes. The lessons learned from this research provide policymakers and practitioners with practical information regarding best practices on future collaborative efforts across different levels of governance and policy areas. For example, our research has explored and developed the key dimensions of the concepts of territorial governance and collaborative governance in the fields: regional development, maritime spatial planning, research and innovation, rural policy and Nordic public service delivery. We also work closely with public authorities and stakeholders in developing territorial place-based governance structures and assisting in the preparation of regional smart specialization strategies. In the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio will continue to research innovative governance mechanisms, tools and instruments that promote 'active subsidiarity' and integrate local knowledge and expertise into Nordic policymaking processes. One of the main strengths of Nordregio's multidisciplinary team is that we can apply the governance concept from different research backgrounds and perspectives. This diversity allows room for adaptation, flexibility and openness when meeting the requirements of funding bodies and project partners that define the governance concept differently.
Nordregio adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to research within these core fields. Our research team has a broad competence base in a range of sub-disciplines within the social sciences, including urban planning, human geography, political science, spatial planning, institutional economics, natural resource and environmental economics, business economics, sociology, anthropology and GIS/cartography. Our wide range of competences and the interdisciplinary nature of our research team help us to meet the needs of our diverse client base. We are also able to approach research tasks from different perspectives, helping to foster a working environment built on deliberation and mutual learning. Nordregio has a broad research toolbox specializing in the following research approaches and methods:
Applied research: We conduct solution-oriented and applied research that addresses global and Nordic issues from both a research perspective and the viewpoint of policymakers and practitioners. Nordregio works on commissioned projects that help policymakers and practitioners at the national, regional and local levels to tackle economic, social, planning and governance challenges. We are an active participant and reliable partner in European, Nordic and national research programme projects, including Horizon Europe, ESPON, Interreg, NordForsk, Formas, Vinnova and The Research Council of Norway. Our research focuses on identifying Nordic best policy practices and providing policy solutions and recommendations for policymakers and practitioners, disseminated through practical and easily understandable reports, illustrative maps, policy briefs and workshops/webinars.
Quantitative analyses, GIS and cartography: Over a long period of time, cartographic visualization of demographic and socio-economic patterns and trends has been a widely applied tool in Nordregio’s knowledge production and communication and is still relevant today for guiding policy and decision-making processes. Our main quantitative research methods include statistical analysis, register-based data series, surveys, questionnaires and GIS. Our quantitative analyses are mostly based on harmonized municipal and regional statistics, collected from official data sources. Nordregio has the competencies to apply this data, not only in comparative studies, but also using statistical methods, such as spatial econometrics and cluster analysis. These methods can help identify significant relationships across time and between countries, regions and municipalities. Nordregio has a long experience working with such data sources provided by national statistical institutes and Eurostat for building established indicators, composite indices and typologies contributing towards a better understanding of regional development trends in the Nordic Region and beyond. Nordregio also has a long experience in visualizing societal patterns and trends on different types of thematic maps, and we continuously update our mapping solutions. Recent technological developments enabled us to diversify our visualization formats, which has resulted in the online mapping, tool NordMap, our newly released Nordic Service Mapper and the production of Story Maps. Alongside cartography and visualization tools, Nordregio is actively enlarging its modelling capabilities towards emerging data formats and advanced quantitative analysis methods. In the era of big data and artificial intelligence, geographical analysis shall adopt new perspectives and methods when dealing with traditional themes in territorial comparative research. This process is enabled by the increasing amount of georeferenced data from mobile devices, remote sensing, social media and other sources. New data managing procedures and algorithms adapted from other sciences are increasingly applied for the analysis and prediction of spatial dynamics. These emerging methods shall complement mature methods in regional economics, and it is this combination of methods that shall allow Nordregio to advance in the quantitative interpretation of socio-economic and environmental phenomena with a marked territorial expression. This development in turn will increase our capacity to provide better guidance for ‘place-based’ policymaking in the Nordics.
