How can talents increase the competitiveness of the Baltic Sea Region?

Almedalen_375The global competition for talent is poised to become one of the most defining economic issue of the 21st century. On 30 June, the Swedish Institute arranged together with the Baltic Development Forum a seminar in Almedalen, Visby, Sweden, on the theme How access to key skills can increase the Baltic Sea Region competitiveness.

The focus of the seminar was the need for cities and regions in the area to become better at retaining talent – the key skills – for the region to become more competitive.

In the panel discussion, people involved in talent mobility issues shared their experience and expertise on this topic. What is needed to attract and keep both international and local talents in the region, and how the access to talents is linked the region’s ability to attract investment?

The panel was attended by Torgil Lenning (moderator), CEO, Potentialpark, Christina Mattisson, Regional Councillor, Region Blekinge, Marcus Andersson, Chief operating officer, Tendensor, Mantas Zalatorius, Area Manager Central and Eastern Europe, Business Sweden, Tove Lifvendahl, political Editor in Chief, Svenska Dagbladet.

Tool-kit_Cover_275xThe seminar also highlighted the recently published Toolkit on talent retention: activities and services for welcoming, receiving and integrating talents in cities and regions in the Baltic Sea Region.

The purpose of the Toolkit is to encourage local and regional public sector actors to enhance their efforts to welcome, receive and integrate international talents, as well as provide them with concrete tools to do so. It also aims to increase multi-stakeholders efforts to retain local talents.

The Toolkit starts with a strategic roadmap for planning and implementing talent retention efforts. The roadmap is followed by the main best practices identified in the Situation Analysis: Talent retention policy and initiatives in the Baltic Sea Region.

The Toolkit presents the tools, services and activities, their purposes, main target groups, success factors and examples. It also brings up the different needs of the different target groups, such as expats or students.

In its final chapter, the Toolkit discusses ideas for future opportunities for transnational Baltic Sea Region collaboration in talent retention that have emerged in work leading up to the Toolkit.

The Toolkit is one of the main publications of the Talent retention –work package of the One Baltic Sea Region (One BSR) project, and it has been commissioned by the Swedish Institute together with Tendensor.

The Toolkit is available to download HERE.

Photo: Camilla Wristel, Swedish Institute

Business Plan for Investment Promotion Agencies launched

IPA-business-plan-kansiThe Baltic Sea Region is still one of the economically most competitive regions in the world. However, foreign companies are of significant importance for the national and regional economy in terms of employment, creation of value, and innovation, as they generally perform better than domestically-owned companies.

This is one of the main conclusions of the Business Plan for Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) in the Baltic Sea Region, published by the Baltic Development Forum, and launched at the Baltic Sea Region Investment Promotion Agencies Forum 2014  in Helsinki on 9-10 June. Over 100 professionals working in the field of inward investment promotion from the Baltic Sea Region and beyond attended the event; hence, it was a suitable occasion to introduce the steps forward – the Business Plan.

For the years ahead, the ambition is to take the IPAs cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region to the next level. For this purpose, the Business Plan identifies future cooperation activities and the operating model. With a developed collaboration strategy and a clear action plan, the Business Plan is a necessary tool, if the IPAs in the BSR network want to collaborate in the coming years.

The Business Plan is one of the main outcomes of the Investment Promotion -work package of the ONE BSR -project. It brings together the results of the IPA-meetings and cooperation carried out as part of the project, and suggests to continue the collaboration in the future e.g. with regular network meetings for the IPAs.

Download the Business Plan here

IPA Forum 2014 – Towards a more competitive Baltic Sea Region

SS_20140609_IPA_Forum_2014_3293_Seppo-Samuli-GHP_250xOver 100 inward investment promotion professionals from around the Baltic Sea Region gathered together in IPA Forum 2014 held on 9-10 June in Helsinki, Finland. The forum focused on strengthening interaction and cooperation within the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Investment Promotion Agencies (IPA) by sharing best practices, networking and creating synergies between participating organizations.

