COCO-GHA and regional development objectives for the Greater Helsinki Area
Reasoning of programme
Specialisation and strengths of the Greater Helsinki Area and the role of the COCO-GHA programme
Objective of the programme
1.1. Reasoning of programme
The participating area of operations for the regional cohesion and competitiveness programme for the Greater Helsinki Area (COCO-GHA) was made up of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi. The strategic foundation of the programme was formed by the shared vision and strategies of the Greater Helsinki Area as well as by each participating city’s own strategies that were aligned with the programme’s areas of emphasis. The metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy was a particular point of departure for the programme. For its part, the programme supports the goals of metropolitan policy and the national innovation strategy as well as promotes the realisation of the objectives outlined in the Government decision-in-principle on urban policy for 2009-11.
Vision and strategy of the Greater Helsinki Area
According to its vision, the Greater Helsinki Area is a developing world-class centre of science, art, creativity and learning ability as well as a focal point of business activity and innovation on the basis of its good services; furthermore, the region’s success promotes its citizenry’s wellbeing as well as benefits all of Finland. The metropolitan area shall be developed as a cohesively functioning region that is close to nature and provides a good environment for business, work, learning and living.
Competitiveness and the wellbeing of the citizenry support one another in the regional strategy. Housing, infrastructure, wellbeing services and competence are prerequisites to competitiveness, which in turn enables the upkeep and development of the aforementioned factors. All of the strategic objectives safeguard social cohesion. A region that works to improve the wellbeing of its residents is also a successful region.
The metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy
The objectives, themes and projects included in COCO-GHA were based on the metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy. The strategy was drafted jointly by the area’s cities, and they place a particular emphasis on strengthening top-level education and competence.
The metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy deepens the cooperation and division of labour between the cities (Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen) as well as promotes their role in strengthening the competitiveness of Greater Helsinki that has the aim of spurring substantial increases to foreign investment, attracting more international companies and creating new jobs. The wellbeing of the citizenry and the development of a good living environment are also focal points of the competitiveness strategy. Value-adding themes and measures that are not to a sufficient degree included in existing metropolitan area strategies and programmes were chosen as focal areas. At the same time, the strategy complements the Greater Helsinki Area’s innovation and business strategies as well as the individual competitiveness programmes of the cities. Implementation of the strategy can also have a positive influence on the development of industry and commerce in the other municipalities around Helsinki, in addition to which it can strengthen their cooperation with the metropolitan area.
The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Advisory Board approved the competitiveness strategy on 25.11.2008, after which the city boards of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen approved the strategy’s focal points and development guide-lines in December 2008. The mayors of these cities approved the measures proposed in the competitiveness strategy at a meeting held on 19.3.2009 and on 7.3.2009 the strategy was presented to a forum of rectors representing the region’s universities.
The metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy is one of the spearhead projects of the Government’s metropolitan policy programme. The strategy creates a foundation for agreement-based cooperation between the State and the metropolitan area with the aim of promoting the region’s international competitiveness. The cities of the region will negotiate with the State in 2009 with the aim of agreeing on joint realisation and funding of the competitiveness strategy.
The metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy has four focal points, whose contents are defined by 19 development guidelines. The strategy is complemented by a separately drafted action plan, which is assessed annually. The action plan has included proposals for 38 measures implemented either separately or jointly by the area’s cities as well as measures carried out by the cities in cooperation with the State.
1.2. Specialisation and strengths of the Greater Helsinki Area and the role of the COCO-GHA programme
The metropolitan area’s significance to the national economy of Finland is substantial. The area is Finland’s biggest centre of business activity: almost a fifth of the entire nation’s corporate turnover is generated in the Greater Hel-sinki Area and 28% of all private-sector employees work there. The private sector provides three out of four jobs in Greater Helsinki.
The metropolitan area’s production structure is quite diverse. This can be viewed as a strength, but, on the other hand, it poses challenges with regard to economic policy, as it requires a departure from established operating models.