Qualitative analysis: Our qualitative research methods include desk-based analysis of primary policy documentation, academic literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, and qualitative stakeholder surveys/questionnaires. We also conduct ethnographic studies, such as participant observation. Nordregio's comparative research focus means that many of the research projects undertaken at the institute are built on the extensive use of case studies. These case studies can be prospective or retrospective and examine a variety of geographic scales. The use of individual and comparative case studies allows for a more in-depth analysis of an event or policy and governance process. Where purely quantitative data falls short, the case study approach offers a complementary qualitative perspective through which the perceptions and views of stakeholders themselves can be examined in more detail. Our case studies focus on understanding the role of organisations, policies, actor groups and individuals. They explore the narratives and storytelling of individuals from different actor groups, sharing their experience and perceptions of policies or socio-economic developments, as a means of gaining additional ‘micro-level’ perspectives. They also serve to highlight obstacles, enablers, policy options and possible future directions. Stories from individuals are used in story maps – a welcome addition to Nordregio’s communication portfolio.
Facilitating stakeholder and citizen engagement: Nordregio researchers and communications team provide different types of fora where Nordic public authorities and practitioners can collaborate and work together to share knowledge and seek solutions to common problems. We encourage open and transparent cooperation between Nordic policymakers and stakeholders. Nordregio has vast experience in supporting and implementing stakeholder engagement, offering guidelines to policymakers on how to set-up and implement interactive Multi-Actor-Platforms (MAPs) and participatory planning processes. We are also striving to proactively involve citizens in research and policymaking, as establishing strong science-society-policy interfaces is important for improving the quality of policies, establishing trust and social capital, enhancing legitimacy, and providing tailored solutions to territorial issues that directly affect citizens lives. Nordregio is, therefore, focused on examining the potential of digitals tools for increasing citizen engagement, particularly underrepresented and minority groups.
Evaluations: Nordregio has extensive experience conducting evaluations of European, national, regional and local programmes and projects. Every evaluation assignment is unique, so we strive to apply research methods well adapted to each type of evaluation based on sound scientific research evidence. For this purpose, Nordregio's own carefully crafted in-house evaluation model can be adapted and tailored to deliver high quality ex-ante, interim and ex-post evaluations for policymakers and practitioners. We specialize in conducting ex-ante territorial evaluations, based on focused SWOT analyses, that can be used directly to inform the development of regional policies and smart specialisation strategies.
Future studies: Nordregio uses different methods and techniques for foreseeing or capturing future outcomes to provide policymakers and practitioners with reliable information on possible future development trends on which decisions can be based. Forecasting is a quantitative approach primarily applied to predict future outcomes based on an analysis of past and present trends. Scenario building is used to describe alternative images of the future by developing descriptive narratives. Finally, Nordregio adopts foresight analysis as a qualitative method for identifying local socio-economic strategies based on a structured dialogue with relevant actors.
Operating at the international, national, regional and local levels, Nordregio's research covers a wide geographic and multi-locality scope, with an emphasis on the Nordic and Baltic Sea Regions, Europe and the Arctic. In the 2021-2024 period our research will focus on the following governance levels:
Nordic Region: Nordregio's primary geographic focus is the Nordic Region. The Nordic Regional Cooperation Programme outlines that Nordregio's core responsibility is to work with Nordic national and regional/local policymakers, stakeholders and cross-border committees to enhance knowledge on Nordic regional development trends. These regional trends are highlighted in Nordregio's bi-annual flagship publication 'The State of the Nordic Region'.
Baltic Sea Region: Nordic countries are active members of the EU Macro-regional Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Nordregio helps facilitate cross-border interactions between Baltic Sea Regions through their participation in EUSBSR flagship projects and EU Interreg cross-border programmes.
Pan-European: The proactive engagement of Nordic countries in EU research funding is important, not only for regional socio-economic growth, but also for maintaining the Nordic Region's status as one of Europe's leading innovative regions. Nordregio's participation in EU projects plays an important function in providing a platform for international learning and benchmarking and the dissemination of good practice examples of Nordic innovation and collaboration to European and international audiences.
Arctic: The Nordic Region is the most northernly located geographical area within both global and European contexts and, as such, brings a unique perspective regarding Arctic issues. Six of the nine regions which are commonly defined as the Arctic are within the Nordic Region. Nordregio works with public authorities and stakeholders in the Arctic to research and find policy solutions on issues, such as adaptation to climate change and permafrost degradation, inclusive governance practices on natural resource management for indigenous people, as well as socio-economic development.
Map: Nordregio’s geographic foci.
Author: Johanna Jokinen, Nordregio.
Nordregio is an institute under the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) founded in 1997. Our obligations towards the NCM are delineated in a Strategic Mandate which is included in the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Policy and Planning 2020-2024 and an Annual Grant Letter. NCM's steering model includes two annual meetings between the NCM's secretariat and Nordregio.