The conference provided insightful keynotes on the economic state of the Baltic Sea Region, and generated discussion about the possibilities for regional cooperation. Introduction of the latest State of the Region Report  by Baltic Development Forum and the presentation of FDI trends in the region provided valuable input for further discussions on how to deal with a changing global economic environment in the field of investment attraction.SS_20140609_IPA_Forum_2014_2665_Seppo-Samuli-GHP_250x

Topics on megatrends and their implications to the work of IPAs, insights into corporate perspective on BSR as an investment location and lead generation and pipeline management, gave much food for thought.


The presentations by the keynote speakers of the first day are available here :

New ideas discussed in thematic workshopsSS_20140610_IPA_Forum_2014_3129_Seppo-Samuli_GHP_250x

IPA Forum’s second day provided an opportunity to deepen the discussions on what Baltic Sea Region as a whole has to offer and what collective activities could be done to enhance the competitiveness of the region.

The forum participants discussed the issues within 5 thematic workshop tracks:

  •  Attracting ICT investments in the new era of ICT
  •  Attracting Growth Capital investments
  •  The innovation game – competing for R&D investments
  •  What does success mean in investment promotion? – Measuring & reporting FDI, it’s impact and the contribution of IPAs
  •  Marketing as a tool in investment attraction

Workshops encouraged participants to identify and discuss areas of concrete collaboration possibilities, and laid the ground for many interesting ideas, such as establishing a standardized way for measuring and tracking FDI results with the help of a jointly funded database, and organizing an annual IPA conference for continued cooperation and information sharing.

Closer cooperation between the IPAs wanted

SS_20140610_IPA_Forum_2014_3155_Seppo-Samuli_GHP_250xAccording to the feedback, over 70% considered networking and meeting colleagues already alone a strong reason to participate in the event. The overall positive feedback from the IPA Forum 2014 signals that a direction towards a more globally competitive Baltic Sea Region through cooperation and joined forces is a welcomed idea. Whether joining forces means a collective database, an annual industry event, common sales arguments or something entirely different, awaits for further discussions.

All the materials from the event are available for download here.

See photos from the event at

IPA Forum 2014 was organized as part of the ONE BSR –project.

Photos: Seppo Samuli / Greater Helsinki Promotion

Art, Architecture and Design Abound in the Baltic Sea Region

Design from Helsinki, museums in St. Petersburg, Art Nouveau in Riga, Hamburg’s Hafencity and Warsaw’s skyline continue to be enhanced by fresh attractions, new museums and urban projects that point to the future and position the region as a modern, exciting and forward thinking Northern and North-Eastern European destination.

See what these Baltic Sea Region cities have to offer this summer for art and design lovers.


Minna_Parikka_credit Musta&Valkoinen.jpg_WDCHELSINKI2012_250xHELSINKI – Design Capital

The poster child for minimalistic, functional and clean design, Helsinki was voted World Design Capital in 2012 and is “the” destination for high-end fashions and fabrics, home accessories, furniture and jewelry. The city’s Design District boasts some 200 attractions from shops to galleries, studios to museums which can be explored on your own or by joining an English language two-hour Design Walk.

Helsinki never stands still: visitors can witness the transformation of the industrial and harbor areas at Kalasatama, Jätkäsaari and Kruunuvuorenranta into new attractive districts.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014, the Helsinki Design Week on 4-14 September, features exhibitions, seminars, fashion shows, parties and open studios.

Until 7 September, 2014, the exhibition Kiasma+Marimekko=Together presents top names of Finnish contemporary art, design and fashion at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

For design aficionados the centennial jubilee exhibition honoring Ilmari Tapiovaara at the Design Museum is a “must” from 6 June to 21 September.


ST. PETERSBURG – Art and More Art

St. Petersburg’s art galleries and museums are world renowned and include “must-visits” like the State Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s largest museums with some 3 million items, and the State Russian Museum, which features Russian art.

