Brain drain and talents a challenge for the coherence of the Baltic Sea Region

For the period 2008 – 2013 the divide between the western and the eastern part of the Baltic Sea Region has widened in terms of brain drain. This is a key conclusion based on a compilation of data from the World Economic Forums annual global competitiveness reports for the period.

The data compilation is part of a study performed by ScanBalt® fmba for the ONE BSR project, co-financed by the Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013.

The global rankings of Germany, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands (part of ScanBalt BioRegion), Norway and Sweden all stay within the global top 30 with Germany, Netherlands and Sweden improving their rankings from the beginning to the end of the period. The exception in the western part is Denmark which has taken a dip from being ranked 17 at the beginning of the period to being ranked 34 at the end.

In the eastern part of the Baltic Sea Region the situation appears dramatic. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia all have experienced significant decreases in their global rankings. The highest ranked at the end of the period is Estonia with a position as no. 78.

Figure: Brain drain rankings of countries according to the annual World Economic Forums “The Global Competitiveness Report”. A high number indicates a low ranking among the total number of countries.


Peter Frank, General Secretary of ScanBalt says:

“The widening imbalance within the Baltic Sea Region causes concerns for the coherence of the region as talent is a very competitive issue. However, one may be optimistic that in a post-crisis period the eastern parts experience high growth rates which can be a driver to reduce the differences. Still it must be an absolute top priority for the region to implement trans-national collaborative measures to combat brain drain.”

A high level advisory board is working on recommendations for talent attraction and talent retention, especially such which can be applied in a trans-national setting within the Baltic Sea Region.

The initial data compilation will during 2014 be supplemented with other data which shall assist in priority setting and decision making for the Baltic Sea Region on talents and related issues.

Home by the common lake: Meet four talents from the Baltic Sea Region

Who are the talented students and professionals that the universities, companies and cities around the Baltic Sea Region are trying to attract and keep in the area? The ONE Baltic Sea Region (ONE BSR) –project invited four talents from and outside the region to Gdansk last October to talk about their experiences in studying and working in the area. The latest ONE BSR –film tells about the dreams and motivations of these young professionals.

– I wanted to become a trainer of lions or tigers to work in a circus, says Anna, originally from Russia. Instead of working for the circus, Anna holds a PhD in Biotechnology, and currently works as a post-doctoral researcher in the Division of Pharmacology at Uppsala University in Sweden, with her Swedish Institute scholarship.

– My dream is that in the future I’m working with something that I really love, says Timo from Finland, who has studied European Urban Cultures at several universities in the Baltic Sea region and abroad. Recently his Helsinki blog was selected among the best city blogs in the world by The Guardian.

– For me a talented person is someone who does ordinary things extraordinary well, says Marvin from Uganda. Currently Marvin studies Public Health in Sweden at Lund University with his Swedish Institute Scholarship, and continues into his seventh year advocating for Youth Sexuality, Life Skills, and Reproductive Health education in Uganda.

– I see the Baltic Sea as a big lake, with different countries around it, but in the end they are all neighbours living next to each other with a lot of common history and traditions. Baltic Sea means home to me, says Polish Maciek. He studied law in Poland and in Germany with his German Academic Exchange (DAAD) scholarship, interned with the Embassy of Poland in Sweden and is now a lawyer in Gdansk.

Watch the film on Vimeo/YouTube:



The ONE BSR project ( is an umbrella project, within the framework of the Baltic Sea Region Programme and the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, for branding the Baltic Sea Region, with which various stakeholders can get attached. It aims to produce elements for the Baltic Sea Region image and identity.

Together against talent retention challenges in the Baltic Sea Region

The first Advisory Board meeting agreed on the need of collaboration in attracting and keeping foreign talents in the region.

– It is important that the countries around the Baltic Sea Region collaborate because we need to expand the pool of talents. Otherwise we will lag behind, says one of the Advisory Board members, Tine Horwitz, CEO of a Danish Consortium for Global Talent.

The new ways of collaboration and common actions for talent retention challenges were discussed during the first Advisory Board meeting of ONE BSR’s Talent Retention -work package that took place on the 4th of November 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Advisory Board consists of stakeholders involved in the talent retention business at the universities, governments and municipalities around the Baltic Sea Region as well as in the business and non-profit sector.

The Advisory Board follows up the work of the Talent Retention -work package and identifies arenas for wider discussion and dissemination of its results.

– The matter of talent retention is increasingly important, says Camilla Wristel from Swedish Institute, leader of the Talent Retention –work package.

– The members of the Advisory Board are influential policy-makers in these issues in their own countries and institutions, and they will ensure that what we are doing is of interest in a wider BSR context.

Common campaigns and spokespersons to market the benefits of the region

Tine_Horwitz_150x– The first meeting went well, there was a common understanding of the situation the Baltic Sea region is facing, says Advisory Board Member Tine Horwitz.

