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ESPON Covid: Territorial impacts of Covid-19 and policy answers in European regions and cities

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis of social, political and economic systems throughout Europe and the world. Since March 2020, European countries, regions and cities have taken diverse measures to try and contain the spread of the virus. These measures, while aiming at easing pressure on the health care systems, have had far-reaching impacts on many sectors of economic activity across the continent. Policymakers at all levels of governance require territorial evidence to be able to develop policy measures to cope with the immediate effects of the pandemic in the short-term and to manage its long-term impacts.  This applied research activity sets out to contribute to the delivery of such territorial evidence by analysing the geographical patterns of the Covid-19 pandemic from its onset until as far as possible into 2021. The project also examines regional policy responses to Covid-19 and whether the pandemic has created a window of opportunity for regional authorities to take regional strategies and policies in new medium and long term directions in relation to the just transition, green transition and smart transition. The project will answer the following key research questions:  What does the geographical pattern of the Covid-19 pandemic look like across European regions and cities and how has it evolved since the beginning of the pandemic? Are there specific territorial and/or socio-economic characteristics that can entail a higher risk of death/more severe course of disease and/or higher probabilities of negative socio-economic impacts? Which factors explain best the level of exposure of cities, regions and functional urban areas to the Covid-19 pandemic? How can different exposure levels in different types of territories be explained? To which degree have poverty, social inequalities and social exclusion been affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures? Can local wealth conditions, poverty or inequalities explain why territories are more or less affected…

Active and Healthy Ageing in the Nordic Region

In 2021-22, Nordregio will carry out two projects focusing on active and healthy ageing, on commission by Nordic Welfare Centre. These two projects (Project 1. Active and Healthy Ageing in the Nordic Region from a diverse and intersectional perspective; Project 2. Development of indicators to follow up on Active and Healthy Ageing and welfare technology for seniors in the Nordic region) will be conducted in parallel and in close cooperation with Nordic Welfare Centre and build on previous projects on the topic. The main output of both projects will be a research report. The projects aim to generate new insights on how to promote active and healthy ageing, which is placed highly on the policy agenda in the Nordic countries and in many Nordic regions and municipalities. This will directly contribute to Nordic added value, but the findings will also be relevant beyond the Nordic context, especially as population ageing is recognized at the European and the global policy agenda. More broadly, the 2030 Agenda calls for leaving no one behind and for ensuring that the SDGs are met for all segments of society, at all ages, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable—including older persons. Target groups include policymakers and practitioners working with the promotion of active and healthy ageing, and age-friendliness at different levels of society. The Nordic network for age-friendly cities is of high relevance. Another core group are senior organisations who represent the interests of senior citizens in the Nordic Region. Project results will also be relevant for researchers engaged in the field. A joint webinar will be organised by Nordegio and Nordic Welfare Centre in early 2022, to launch both reports and discuss the results. Nordregio will also present preliminary results at Nordic Welfare Forum in December 2021.

Food self-sufficiency in Nordic island societies: the current situation and the way forward

The project will focus on data and sustainability aspects of an increase of food self-sufficiency in five smaller Nordic countries and regions: Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Åland and Bornholm, Denmark. We will explore whether and how a higher degree of self-sufficiency of food can contribute to a more resilient and sustainable food system in these five island societies. The positive and negative consequences of increased self-sufficiency will be explored, as well as the perceived potentials and barriers for each of the island societies. Furthermore, the degree of self-sufficiency will be calculated.   The consortium consists of Nordregio, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) and the Faroese Agricultural Agency. Nordregio leads the project and is responsible for the collection and analysis of qualitative data in Greenland, Iceland, Åland and Bornholm region of Denmark, while the Faroese Agricultural Agency is responsible for the collection of data on the Faroe Islands. NIBIO is responsible for collecting quantitative data and developing a baseline of the degree of food self-sufficiency in the five island societies.