The Nordregio Board of Directors is responsible for content-related strategic planning based on the main goals of the institution outlined by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Board of Directors is policymaking and advisory body that focuses on addressing issues of major importance concerning the institute's main objectives and future direction. The Board meets normally four times per year and represents stakeholders in each Nordic country, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.
The Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Regional Policy (EK-R) is Nordregio's main stakeholder and client and is responsible for the implementation of the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Policy and Planning and developing its thematic working groups. Nordregio's Director participates in the committee's meetings approximately four times per year.
The Nordic Council of Ministers for Business, Energy and Regional Policy (MR-NER) approves the Nordic Cooperation Programme and the budget for the regional sector, including Nordregio's basic funding. The Council normally meets once a year and is responsible for appointing members to Nordregio's Board.
Nordregio's five core overarching research areas cut across a range of different policy relevant thematic and sectoral fields. This section of the strategy outlines Nordregio's main focused thematic sub-research areas for the 2021-2024 period, highlighting:
1. Why each area is important for Nordic research and development;
2. Nordregio's existing expertise in the area;
3. Our future research priorities in the field.
Figure 3. Nordregio core research areas.
Thematic background: Just green transition refers to the transformation of our economies towards climate-neutrality, ensuring that no one is left behind (EU Green Deal). This transition lies at the very heart of the Nordic 2030 Vision, whereby the region’s economy continues to grow and to reinforce social inclusion, whilst decoupling from resource depletion and environmental degradation. As regions and cities adapt their economies to meet the ambitious climate goals in our region, some sectors and territories will be severely affected; in particular, activities with high dependence on fossil fuels, like petroleum refining, will gradually decline. Cities and regions hosting declining industries will require support to mitigate the adverse social effects of climate transitions and develop alternative economic activities. Other areas specialized in greenhouse gas-intensive industries will experience processes of technology substitution, which will lead to functional dependencies between sectors and potential cascade effects. Finally, some areas with a strong competitive position in emerging sectors will attract significant investments and should work to avoid windfall economic benefits. In sum, the just green transitions will need to be planned and monitored, so that the economic and social costs of the transition to a climate-neutral economy are minimized.
Expertise: Nordregio has built up extensive knowledge on institutional and organisational aspects of the just green transition, as well as the reconciliation of these goals with social priorities. Nordregio has produced overviews of policy instruments and “good practice” case studies of national, regional and local governance supporting innovation and entrepreneurship for green growth, and examined relevant factors hindering and promoting social justice and social inclusion. Nordregio has provided technical support to the European Commission for the preparation of the so-called Just Transition Plans for several areas in the Nordic Region. Results from these initiatives have been disseminated and discussed with national, regional and local stakeholders in the Nordics.
Future research direction: Nordregio aims to support subnational governance actors, notably regions and municipalities, in the process of transitioning towards carbon free economies in a socially fair and inclusive way. We will contribute to the development of just green transitions by producing policy-relevant knowledge at different territorial levels on key aspects of the transition, including:
Thematic background: The move towards bio and circular economies focuses on reducing waste, extending the lifespan of products, and curbing the utilization of natural resources by changing consumption patterns and encouraging industries and businesses to collaborate in sharing and reusing materials. The bio and circular economy consist of those parts of the economy that make use of renewable biological resources from land and water for the mutual benefit of business, society and nature. The Nordic Region is well endowed with natural assets and resources with the bio and circular economy providing huge potential for future socio-economic and environmentally sustainable regional development in both rural and urban areas. The transformation to a bio and circular economy demands both technical and institutional innovation to ensure that bio-based industries and businesses are contributing to environmentally and socially sustainable economic growth. This transformation can provide reduced climate emissions, new jobs and skills, and economic growth in rural and urban areas if appropriate place-based and cross-sectoral organisational structures and innovation ecosystems are cultivated and effectively implemented.
Expertise: Nordregio has conducted extensive research on the rapidly developing bio and circular economies within Nordic rural, urban and coastal settings. We are interested in examining the institutions, policies and governance processes required to facilitate the green and blue innovation at the heart of bioeconomy and circular economy activities. Our research in this area has analysed examples of existing and new industries and business built on natural materials to measure the potential impact of bio and circular economy activities on economic growth and job creation in the Nordic Region. We have also provided new knowledge and insights for policymakers and practitioners on bioeconomy and circular economy best practices related to bio and circular economy innovation ecosystems, regional and cross-border industrial symbiosis, cross-sectoral synergies and climate-based entrepreneurship and youth skills development.