As we are not the first choice for foreigners, we need to find new ways to make extra noise to attract them to this part of the world and to keep them here. If we are able to exchange talents within the region, we would all benefit from their competences.

According to Horwitz, extra noise can be created by finding common pull-factors to make the region more attractive and by marketing the region with the right values.

– We should run a common campaign on all the benefits of working and living in the region, and make some well-known people tell their story about living and working here.

On the agenda of the first meeting were the three Talent Retention cases from Helsinki, Tallinn and Stockholm. In addition, the first draft of the Situation analysis of the different talent retention challenges in the region was presented in the meeting.

The Advisory Board has the following members:

  • Mr Mait Palts, Director of Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Estonia
  • Ms Annika Forsander, Director of Immigration Affairs, City of Helsinki, Finland
  • Mr Wolfgang Blank, CEO of BioCon Valley GmbH, Germany
  • Dr Daumantas Matulis from the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Vilnius, Latvia
  • Ms Krystyana Wroblewska, Head of Department of International Cooperation, Marshal Office of Pomorskie, Gdansk, Poland
  • Ms Ylva Williams, CEO of Stockholm Science City Foundation, Sweden
  • Ms Sarah Gade Hansen, Chief Consultant of Danks Industri, Denmark
  • Ms Tine Horwitz, CEO of Consortium for Global Talent, Denmark


The Advisory Board continues its work two further meetings in 2014.

For further information, please contact
Camilla Wristel
Swedish Institute, Baltic Sea Unit

Join us in the BSR Identity and Branding conference

On 9 December, the Baltic Sea Region identity, branding and communcations will be discussed on a networking conference and kick-off -event of the HA Promo in Helsinki, Finland.

The countries and regions around the Baltic Sea Region have come closer during recent years. Is it only due to a community of interests or do we share more than that – values, norms and a “we-feeling”? If so, is it possible to boost joint promotion and regional identity building in the Baltic Sea Region?

This event marks the Kick-Off of HA Promo and will bring together regional stakeholders and organisations as well as actors in the branding, promotion and communication areas to discuss “horizontal” aspects of regional cooperation. We will also present the many different events happening during the Turku Baltic Sea Days in June 2014.

During a seminar on Identity of the Baltic Sea Region, a new report “Facets of Identity?” will be presented, looking at the situation from both within and outside the Baltic Sea Region. A panel consisting of representatives from the fields of branding, culture and communication as well as authors and researchers will give input to the topic of identity, followed by a Q&A with the audience.


10.00 – 10.30 Registration & Coffee

10.30 – 11.00 Launch of Turku Baltic Sea Days 1 – 6 June 2014
The various actors of Turku Baltic Sea Days 2014 will present the programme of the week long activities. Representatives from Baltic Development Forum, European Commission DG Regio, City of Turku, Council of Baltic Sea States, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Nordic Investment Bank will participate.

11.00 – 13.00 Seminar on Identity of the Baltic Sea Region
The seminar will present a new report “Facets of Identity?” looking at the situation from both within and outside the Baltic Sea Region. A panel consisting representatives from the fields of branding, culture and communication as well as authors and researchers will give input to the topic of identity, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 16.00 Parallel workshops (closed meetings)

– Communication expert meeting & NewsWave
The Communication Expert meeting will give inputs and recommendations for using new channels/methods to disseminate project stories and to promote the EUSBSR.

– Steering Group for HA Promo Identity
BDF and Baltic Metropoles have taken responsibility for the implementation of activities within the Horizontal Action. Relevant stakeholders of the EUSBSR will be invited to this 1st Steering Group meeting, to discuss the progress of the HA and relation to /synergy with other areas of the EU

16.00 End of Day Coffee & Cake

Register to the event at

For further information, please visit


Over the Language Barrier into the Finnish Labour Market

Experts in the Helsinki metropolitan region created solutions for promoting the Finnish language learning and employability of highly educated immigrants.

For international talent finding employment in Finland is often hindered by a lack of Finnish language skills. Many highly educated immigrants are lost to the Finnish labour market as they must leave the country after being unable to find employment.

The project coordinated by the University of Helsinki gathered representatives of the Helsinki region education institutions, municipalities, public administration, organisations, and industry and commerce to tackle together the problem posed by the lack of language skills in highly educated immigrants. The policy recommendations for improving the Finnish language learning of highly educated immigrants were formed in these workshops during spring 2013.

According to the recommendations, Finnish language studies should be developed into a more working life oriented direction. Certain competence level in Finnish within degree requirements should be considered, especially within the fields of welfare and health. Moreover, information and services should be created to support employers in recruiting highly educated immigrants.

Achieving these goals require commitment to constant and well-coordinated cooperation in the Helsinki metropolitan region. One of the recommendations proposes the establishment of HERIEC (Helsinki Region Immigrant Employment Council) with the purpose of bringing together stakeholders in order to improve the employment of highly educated immigrants within the region.

Read the policy recommendations: