This collection presents a diverse range of examples of green growth in Nordic regions, municipalities and cities. Though each is unique, there are many qualities that are shared across the cases. Understanding these has the potential to be instructive in highlighting the key enablers of green growth as a tool for regional development.
Collaborate across disciplines, sectors and borders
Creating sustainable growth and realising a green economy requires a holistic approach and unprecedented collaboration between different levels of government, disciplines, stakeholder groups and individuals. The most successful Nordic regional green growth practices are often based on the triple helix model and involve collaboration between the public sector, business and academia. When it comes to business it is important to involve companies of all sizes as well as to encourage cooperation between private sector actors. Small and medium sized enterprises can come up with important new ideas and innovations and can implement them quickly, but often they lack the resources to trial these ideas on a larger scale. Cooperation between businesses, coupled with strong support from public actors can be a great way to take these ideas to the next level. Moreover, a common feature of cases that showed high potential for long-term sustainability was strong public support and legitimacy at the community level. Effective coordination of green growth initiatives is also a good way to maximise existing synergies and to ensure you have the support you need. In this regard, public authorities and cluster organisations play an important role.
Ensure a stable and encouraging funding and policy framework
Another crucial factor supporting green growth activities is the existence of a stable and predictable public support framework alongside complementary public finance instruments. It also creates a good environment in which to attract venture capital and private investments for green growth business and innovation. Almost all of the cases presented here have received public funding in some way or another. There are also many examples of cases that are well-aligned with national policy priorities. Public funding schemes and incentives for R&D, innovation as well as demonstration and pilot projects play an important role in the transition towards greener economies, and should be available for different types of regional and local green growth initiatives and innovations of varying scale. Public-private partnerships have come to play an important role in enabling regional green growth in the Nordics and should be further encouraged. This support framework also has an important role in generating compelling evidence on the benefits of green growth and in institutionalising the concept of green growth.
Engage the community and empower individuals
Another key lesson arising from the case studies in this collection is the need to raise public awareness and acceptance of green growth. Understanding the benefits greener growth can bring about for more sustainable communities is a precondition for the ‘buy-in’ from society. The role of passionate individuals and visionaries should not be underestimated when discussing the transition towards greener regions and sustainable growth. Driven individuals, groups, communities have realised many great ideas and innovations related to green growth and further continue to engage, facilitate and inspire others by their example. People with progressive and daring mind-sets should be supported and equipped at all levels.
Learn by doing and embrace green growth opportunities
Working in an emerging field means learnings often occur through ‘trial-and-error’. Things won’t always go to plan but each experience takes you closer to a positive result. Throughout this collection of green growth practices you will often hear the phrase “first … in Europe” or “world’s first…”. Gaining this title takes courage. It also means trying things without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. Many encouraging strategies, regulations and incentives are already in place on the Nordic and European level that support practitioners to work in this way. Ongoing revision of these that takes into account practical experiences such as those in this collection can be useful in ensuring current regional perspectives are imbedded within them. Monitoring and evaluation tools can also be useful in supporting practitioners and policy makers to establish visions, baselines and targets to guide their work when embarking on uncharted territory.
Another thing many of the cases in this publication have in common is that they have clear strategies and channels though which to communicate their work to the outside world. This is useful in creating a greener image – both in terms of regional attractiveness and for company profiles. This dissemination process also facilitates exchange of good practice, making sure that learnings are shared and leading to fruitful future partnerships.