Future research direction: Over the coming years, Nordregio’s research relating to the bio and circular economy initiatives in the Nordic region will aim at:
Thematic background: The notion of regional resilience is useful for analysing the preparedness and vulnerability of systems and institutions (e.g. regions, communities) to change in response to global shocks and disturbances (e.g. economic, technological, and health crises). Resilience has become increasingly relevant in a global context due to growing political and economic uncertainty and rapid technological and environmental changes. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our welfare systems, value-chains, and global governance structures (including the Nordic Co-operation).
Expertise: Nordregio has conducted several studies and activities addressing regional resilience in multiple regions within the Nordic countries, as well as in cross-border regions. Nordregio applies resilience as an analytical framework and tool to examine how robust and adaptable regional economies and societies are to shocks. Nordregio projects have applied Resilience Systems Analysis (RSA) as a methodology to investigate resilience in case study regions. RSA builds on risk analysis, but instead of focusing on risks alone, or single events, it considers a wide complexity of factors, events and actors that compose a system (e.g. a region) and their interlinkages over time.
Future research direction: Nordregio will continue addressing regional resilience in multiple regions in the Nordic countries and cross-sectorally, especially in projects focusing on climate adaptation and the circular economy. In doing so, vulnerability analysis can be developed as a diagnostic tool to support policymaking and planning. Key considerations for future work in this field at Nordregio are:
Thematic background: Digitalisation refers to the transformation of all sectors of our economy, government and society based on the large-scale adoption of existing and emerging digital technologies and the data they generate. It is a cross-cutting theme which plays out in a range of ways at the different geographical scales and in different contexts. Indeed, digitalisation is an important topic from an urban and regional development perspective, as urban, regional, and rural policy is increasingly expected to be "smart". This means incorporating technological innovations in place-based policymaking, as well as the pursuit of policies and approaches that enable places at different geographical scales to respond to the complex array of challenges and opportunities associated with digitalisation. Another important aspect is assessing and evaluating the impact of digitalisation on the automation of the Nordic labour market.
Expertise: Nordregio's research on digitalisation covers a diverse range of fields, including health and wellbeing, sustainable development, labour market effects, digitalisation among small and medium sized enterprises, fisheries, innovation, digital inclusion, and urban planning. Nordregio also has considerable expertise related to the governance of the digital transition and is committed to supporting an integrated and equitable approach to digital infrastructure provision across the region by providing up-to-date and harmonised data on Nordic access to broadband and availability of 5G services. We have also conducted wide ranging studies on the impact of automation on the Nordic labour market.
Future research direction: Looking to the future, Nordregio will focus on the following digitalisation goals:
Thematic background: The Nordic Region has long been characterized by stable labour markets and high labour market participation. With high levels of education, strong innovative capacity, export driven economies and a large welfare sector, the Nordic labour markets have been able to cope with economic shocks and challenges, such as financial crises. The economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, along with major trends such as ageing population, automation, digitalisation and the green transition, present new challenges to the Nordic countries and regions relating to the development of new skills, up-skilling, re-skilling, lifelong learning and skills governance.
Expertise: Nordregio has extensive experience in working with regional development from different perspectives, including skills and the labour market. Our expertise is in economic, demographic, and spatial perspectives on changing labour markets in the Nordic regions, digitalisation, integration, youth and gender perspectives on labour market and skills governance in regional skills ecosystems. Nordregio competences comprise working with both quantitative spatial data and qualitative data in different territorial contexts; urban, rural, remote and cross-border regions.
Future research direction: Digitalisation and the green transition are expected to have a large influence on the Nordic labour markets and the aim is to produce knowledge that can inform policymakers and planners. Remote working is expected to have implications for how work is organised and for spatial patterns of workplaces, housing and welfare services. The green transition will require not only innovative capacity but also new skills. In the coming period, Nordregio’s research in this area will focus on:
Thematic background: Marine-based or marine related activities and sectors, often coined the blue economy, play a pivotal role in the Nordic Region. The sustainable blue bioeconomy covers a range of areas, including food provision, transports, coastal tourism and recreation, renewable energy production and biotechnology. The sustainable use and governance of the seas will be a key part of the Nordic green transition, the promotion of resilient coastal Nordic economies and citizen well-being. However, with increasing human-related pressures on the seas, marine and coastal ecosystems are under stress, and conflicts between sectors competing for blue space need to be resolved. The Nordic coastal regions, especially the Arctic, will also be affected by climate change with deep implications for the natural environment and coastal societies. Harnessing the full potential of the Nordic blue economy means promoting the sustainable growth of maritime sectors, the blue bioeconomy and innovation, while safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services that seas provide, as well as tackling the effects of climate change.