However, the city’s smaller and lesser-known museums should not be ignored. They include the Museum of Glass Art in the Orangery of Yelagin Palace and the little-known Stieglitz Applied Arts Museum with some 30,000 exhibits including decorative arts and crafts, furniture, porcelain, chandeliers, metalwork, bass relieves and more.

Art events in 2014 include the 20th European Biennial of Contemporary Art MANIFESTA 10 from 28 June until 10 October. Hosted this year by the State Hermitage Museum, the event was initiated in response to the new social, cultural and political reality after the Cold War. 2014’s emphasis will be on 25 years of changing realities and experiences as they transformed within this new global world order. Exhibitions are scheduled in some of St. Petersburg most prestigious museums and venues.


RIGA – Capital of Culture 2014

Riga_LIVE RīGA-Ikars Kublins-250xIn 2014, a trip to the Baltic Sea Region must include Riga. The 2014 European Capital of Culture is boasting a full calendar of international-scale events, including amber exhibitions, opera and music festivals.

Riga’s Old Town already is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and takes visitors back a century with its 800+ restored Art Nouveau buildings; the biggest collection of its kind in Europe.

The city’s Kalnciema Quarter, with its just recently renovated 19th century wooden buildings, has a historic atmosphere while at the same time featuring Latvian and European design venues, fairs, and arts and crafts shops in the quarter’s court-yards. On Saturdays residents frequent the traditional market, and Tuesday’s open-air concerts feature up-and-coming musicians from Latvia.

Riga’s new cultural highlights include the National Library of Latvia, which will open in 2014 on the left bank of the Daugava river. The new architectural symbol for Latvia was designed by Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts, and with its glassy slopes mirrors the silhouette of Riga’s Old Town.


HAMBURG – Urban Development + Design

Hamburg-marketing-hafen_imagefoto-de_250xHamburg’s former docklands-turned urban hotspot HafenCity district continues to expand further into the harbor area and is now offering even more attractions for design and architecture aficionados. Stunning contemporary architecture, high-end retail and gastronomy already make the district a must-visit.

The city’s new Herzog & de Meuron-designed Elbe Philharmonic Hall will open in 2017. Situated on a former cocoa storage hall and appearing like a tall ship sailing up the Elbe river, it already is the city’s new symbol and most prestigious cultural development site in Europe.

Open since November 2013, the permanent IF Design Exhibition in HafenCity shows the world’s best in communication, product and packaging design.

Set to open in late 2014, Hamburg’s Designxport Design Center in HafenCity will be the central networking and communication site for the city’s 14,000 designers, academia, culture and technology. Design exhibitions and a “made in Hamburg” retail space will make the space attractive for visitors.


WARSAW – New Museums, Changing Cityscape

After its destruction in WWII and the Cold War, Warsaw is now well on its way to be an exciting European capital and major tourism destination. The city knows how to enjoy itself, and newly restored districts feature top hospitality, retail and culture. Museums keep opening in Warsaw, focusing on history, art and music.

The newest addition is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Designed by Finnish architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki and Polish Kuryłowicz & Associates, the symbolic building already opened to the public in April 2013. The permanent exhibition covering 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland is scheduled to open on 28 October.

With its geometric simplicity and wood, stone, copper and brass materials, the museum’s exterior reflects the nearby Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, while it’s open interior cuts across its entire length with an illuminated, sculptural space created by two waved walls.

Locatedzlota_architecture_a_0_157x in the trendy Soho Factory, Warsaw’s new Neon Museum displays Polish neon signs from the communist era.

Since 2013, Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind‘s Złota44 Tower residential building rises high above Warsaw’s cityscape and features 54 floors and a sleek steel and glass design.

Photos: Minna Parikka / WDC Helsinki 2012, LIVE RīGA / Ikars Kublins, Hamburg Marketing GmbH, Zlota44

Talent retention situation analysis: what are the current policies and best practices in the Baltic Sea Region?