Smart Specialisation Västerbotten

Nordregio and Norrum support Region Västerbotten in their work of revising their Regional innovation strategy and developing a Strategy for Smart Specialisation.   During the last years an increasing amount of regions in Sweden had developed or refined their strategy for smart specialisation. It is a method and a tool to increase the region’s competitive advantages by identifying local strength. The process is based on a multi-actor model (EDP) that brings together actors to jointly discuss which strategic areas that are most favorable for the region in terms of strength, finances, and resources. The model is an interactive process that focuses on innovation and collaboration to develop new activities, anchor decisions, and strengthen the actors involved in the process. It results in common priorities for smart specialization that will benefit the entire region. In the mission, Nordregio and Jukka Teräs at Norrum will provide Region Västerbotten with support in their smart specialisation process by proving analysis of opportunities and challenges of identifying smart specialisation areas, by performing semi structured interviews with stakeholders in the region and by organising focus group interviews where the results from the interviews are discussed. The mission started in 2020 and was prolonged because of the Covid-19. The project will be finished at the end of 2021.

Welfare Institutes in Sparsely Populated Areas (WIiSPA)

This project aims to define the concept and map already existing WIiSPAs in the Nordic countries and the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland. The concept WIiSPA (Welfare Institutes in Sparsely Populated Areas) has been used in some recent projects that strive for a stable and available welfare sector in sparsely populated areas of the Nordic Region. There are a few established WIiSPAs, such as Centre for Rural Medicine in Storuman and Norwegian Centre for Rural Medicine (NCRM) in Tromsø, there are also other ongoing initiatives in Akyreyri and other parts of the Nordic Region. Ideally, a WIiSPA should cover both health care and social care in an integrated manner, including home care services. In addition, by coordinating meetings and activities between the identified WIiSPAs and actors that are interested in developing a WIiSPA, this project tries to establish a Nordic network that drives development in health care and social care in the Nordics, with a special focus on sparsely populated areas, recruitment and competence supply, and the digital transformation of health care and health care services into a more integrated system. The long-term goal of this project is to promote an accessible, secure, and stable welfare in sparsely populated areas of the Nordics, which creates a basis for regional development, social sustainability, and a well-functioning labour market in these regions. In this project, Nordregio is responsible for defining the concept of WIiSPA and mapping already existing WIiSPAs and similar initiatives in the Nordic Region, including related research environments, academic actors, and national policies and goals. In addition, based on the results, Nordregio will support the Nordic Welfare Centre in its activities to develop an action plan for collaboration and networking between the Nordic WIiSPAs and actors that are interested in developing a WIiSPA.

Reducing loneliness among older adults in times of covid-19 and beyond: Experiences from three Swedish Municipalities (REDLON)

This project investigates the use of digital technologies to address loneliness and isolation among older adults living at home with home care services and in caring homes in three case study municipalities in Sweden: Huddinge, Eskilstuna, and Storuman. The focus is mainly on challenges, opportunities, and solutions that have emerged during the covid-19 pandemic. Loneliness and social isolation pose significant challenges for older adults living alone and in senior housing facilities, affecting their mental and physical health. Due to self-isolation requirements during the covid-19 pandemic, these challenges have been further exacerbated. The use of digital technologies within elderly care has a potential to combat social isolation, for instance by providing increased access to home care services and possibilities to take part in social activities. Even so, previous knowledge on effectiveness of digital interventions to tackle loneliness of older adults is quite limited. In Sweden, the utilisation of digital tools within welfare sector in municipalities has been mainly only focused on the objectives of increased effectivity and quality of care. Based on a previous Nordregio project (VOPD), this project analyses if and how the identified benefits and potentials have been utilised within elderly care during the prevailing recommendations of self-isolation. Semi-structured interviews with municipality authorities, social care providers, and older adults is applied as the main method. Besides identifying good and transferrable practices, this project will provide information on how to ensure that digital solutions and services for older adults are socially inclusive – in order to minimise the risk that some groups of older people become even more socially excluded due to the increased use of digital tools. The gained learnings from the case study municipalities will be disseminated to decision-makers, social care providers, and other municipalities in form of a report and a workshop. Nordregio is leading the project…