Expertise: Nordregio’s marine expertise includes blue governance and the dynamics of the blue economy in the Nordics, Baltic Sea Region and beyond. In this field, we have conducted wide ranging research in relation to maritime spatial planning and land-sea interactions, cross-border collaboration and stakeholder involvement, sectoral synergies and conflicts, sustainable bioeconomy opportunities and the economic mapping of value creation of different sea-use sectors.
Thematic background: Scientific research and innovation remain the hallmarks of the modern knowledge-based economy. As innovation is becoming increasingly regional, the focus on place-based policies has emerged as a priority within the European Union and in Nordic countries at large. Policies, such as smart specialisation strategies, are connecting regional development and innovation closer together. Playing on regional strengths, Nordic regions are encouraged to trace out new areas of innovative and economic activity by combining areas of regional expertise and competitive advantage. This requires enhanced levels of good governance. Partnerships, and triple-, quadruple and quintuple helices are key approaches to ensure regional innovation and development policies that meet the needs of regional businesses and industries. The Nordic Vision 2030 clearly states the importance of retaining Nordic competitiveness as part of being the most sustainable region in the world. Innovation is key to fulfilling this vision.
Expertise: Nordregio has extensive experience working with regional innovation policy analyses and possesses considerable expertise in regional development and governance analyses. Combined, these competences provide a solid foundation for developing Nordic regional innovation systems theory. Nordregio also has the competitive advantage of possessing the necessary data and tools to continuously improve our qualitative and qualitative research methods in this field (e.g., surveys, statistics).
Future research direction: Nordregio will continue to work directly key stakeholders, to assist in the development of effective regional innovation strategies that can help sustain the Nordic Region’s position as a European innovation leader. To contribute to Nordic learning across regions and Nordic added value, Nordregio will:
Thematic background: Mobility refers to movement and the ability for people and goods to relocate from one place to another. Nordic free movement is a cornerstone of Nordic cooperation and is laid down in Nordic agreements, such as the Passport Union and the Common Labour Market. In the Vision 2030, the aim is to make the Nordic Region the world’s most integrated region by 2030. The concept of mobility is closely connected to the concept of accessibility which describes the geographical and physical parameters that determine the possibilities for people to reach a desired opportunity, activity or service. To enhance regional development and achieve the Agenda 2030 goals, it is important to further understand the spatial and temporal dimensions of mobility and accessibility throughout the Nordic Region.
Expertise: Nordregio has a long experience of working with different perspectives on regional development, where mobility and accessibility are key aspects. This competence comprises working with different territorial contexts; urban, rural, cross-regional, and cross-national. Nordregio’s expertise includes analysing quantitative spatial data on patterns of mobility and accessibility and qualitative data, including institutional factors enabling and hampering mobility and accessibility within the Nordic Region. Examples of tools for studying these processes include comparative institutional analysis, GIS-based and other quantitative analysis.
Maximised Mobility and Accessibility of Services in Regions Affected by Demographic Change (2017-2020)
Healthcare and Care through Distance Spanning Solutions (2018-2021)
Transport for Regional Integration in Border Regions (TRIBORDER)
Regional Disparities and the Geography of Service within the Nordic countries (2019-2020)
Closed borders and divided communities: Status report lessons from Covid-19 in cross-border areas
Future research direction: Nordregio will continue to contribute to knowledge on spatial patterns of Nordic mobility and accessibility and to inform and contribute to policymaking and spatial planning. The focus of the area is to collect data and analyse Nordic mobility and accessibility for different kinds of amenities and services. During the 2021-2024 period, our research will focus on:
Thematic background: The concept of wellbeing is used to measure life satisfaction levels based on health and socioeconomic dimensions beyond GDP and other more traditional economic indicators. While Nordic countries perform well in many areas of wellbeing, there are also inequalities within and between the countries, which challenge the core characteristics of the Nordic welfare model, such as a high level of equality and trust. Increasing digitalisation and the use of distance-spanning technologies within healthcare and social care has, however, large potential to overcome some of the regional inequalities if existing digital divides are addressed.
