The Kvarken region is now on the verge of a “game changer” – a true golden opportunity. Several new mega-investments are underway in the region and we probably cannot yet imagine the extent of their impacts. In any case – we have space, competence, clean nature, and pleasant living environments, and it is here that sunrise industries are now establishing themselves. How can we meet their needs?
According to the Director of the Kvarken Council, Mr Mathias Lindström, the new ferry alone is not enough – the region needs improved accessibility, better infrastructure, and improved connections.
– We’re witnessing something big here, and now we need the courage to make decisions – courage to build new housing and the necessary infrastructure. The Kvarken region must become even more attractive in order to attract the labour force that will be needed. The Nordic battery belt is already a reality and, in addition to a new ferry and electric aviation, we also need a fixed connection over the Kvarken, Mr Lindström states.
This fixed connection was discussed already at last year’s festival when Dr Esa Eranti and Mr Antti Talvitie presented their investigation. Both gentlemen attended the festival also this year, even more convinced of the fact that a fixed connection is not only necessary but that it would pay for itself pretty quickly.
– Regional development is the main reason why it’s needed, along with the fact that many areas in Finland lack good connections to European and international markets. A fixed connection would benefit all three countries – not just Finland and Sweden but also Norway, Mr Talvitie points out.
Dr Eranti, an expert in hydraulic engineering and environmental issues, emphasized the fact that although no negative environmental impacts have been detected at the Øresund Bridge, the environmental debate forms the biggest challenge for the Kvarken connection’s implementation.
– Technically, the connection could be realized in five years, but the investigations that would be required prior to it are time-consuming and should be commenced immediately, he deems.
Panel discussion on the importance of good connections at the onset of the Nordic battery belt’s realization. From left: Joakim Strand, Richard Carstedt, Paula Erkkilä, Åsa Ågren Wikström, Arne Langset and Peter Östman.
Photo: Anna Sand / bySand
Alongside the Fixed Link project runs also the Nordic Battery Belt project, and its concept was represented at the festival by Mr Tom Einar Jensen, CEO of FREYR. Two days prior, FREYR had revealed its intent to establish a factory in Vaasa to complement its factories that will be built in Mo i Rana, Norway.
– I look forward to establishing profound cooperation with actors in Finland – the Nordic region will become an epicentre for a new industrial cluster that contributes to a more balanced existence with nature in the long run. It’s all about circular economy and reaching climate targets, Mr Jensen explains.
Mr Anders Ahnlid, Director-General at Sweden’s National Board of Trade, appreciates the “let’s do it” attitude that exists in the region and promotes the mindset that anything is possible.
– It’s time to re-establish our Nordic collaboration that took a little bruising from the pandemic and render it even stronger. We have everything to gain from strengthening it further, he states.
The atmosphere was positive during panel discussions on the challenges the region now faces.
– We shouldn’t ask ourselves why to build a bridge over the Kvarken, but instead why shouldn’t we build it. I didn’t personally believe in the endeavor a couple of years ago, but my mind has now changed – the technology already exists and we also possess fantastic groundwork that we can and should build on – we only need the courage to make decisions, states Finnish MP Mr Peter Östman.
– We will face major challenges and naturally overcome them, and we’ll be able to make a difference, says Mr Rickard Carstedt, Chairman of the Regional Development Board in Västerbotten, Sweden. He refers to future labour needs, which are predicted to be enormous. The need may arise quickly, as proven by Northvolt’s establishment in Sweden.
Ms Åsa Ågren Wikström, Vice Chairman of Region Västerbotten’s Regional Development Committee, agrees:
– Technology is largely about uniting people, of encounters, which is why connections are of crucial importance.
Ms Paula Erkkilä, Director of the Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce, continues:
– Our region now has the opportunity to do its part and solve some of the global climate problems, and there is great value in this work – but infrastructural preconditions are needed in order to succeed.
Mr Arne Langset offered a Norwegian perspective and said that joint strategies are needed for what lies ahead.
– We are a region spanning three countries, and a new and joint labour market will now be created. This means that not only will we need joint infrastructure investments but also joint recruitment strategies.
Finnish MP Mr Joakim Strand agrees and wounds up the discussion:
– We’ll see to that the best competence wants to come to our region and stay here. However, the building of relations and trust requires physical encounters – which do not take place via Teams – and good connections are a must.
Text and photos: Anna Sand
Rickard Carstedt, Paula Erkkilä, Arne Langset, Åsa Ågren Wikström and Joakim Strand agree on what the Kvarken region needs to utilize its golden opportunity.
Photo: Anna Sand / bySand