DigiBEST

DigiBEST is an interregional cooperation project for policy improvement of SME’s competitiveness promotion co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Norwegian national funding through the INTERREG EUROPE programme. The overall objective of the project is to support and promote SMEs competitiveness through digital transformation of SMEs in rural European territories by proposing solutions to enhance their capacity to use advanced technologies and new innovative business approaches for promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe and its regions. Nordregio was engaged as an external expert to provide a peer review of the work of the Latvian project partner. We undertook this task on behalf of the Norwegian project partner, Trøndelag County Council, and worked in partnership with a similar expert from Austria. The ultimate aim was to provide recommendations to support SME digitalisation in Latvia based on experiences in Norway and Austria.

Integrating immigrants into the Nordic labour market – The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

Nordic countries have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has taken a substantial toll on economic growth and employment level. Immigrants may have been disproportionately affected, even though Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden already face serious challenges in integrating immigrants into their labour markets for several years. This project aims to make a contribution to further research into the consequences of the pandemic. Current data and statistics on unemployment trends in the Nordic countries shall be presented in order to obtain a comprehensive overview of the current labour market situation of immigrants. The project shall revisit and update the main findings, conclusions and policy recommendations of the 2019 report ‘Integrating immigrants into the Nordic labour markets’ in the light of the pandemic. Target groups The target group of the project includes national, regional and municipal authorities who are involved in integrating immigrants into the Nordic labour market. The recommendations on how to support labour market integration during the pandemic and going forward may also be relevant for civil society organisations, employers’ organisations, chambers of commerce and other actors in the Nordic region and beyond who are working with refugees and other immigrant groups.

Marint Gränsforum Skagerrak – external evaluation

MarintGränsforum Skagerrak aims at cross-border and trans-disciplinary collaboration in order to strengthen Skagerrak as a viable environment and a blue growth region, and in parallel to protect the national parks and their role for a sustainable environment. Nordregio has conducted an external evaluation of the Interreg project “Marint Gränsforum Skagerrak”.

En bättre sits – evaluation

The project aims to evaluate and shed light on the latest period in the transport policy process En bättre sits. En bättre sits is a transport policy process administered by Mälardalsrådet, to influence the infrastructure planning and investments in the region to further regional development. Nordregio is commissioned to conduct an evaluations study focusing on a timeframe between May 2018- May 2020. The study aims: To shed light on the collaboration En bättre sits and describe the process and effects of the strengthened collaboration between actors involved. Place the process within the research context about governance models in regional development and planning Analyse what has worked well and less well, in order to show opportunities for improvement in the internal governance processes and further development in En bättre sits. Highlight the process En bättre sits as a relevant/good example for international co-operation and contribute to the dialogue on how to develop governance models in regional development. The last process period of En Bättre sits includes eight regions and municipalities in the regions as well as several other public and private actors.

Nordic & Northwest Russia cooperation on wood and construction

This cooperation aims at establishing sustainable Nordic-Russian business-to-business and business – academic partnerships in the wood and construction sector. The objective is to support innovative production and use of wood-based building materials capitalising on the untapped potential for a biobased economy in NW-Russia.

Covid-19 Economic Impacts in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how closely health and economy are linked. This project analyses the economic impacts of the pandemic in the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) region, as well as Canada. The main aim is to set out the recovery roadmap with recommendations for positive action and policy that can create more sustainable and resilient communities and economies. The project gathers 13 partners to examine how Covid-19 hit the countries’ economies and what responses, innovations and transformations took place as a result. The partners are coming from very diverse background geographically, institutionally, and in terms of expertise. That will assure the vast diversity of knowledge and perspectives to the project. The project will give special attention to peripheral areas in the NPA region and to young people and entrepreneurs (up to age 40), to gain their unique perspectives and innovations on Covid-19 responses and sustainable development. It will also add a human rights perspective on the inequities of health systems/economies, including for peripheral and indigenous communities within the NPA. Nordregio will provide relevant comparative data (economic and health) across the Nordic Region and the Arctic, including harmonised data across the NPA region. Also, the partner will share the relevant findings from previously conducted relevant projects. The ultimate goal is to set out a recovery roadmap with recommendations that will improve health, wellbeing as well as social, cultural and economic benefits for peoples across the NPA. The findings of the study will be presented in the form of the report in the spring of 2021, as well as via webinars and social media channels.