Expertise: Nordregio has substantial expertise in analysing traditional welfare indicators in the Nordic Region. Over recent years, we have built up our knowledge base in the themes of health, wellbeing and the use of distance-spanning technologies in healthcare and social care. Recent Nordregio research within this thematic area has analysed the use of digital solutions within healthcare and social care and its impacts on regional development and economic, social, and environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on sparsely populated areas of the Nordic Region.
Future research direction: Over the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio will contribute to the goal of "a socially sustainable Nordic Region" that "contributes to good, equal and safe health and welfare for all", in line with the Nordic Council of Minister’s Vision 2030. Future work in relation to wellbeing and health will focus on the following:
Thematic background: Social inclusion in society is about enhancing every person’s chance to live a full life. Social inequalities, related to issues like public health, political participation, long-term unemployment, good housing conditions and schooling access, develop along patterns of socioeconomic differences, gender gaps and residential segregation. While the Nordic welfare system is well-equipped to balance inequalities, it struggles to fully include the more disadvantaged share of the population and improve their life chances. Successful social and labour market integration of immigrant men and women is of utmost importance and the need for effective policies and practices have become politically and economically prominent. Spatial segregation between social groups is also a great challenge for equality in Nordic societies, and has become even more urgent to address following the Covid-19 pandemic that has struck ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups hard.
Expertise: Nordregio has built up extensive knowledge on migration as well as social cohesion and community engagement. In close collaboration with the Nordic Integration Program (www.integrationnorden.org), numerous quantitative reports, case studies, and policy briefs have been produced, shared and discussed with Nordic officials working with social and economic integration of refugees and migrants (especially women and youth) at national and local levels. Nordregio's knowledge in harmonising data, to make indicators comparable across national borders and over time, can assist local, regional and national authorities to make informed decisions about migration and integration of individuals from EU and non-EU countries. Correct and contemporary data offer a possibility to compare with and learn from the situation in other parts of the Nordic Region and allow for a balanced perspective on migration. Furthermore, Nordregio has in-depth knowledge and expertise in policy analysis concerning housing policy, area-based initiatives, segregation, and the role of civil society for successful integration.
Future research direction: Importantly, and in line with the Nordic Vision 2030, Nordregio shall contribute to an inclusive, equal and cohesive Nordic Region. We aim to contribute to the development of new knowledge on social inclusion by continuing our collaboration with NVC/Nordic Integration Program and produce and disseminate research:
Communication and stakeholder engagement are integrated parts of Nordregio's projects.
Our communication and engagement activities aim to fulfill Nordregio's mission as an active knowledge-broker between practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. In practice, this requires planning activities with project teams and stakeholders that enhance impact, policy relevance and engagement, so that we make sure we contribute towards the targets In the Nordic Vision and create Nordic added value. New tools to assess research impact and communicate results to increase usability for key target groups will be tested during 2021-2024. The cross-sectoral nature of the Nordic Vision and Agenda 2030 also calls for increased focus on cross-sectoral approaches in our communication work.
Nordregio is committed to communicating and discussing our research results with all relevant stakeholders and target groups including:
Nordregio disseminates key research findings widely to a range of different audiences using the most up to date publication tools and media channels, including:
Over the coming programme period, Nordregio will continue to use innovative methods for effectively disseminating research findings to key stakeholder groups. Our main priorities are:
Nordregio offers an international and multi-disciplinary research environment with some 50 members of staff from the Nordic Region and around the globe. Nordregio's management team consists of a Director, Research Director, Head of Communications, Head of GIS, and Head of Administration. The core research team is made up of Senior Research Fellows, Senior Research Advisors, Research Fellows, Junior Research Fellows and Senior and Junior Cartographers/GIS Analysts. Nordregio's research team is supported by the Director and the Research Director in the development of research projects. Maps & data provided by the GIS department are important aspects in many of Nordregios projects. Dissemination activities and stakeholder networks are coordinated by the communication team, and the administrative unit is responsible for accounting, financial reporting, HR, IT, and other administrative tasks.