The metropolitan area’s strengths include a concentration of research and development activity, high-standard education on all educational levels and, in international comparison, the high level of education of the working-age population. Seven universities operate in the Greater Helsinki Area and they have about 60,000 students in total. In addition, there are six polytechnics , which have some 30,000 students. About 30,000 people are employed in research and a total of about 50,000 companies operate in Greater Helsinki. The Helsinki region’s research facilities study a wide range of subjects – in fact, they are active in just about all of the fields of research that are studied in Finland as a whole.
The area’s latest achievements, such as Helsinki’s recognition as the most business-friendly city in Europe, the selection of Otaniemi as one of Europe’s most significant centres of innovation, the emergence of Vantaa’s Aviapolis as an attractive business centre and the launch of the Aalto University, are examples of the high-quality and large scale of the centres of expertise that are active in and around Helsinki.
The region is ethnically diverse, as is characteristic of metropolitan areas around the world. This can be seen as a significant competitive advantage because it can promote innovativeness and through this economic growth. International business activities and the mobility of the workforce also pose special challenges for governance and urban planning as well as for the housing, educational and welfare policies of the metropolitan area that differ from other conurbations in Finland. But in addition to the opportunities that are associated with multiculturalism, there are also a number of challenges that have to be dealt with. These include a strengthening of monoculturalism and intolerance, the threat of divergent development and exclusion from the job market during the economic downturn as well as differentiating local developments that result in the establishment of neighbourhoods, whose residents are predominantly high- or low-income citizens or belong to a specific ethnic population group.
Other development challenges for the Greater Helsinki Area include a situa-tion where certain industries have difficulties in finding suitable employees while, at the same time, finding work is getting more difficult for fresh gradu-ates. The layoffs and sackings that accompany the economic downturn as well as the looming employee shortage, which the ageing of the population will cause in the near future, are also problematic issues.
The role of the programme
The idea behind the COCO-GHA programme was for it to serve as a regional development forum in association with the realisation and promotion of the metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy. The programme was a catalyst and development platform for extensive projects and project totalities. The programme operated in areas where the cooperation of the Helsinki region’s cities was not already in some entity’s hands.
The programme implemented the metropolitan area’s competitiveness strategy by focusing on joint measures between the region’s cities, different-level educational institutions, development organisations and research institutes especially with regard to the safeguarding of top-level expertise and broad-based competence as well as the strengthening of cooperation. Recent changes to the operating environment spurred the programme to look for career-development models for Finnish and foreign students who are finishing up their studies.
COCO-GHA operated flexibly, adjusting to predicted changes in the operating environment. The programme supported shared learning and utilisation of innovations between the actors of the metropolitan area. The principle observed in implementation was that of a multifaceted and multilateral development partnership, which engaged the cities, educational and research institutions, companies and service users as actors.
COCO-GHA united actors and sought out new cooperation partners also on the international arena. Experiences gained in ongoing and past projects as well as data on existing services and research findings associated with this thematic were compiled as part of the programme.
The resulting service practices, models and structures were instilled into the activities of the cities and their cooperation partners. The instillation objective was taken into consideration on every level of the programme and during the planning of projects.
The beneficiaries of the COCO-GHA programme were the cities, universities, polytechnics and other educational institutions of the metropolitan area as well as its development partners, whose cooperation and operational effectiveness will improve thanks to the programme. In addition, the programme was designed to benefit the residents, business sector, international corporations and experts of the metropolitan area. The implementation of the programme was also designed to enhance the competence of participating municipal employees.
Spearhead projects for the four measure totalities were chosen during the implementation period of the programme in 2010–2012; the duration of these projects ranged from one to three years. The criteria for projects and meas-ures were, in addition to the strategic objectives of the programme, regional networking, partnership and shared commitment. Penetrating criteria included the promotion of intercultural interaction, environmental effects, increased re-gional and social cohesion, gender equality and egalitarianism.
1.3 Objective of the programme
The objective of the programme was to improve international competitiveness by promoting innovations and strengthening competence structures in Greater Helsinki. The aim was to use the programme to safeguard, steer and renew the availability of competent employees. Regional services that support the settling in of international highly skilled workers were developed as part of the programme. Another aim of the programme was to increase intercultural dialogue and related competencies. The diagram below presents the programme’s objectives and effectiveness targets.