Accessibility to Health Services in Iceland

The pilot study would entail the following objective: to objectively and quantitatively measure the accessibility of all Icelandic residents to health services, which would be distinguished between (for instance) regional hospitals, clinics, Doctor’s offices and other medical facilities. The results would then be visualised on a series of maps that will profile accessibility for the country as a whole as well as at the regional scale. Accessibility will be measured in a dynamic way, including a distinction between accessibility of residents to health services within multiple commuting distance, as well as accessibility of health services to inhabitants of different age groups and, if time permits, gender. The final delivery will be short working paper with a series of maps and quantitative results profiled in tables and charts. A brief overview and analytical text will also be provided, including a feasibility analysis for a continued study covering all of the aforementioned sectors.

Sustainable destinations and regional development

The project ’Sustainable destinations and regional development’ started in the fall of 2020 and will be finished before the end of 2021. It builds among other things on knowledge from a previous Nordregio project, Planning for sustainable tourism in the Nordic region. This new project will look into the possibilities of developing national indicators that measure sustainability in tourism development, looking closer at the social and environmental aspects of tourism in addition to the more conventional economic indicators. The project is led by CRT – Centre For Regional and Tourism Research in Bornholm Denmark – while other partners are Nordregio, Visit Denmark, selected Danish Destinations as well as SDU, the University of Southern Denmark. One of the main benefits of tourism in rural areas is the diversification of jobs as well as the fact that growth in tourism can have positive effects on other sectors. Therefore, many rural regions have welcomed tourism and put emphasis on increasing their visitor numbers to counterbalance the shrinking and more traditional prime industries as well as declining demographic development. Increased tourism can however also negatively affect the environment as well as social tolerance of the local population. Traditionally, the economic and social aspects are not included when measuring the impacts of tourism on regions.  Annual tourism reports are delivered by Visit Denmark in collaboration with the Center for Regional and Tourism Research each year, which contain figures for turnover, jobs, overnight stays and other mainly economic indicators of tourism development. The partner group behind the project now wants to investigate the possibility of how this tool can be utilized on the all three dimensions of sustainability; economic-, social- and environmental sustainability. This will be done with desktop research on existing sustainable tourism measurement tools and building upon the analyses of Nordregio that performed Pan-Nordic…

Perspectives for the north: a review of European initiatives localising the SDGs

The project aims to analyse the localisation of the SDGs and Agenda 2030, as well as to assess social sustainability efforts that are taking place across European institutions, networks and projects. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has commissioned Nordregio to do a review of the efforts to localise the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across European institutions and organisations. The evaluation includes initiatives and projects under the European Commission, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), and other relevant sister organisations and networks working with Agenda 2030 at the regional and local levels. The review culminates in a report available here. For more information visit:https://www.ks.no/om-ks/ks-in-english/how-do-the-nordic-countries-and-europe-work-towards-the-sdgs/https://www.ks.no/om-ks/ks-in-english/

How does place impact the possibility to follow restrictions during corona times? (PORECO)