Nordregio is a flat organisation and work is carried out in project teams made up of junior and senior researchers, along with GIS experts and communications specialists. Teamwork is a particularly important aspect of Nordregio's research activities and much of the responsibility for projects is delegated to project teams. Project team members are selected based on their expertise in relation to the task at hand, so the main goals and objectives of the project are met. Project leaders are assigned to each team and they are responsible for managing the project and effectively delegating work amongst team members to ensure the smooth flow of the project and that deadlines are met. Nordregio has a professional approach where the institution and the employees, are organised in a strategic, efficient, and inclusive way to ensure efficient project organisation, and implementation. This is formalized using the Nordregio Project Management Model that contains, among other things, descriptions of roles and responsibilities, rules and other aids used for running a project.
The Nordregio Board of Directors is responsible for long-term strategic planning. They consist of one member from each of the five Nordic states (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) plus one observer from each of the three autonomous territories (the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland), as well as a member elected by the staff of Nordregio.
Nordregio is recognized and respected as a leading Nordic research institution within the broad research fields of urban and regional development studies. Working at Nordregio means being part of a truly international research environment focusing on sustainable regional development in the Nordic Region and beyond. Our researchers conduct applied and policy-oriented research and participate in and lead Nordic and international research projects and programmes. Nordregio offers significant career development potential in terms of enhancing competencies through applied and policy-relevant research, achieving an international network of contacts, as well as getting extensive experience in team and project management. Nordregio also offers rich opportunities to collaborate with regional and municipal stakeholders in the Nordic Region.
Nordregio offers significant personal and professional development and is a stepping stone for future attractive employment. We provide the opportunity for employees to develop their knowledge and research competences through active participation in a range of diverse projects in different policy areas. We also offer employees the chance to study for a PhD and provide additional support and training in the form of internal and external courses on research methods and article writing. Development talks, where individual goals are set and discussed, are held annually with all employees and viewed as essential for positive career development. Nordregio is also a popular destination for academics and practitioners wishing to develop and refine their scientific research skills. Guest researcher positions are available for established academics and internships are provided for junior researchers looking to develop their work experience and professional portfolios.
Nordregio's office is situated in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, on the beautiful and picturesque island of Skeppsholmen. The premises are based in a house built in 1876 that was formerly the home of the Royal Naval Academy. Nordregio is acknowledged as a popular and attractive working place. The goal of Nordregio's HR policy is to create favourable working conditions through the development of a good physical and social working environment. We conduct annual working environment surveys to be able to identify areas for improvement. Nordregio has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment. We also recognize the importance of good physical health and, therefore, we offer regular health care examinations, weekly massages, and funding for physical recreation, including gym cards. Working at Nordregio can at times involve a high workload and therefore work with stress prevention and other aspects of creating a good working environment are important at Nordregio. We believe that working at Nordregio should be stimulating and give room for constant learning.
Nordregio shall be an equal workplace where all employees regardless of age, gender, religious or other beliefs, ethnicity, disabilities, transgender identity, or sexual orientation are able to thrive and able to progress professionally. Nordregio shall in planning and decision making consider the effects on equality and diversity. The gender equality work is also an important part of the systematic efforts to improve Nordregio's work environment and should be included as an integrated and natural part of the daily operations. The work to promote equal rights and opportunities shall take place in cooperation with the employees. Since a lot of Nordregio's research is based on comparative international studies, it is necessary to have staff with different national backgrounds. Ethnical and cultural diversity is an asset for Nordregio and a part of the institute's success. The international environment is also contributing to Nordregio's attractiveness as a workplace.
Cooperation is an important part of creating the conditions for an active and collaborative working environment. Nordregio's cooperation agreement signed by the Director and the Local Union Club is designed to provide a structure for open dialogue between employer and employees. Cooperation helps build on mutual respect, openness, involvement, proactivity, and efficiency, which requires effective communication on all levels. Staff participation is an important aspect in the management of Nordregio and this is achieved through cooperation meetings with the Local Union Club, biweekly staff meetings and staff representation on the board.
John Moodie, Senior Research Fellow
Rolf Elmér, Director
Karen Refsgaard, Research Director / Deputy Director
Åsa Ström Hildestrand, Head of Communications and Outreach
Layout: Marija Zelenkauskė, Communications Assistant
Cover picture: Johanna Feuk Westhoff, Senior Communications Adviser
© Nordregio 2021