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Northern European Knowledge Market

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: 01-10-2009

To compete in the world economy the Northern European countries in the Baltic Sea Region need access to knowledge and talented people. These are the most important prerequisites in order to turn the competitive advantages of the region into competitive products in an ever increasingly competitive world market.

Unfortunately, demographic ageing, decreasing labour force, inflexible labour markets, high taxes and tight migration policies undermine the accessibility to human capital in the region. Worse, there is a drain of talent as bright scientific minds are increasingly moving outside the region, lured particularly to USA by a dynamic entrepreneurial culture, better wages and more accessible opportunities.

Therefore the Baltic Sea Region countries should establish a single Northern European Knowledge Market increasing the cross-border mobility for high skilled labour, enabling the individual to access the businesses, universities and institutions in the region more easily while attaining similar work or research conditions, and simultaneously enabling companies, universities and institutions to access workers, researchers, students – and knowledge – in the region more easily. 

That is the conclusion of a study from INNOVATIONinside - "Northern European Knowledge Market" - to be presented for a top level discussion at the Baltic Development Forum’s annual summit 2009 in Stockholm. 

According to the study, a single Northern European labour market for high skilled labour, researchers and students also could be an important first step towards realizing the broader EU ambition of creating the so called 5th freedom, allowing knowledge and ideas to move freely across the borders, and at the same time making the region more attractive to foreign talents, strengthening the region as a world class knowledge center.

Hálldor Ásgrímsson, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, says that knowledge is the single most important production factor today, which is why the Nordic countries – some of the most research intensive in the world – already have taken steps toward the establishment of a fifth freedom among the Nordic countries. These include the new generation of Nordplus programmes, fostering mobility between the five Nordic countries and the three Baltic states, the meta-regional Nordic research council  NordForsk and the development of a new generation of collaboraton on research and innovation between the Nordic Council of Ministers and North West Russia.

“The Nordic Council of Ministers has also initiated the Nordic top-level research initiative, aiming to develop research in close collaboration with research units and enterprises, and promote innovation. The initiative aims to strengthen the knowledge base and competitiveness of the Nordic countries and enable a critical mass on central areas, on a scale that the countries could not achieve on their own,” says Ásgrímsson.

It is clear that in order to establish a Northern European Knowledge Market stakeholders from policy makers, business leaders and academia need to collaborate in addressing the major obstacles and formulating solutions that also involves issues on immigration, labour market structures, income taxes, university structures, educational curriculum, etc. To fully exploit the knowledge potential of such an initiative it would also be beneficial to establish a number of accelerators, such as cross-border competence networks and cross-border research and educational projects.

The timing of a Northern European Knowledge Market initiative is good. The European Commission is preparing an EU-strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Baltic Sea Region initiative could work as a pilot or frontrunner project that may provide valuable input to the development of a larger European Research Area. Consequently, Baltic Development Forum is taking steps in organizing the initiative.

“We will invite key stakeholders to participate in a high-level discussions in order to initiate the process toward a Northern European Knowledge Market. The first step is to identify barriers and means to fulfill the vision, to create a process plan and to establish lead projects with relevant partners,” says Hans Brask, director of Baltic Development Forum.

The stakeholders include governments, businesses, universities, science parks, EU, the Nordic Council of Ministers as well as public and private institutions and organizations.


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