The extraordinary times in the first part of 2020 have been prominent in the media and policy debates. The coronavirus and its social and economic effects have been widely covered. The coverage is on statistics, different strategies, politics, the economic and social effects of the crisis, and various other aspects related to the crisis in one way or another. One of these aspects is how the corona crisis has struck ethnic minorities and this where Nordregio wants to contribute. Nordic neighbourhoods that are considered segregated or vulnerable have gained attention in the media due to a rapid spread of the coronavirus. Segregation refers to a separation of socio-economic and ethnic, racial, religious, or other minority groups at the residential level of an urban area. Segregation indicates social injustice and is a significant challenge for cities. The corona crisis thus reveals and reminds us about the serious effects of segregation and unequal societies on citizens, and necessitates a closer look at the potential injustice involved. Poverty and social exclusion represent the most basic manifestations of inequality, leaving behind people with fewer resources to withstand and overcome the consequences that a crisis like a pandemic creates. It is important that Nordic societies increase their understanding of why some neighbourhoods were more severely affected by the corona pandemic than others in order to be better prepared for future challenges and crises. The main objective of this project is to have a closer look at what were the resident’s possibilities to follow public recommendations during the corona crisis in areas that were severely affected by corona?

The organisation of social services and care in sparsely populated areas in the Nordics

The aim of the study is to increase understanding of the needs and challenges in rural areas regarding recruitment, competencies and continued professional development of staff, and the organisation of social services in the Nordic countries. This will be achieved by looking at the estimations on the recruitment needs in the social care field in the Nordic countries and identifying initiatives that promote recruitment, development of competencies and continued education of the social care staff in rural areas. Finally, the study will map examples of innovative ways of delivering services by the public sector in rural areas.  The results of the study will be presented and discussed at the conference Welfare in Sparsely Populated Areas: The Organisation of Healthcare and Social Services on 10 December 2020 that is part of Denmark’s 2020 presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Territorial Just Transition Plans for Gotland and Norrbotten

This project is a consultancy one and is being led by TrinomicsNordregio has been hired to support Tillväxtverket in the process of putting together the Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTP) for Gotland and Norrbotten regions. Nordregio’s role in this project is to contribute to institutional, administrative and growth-sustaining structural reforms in Sweden, in line with Article 4 of the SRSP Regulation. The specific objective of Nordregio’s contribution is the finalisation of one or more territorial just transition plans for Sweden (Gotland and Norrbotten). The TJTP are the main governance mechanisms supporting the Just Transition Mechanism, which is a policy instrument linked to the European Green Deal. The Just Transition Mechanism focuses on those regions and sectors that are most affected by the transition to a climate-neutral economy given their dependence on fossil fuels, including coal, peat and oil shale or greenhouse gas-intensive industrial processes.

Nordic study about regional policy

This project focuses on a comparative analysis of regional development policies in four Nordic countries, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. It also dives into an analysis of government policy measures for recovery directed towards regional and local authorities in case of economic crisis. 

Sweden-Norway Cross-Border Mapping

The aim of this research is to help to determine the focus and direction of cross-border collaboration within the Interreg Sweden-Norway programme area for 2021-2027 EU Cohesion policy programme period. The research has the following objectives: Provide background information on the current socio-economic development trends in core regions of the programme area; including, on the Swedish side, the Region Värmland, Region Dalarna, Västra Götalands Region, Region Jämtland-Härjedalen, Region Västernorrland and the Norwegian counties Viken, Innlandet and Tröndelag; Conduct a SWOT analysis of the programme area to identify areas of strength, weakness, opportunity and threats for cross-border collaboration in the programme area; Assess how development trends and SWOT analysis match up with EU Cohesion Policy’s 5 main thematic objectives for the 2021-2027 programme: Smarter Europe; Greener Carbon Free Europe; Connected Europe; Social Europe; Europe Closer to its Citizens; Examine how development trends and SWOT analysis link up with new EU cohesion policy instruments including the European Cross-Border Mechanism, Interregional Innovative Investments and Pan-European Clusters;    Provide recommendations on the future direction of cross border collaboration in the Sweden-Norway programme area. Nordregio is a lead research institution on this project conducting a desk-based analysis of EU, national and regional level policy documents, and semi-structured interviews with key regional level stakeholders.