Situation-analysis_225xTalent retention is an issue that will become increasingly important in the future. The population of Europe is aging and more talents from non-European countries will be recruited.

A recent study on the talent retention in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) shows both challenges and opportunities as well as policy and best practice recommendations.

Talent retention policy and initiatives in the Baltic Sea Region: A situation analysis” concentrates on how capital cities and regions, as well as major cities such as Hamburg, Saint Petersburg and Gdansk, are working with talent retention. The best practices chosen focus on methods for receiving talents (the so-called ‘soft landing’), providing professional and social integration, retaining local talent and encouraging talents to return to the region.

“The biggest challenge while performing the analysis was finding information on national policies and work permit regulations. This means it is almost certain to be an issue for talents as well”, comments Marcus Andersson from Tendensor, a consulting firm who carried out the study for the One BSR –project.

“How can a foreign job seeker find relevant information? There are also many exceptions to the various rules, and that is discouraging and makes the system less transparent.”

Major findings

The study concludes that Denmark and Finland are making the most effort in the field of talent retention. At present, these countries have the most experience in the region when it comes to creating best practices.

In Germany, the main focus is on retaining local talent. In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden there are very few initiatives targeting international talents.

In general, very little is being done in the BSR to retain and re-attract highly skilled local talents, despite the fact that many young professionals are leaving the region.

Fighting with bureaucracy and local language

National policies and laws are the cause of many challenges. In many countries in the region, international students are not entitled to a residence permit that would allow them to look for a job after completing their university education. Many talents that come to the Baltic Sea Region to work also have difficulty obtaining a work permit.

“When fighting bureaucracy is the very first thing you need to do when you arrive, you feel less welcome and less inclined to stay in your new country,” Andersson says.

When it comes to learning the local language, it is important to target international students early on and make language courses more accessible. Information about how important it is to speak Finnish in order to find a job in Finland, for example, needs to be more readily available. This would also help countries in the Baltic Sea Region create more realistic expectations.

Talent retention issues have in the past been a part of many different areas, such as education, labour market and integration policy.  This made it more difficult for key stakeholders to focus on working with talents.

“But we are now seeing new developments in talent retention field”, Andersson says.

“A talent manager, working for a city or a region, might become a more common profession in the future. Copenhagen Capacity, an organisation working with business development, is a good example, because they are now working specifically with talent attraction.”

Examples of best practices

The most important part of the study is the description of concrete actions, innovative projects and best practices.

International House Copenhagen, inaugurated in 2013, is a collaboration between the Danish government, City of Copenhagen, several Danish universities and private companies. It is a ‘one-stop shop’ for international newcomers which provides assistance with official paperwork, advice on job hunting. It introduces the new citizens with life in Denmark, provides help with creating social network, writing a CV or finding work for accompanying spouses.

Finnish universities and regions have for the past few years been designing and implementing methods for better integration of international students into Finnish society. There are mentoring programmes that connect students with businesses and entrepreneurs while others recruit students as coaches for Finnish companies that wish to operate internationally. Family Friendship programmes aim to introduce the international students to Finnish culture and lifestyle through contacts with local families, also promoting intercultural communication.

Talent retention in Sweden

Internationally, Sweden has a strong and well-known brand, making it comparatively easy to attracttalent.

“Sweden has very few initiatives that go beyond attracting talent”, Andersson says.

“In Scandinavia, Finland and Denmark have probably made more progress in attracting and retaining talent because they do not have the advantage of the Swedish brand and need to make more effort.”

Two good examples from Sweden that Andersson mentions are the Global Expat Centre Stockholm, a non-profit organisation that provides post-relocation services to newly arrived talents and their families, and Swedish Institute’s work with talent mobility.

Andersson also believes that Sweden needs to invest more efforts into policy changes that will help retain international students.

“We have made the foreign students’ situation extra difficult”, he says.

“There are tuition fees for students from outside the European Economic Area. Besides, they cannot stay in Sweden and look for a job after they graduate. For many students it can be a decisive factor when they choose a country to study in. Sweden could be in for a shock, if we do not take action soon.”

