SmartComp Newsletter February 2013

SmartComp - Seeking new opportunities for the Central Baltic Sea maritime clusters through triple helix cooperation

Photo: Shutterstock/TranceDrumer
Photo: Shutterstock/TranceDrumer

The SmartComp project supports smart and environmentally sustainable development growth of the Central Baltic Region maritime clusters. The project encourages the co-operation between maritime businesses, public sector and research organisations in Finland, Estonia and Latvia.

The project research team works to provide an insight into the current state and future scenarios of the Central Baltic Region maritime cluster. The first research report focusing on cluster-level analysis was published in the end of 2012 and is presented in this newsletter. Further reports concerning company level in all three participating countries, and comparing the Central Baltic Region to other successful maritime clusters globally will be published during this year.

The research conducted during the project will be the basis for all other activities, including policy development roundtables and consultation days for maritime cluster companies and creating policy recommendations. The first SmartComp events were organised in February 2013.

During the year 2013, the project will organise consultation days for maritime cluster companies both internationally and nationally to increase cross-border co-operation and to find new, smart business models. A triple helix contact database will be established to help regional networking between different actors. Policy development is promoted by organising policy development roundtables and by developing policy recommendations. A brand strategy will be created to serve as a basis for a strong international brand for the maritime cluster of the Central Baltic Region. The project culminates in an international SmartComp Forum in autumn 2013 in Turku.

SmartComp project is led by the Union of the Baltic Cities and has altogether nine partners from Finland, Estonia and Latvia. The project is part-financed by the Central Baltic INTERREG IV A Programme 2007-2013.

SmartComp research report: Maritime clusters in the Central Baltic Region need to increase cooperation to remain competitive

SmartComp research reportMaritime clusters of the Central Baltic region (CBR) operate rather separately and mostly compete with each other, even though they are in the face of common challenges. In order to maintain competitiveness, the CBR maritime clusters have to increase both national and international cooperation among companies and political decision-makers, concludes the research report published within the SmartComp project.

Despite the differences, the maritime clusters in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden have a lot in common. Regarding shipping, the most topical challenges include the risk of accidents and the tightening environmental regulations, which require significant investments during the next couple of years. In marine industry, the rising cost levels, the lack of qualified workforce, growing global price competition and the state involvement in the industry’s competition form the key challenges for the future.

Seeing the challenges as opportunities might create competitive advantage for the region. R&D required for adapting into the sulphur directive may result in CBR maritime clusters being global forerunners. Maintaining the competitive edge, providing excellent quality and focusing on specialization are the ways to respond to the global price competition. “To keep one step ahead, both the cluster companies and political quarters have to recognize the preconditions of competitiveness – mutual cooperation and resources for further development. Competitiveness cannot be maintained without continuous investments,” concludes Project Researcher Eini Laaksonen from the Pan-European Institute of the University of Turku, Finland. Furthermore, it is challenging for smaller European companies to compete with the huge Asian players without a joint, efficient innovation and value network.

To support competitiveness of maritime clusters in CBR, national and international R&D must be increased, project financing mechanisms need to be developed, and the region’s maritime industry must be branded to be more attractive for skilled labour, investments and customers. For this, increased and far-reaching cooperation is needed among the maritime cluster actors, the public sector, and research institutions. Even during a recession, one must look into the future – for instance, the renewing of the Russian maritime sector is expected to create new business opportunities for the CBR maritime clusters.

Download the complete SmartComp Research Report 1, Maritime cluster analysis on the Central Baltic region free of charge.

First international SmartComp events

Photo: Kirsi-Marja Lonkila
Photo: Kirsi-Marja Lonkila
The maritime clusters in the Central Baltic Sea Region are a diverse group including many different sectors and actors.Even though it cannot be said that there is a single maritime cluster in the region, there are similarities and common challenges faced by all the clusters. On the 12-13th of February over 50 maritime triple helix experts gathered together to Tallinn to discuss these current challenges faced within the Region. Over the days, interesting expert presentations and panel discussions were heard. The responsible partners of the events were Centrum Balticum, Tallinn University of Technology and Centre for Maritime Studies, University of Turku. The events consisted of a Policy Development Roundtable and a Seminar.

The discussions concluded that “co-opetition” would be the appropriate word to describe the activities between the maritime cluster actors in the region as they are both collaborators and competitors with each other. For the region to be able to compete on a global scale, it would be important to increase collaboration among certain areas in the sector and at the same time it is understandable that certain areas should be left for competition. The maritime clusters are witnessing insufficient or even absent coordination in particular in regulation, human resources and educational issues. There appears to be a lack of correctly educated people within the sector and there is a demand to further adjust education to serve the needs of the industry.

Photo: Kirsi-Marja Lonkila
Photo: Kirsi-Marja Lonkila
The new sulphur directive coming into force in the Baltic Sea in 2015 was seen at the events as an opportunity instead of a threat. The impacts of the regulation need to be anticipated and estimated, and the results need to be disseminated to all counterparts well in advance. Being able to adapt to the new restrictions can lead to improvements in efficiency and flexibility and create new innovative solutions which can balance the negative impact and be an asset for the region in the future.

Based on the events, a policy briefing paper will be published during Spring 2013. The events were only the first of many to come. National Consultation Days will be held during April and May in Finland, Estonia and Latvia and the second International Policy Development Roundtable will be held in Turku on the 22nd of May with the theme: “The future of maritime clusters in Central Baltic Sea Region and Russia”.