Mobility versus retention

“Mobility is really the key issue here, and it includes talent retention”, Andersson says.

“Integration is important for mobility, since there are scientific studies showing that the better you’re received during your first international experience, the more mobile you become later.”

Having a good experience of working and living in another country can boost the talents’ self-confidence, meaning that better integration leads to increased mobility. It is possible that we simply need to aim to retain professionals longer than is the case today. When international talents leave the region, we should see them as ambassadors and alumni, instead of lost opportunities. If they have had a good experience in the BSR, perhaps they will be back after 10 years, bringing new knowledge and expertise.

Target groups and challenges

The major goal of the Talent Retention work package of the One BSR -project is to promote the image of the Baltic Sea Region as an attractive area for skilled professionals. This is achieved by engaging the key stakeholders to work towards the best practices and policies necessary to retain talent in the region.

The situation analysis is targeted to policy makers, civil administration and municipalities in the Baltic Sea Region, to help them to gain insight into issues surrounding talent attraction and talent retention. One of the key issues in talent retention is the need to increase collaboration between government organisations, universities and the industry (triple helix), also involving social entrepreneurs and non-profit organisations in quadruple helix projects.

The biggest challenges for the Baltic Sea Region are still the development of the BSR brand, increasing mobility within the region, retaining local talent as well as attracting talent to the BSR.

Download the talent retention situation analysis here

Highlights from the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit

BDF-summit-Turku_1 In order to fight against the lower growth rates for the years to come, the Baltic Sea Region needs to work harder together and be more innovative. This was one of the key messages of the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit which was held together with the 5th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR on 3-4 June in Turku, Finland.

Emily Wise, the plenary moderator of the event, shares some of the key messages coming out of the six plenary sessions:

 1) This year’s State of the Region Report highlighted evidence and implications of a “new normal”

The main conclusion from this year’s State of the Region Report is that we are transitioning into a “new normal” characterized by lower growth rates in the future. Although the region continues to display strong macroeconomic fundamentals, decreasing trends in export market shares and inward investment signal opportunities for action. There is a need for continued investments in knowledge-based assets and competitive infrastructure, as well as developing more distinct areas of competitive advantage.

A few areas where the BSR currently stands out and could continue to develop include:

  • investments in smart, energy-efficient infrastructure
  • development of new digital services
  • mobilization of the youth and through dynamic employment models
  • enhancing regional cooperation and attracting investment through macro-regional value chains or innovation platforms.

2) In the BSR, we are encouraged to consider social and environmental sustainability as core elements of the “new normal”

In various plenary and parallel working sessions, we were reminded of the importance of mobilizing and combining perspectives across various groups (age, culture, gender), as well as combining our thinking about investments in environmental friendliness and economic growth (“greening the economy”, Minister Niinistö). Marek Szponk (a student of the Baltic University Programme) expressed his desire for greater engagement of youth in the continued development of the BSR, more interdisciplinary activities, and obligatory courses on environmental sustainability in all educational programmes.

3) Governmental and business leaders lifted the potential of new services and digital-led growth

BDF-summit-Turku_2Prime Ministers Katainen and Roivas encouraged other BSR countries to follow their lead and “go digital” – stating their desire for developing more cross-border services in the region. Business leaders highlighted that the Baltic Sea Region is one of the most attractive regions of the world in this field – with a strong eco-system, and with talent that has both technological depth and a creative breadth (aka “technology, heart and soul”).

4) We are making progress in fulfilling the “10 commandments of the BSR Strategy”, yet Member States must take on more of a driving role

Commissioner Hahn stressed that “the strength of the strategy needs to come from the region” – with Member States demonstrating their commitment by allocating key staff and using (the new) structural funds to make progress on stated priorities. We are encouraged to narrow our focus, establish clear goals for priority areas, and allocate human and financial resources to address these priorities.

See all the presentations and reports at


Pictures: Baltic Development Forum