aligning education, R&D and cluster development activities with regional challenges and opportunities

 The JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvaskyla has four fields of specialisations which are aligned with the local and global needs and build on the regional and institutional assets of central Finland. JAMK’s regional specialisations are bioeconomy, applied cyber security, automation and robotics, and education expertise and business. Notably these specialisations are aligned with Central Finland’s  identified strategic spearhead fields: bioeconomy, digital economy, knowledge and well-being economy, tourism and accessibility.

The JAMK University of Applied Sciences has a long experience in bioeconomy ecosystem and cluster development and it is increasingly focusing its efforts on promoting bioeconomy-based business and export activities.  JAMK focuses on the creation of new material economy and circular economy by finding solutions to saving natural resources. The efforts are underpinned by JAMK’s education provision and research and development activities in several areas of expertise which are closely connected to bioeconomy, such as forestry, agriculture, industrial manage­ment, energy production, business economics and tourism. The JAMK bioeconomy activities have a strong focus on the food chain, on the forest industry and its byproducts and on energy production.

An important part of the JAMK bioeconomy work is carried out in collaboration with regional stakeholders, including the key cities and municipalities in Central Finland, business and industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises and educational institutions, notably the University of Jyvaskyla and the vocational education institutes. For instance JAMK is generating new resource-smart solutions for the newly developed city district of Kangas in Jyvaskyla. It is also promoting the business activities created by the biofactory investment in the city of Äänekoski.  Significant efforts are being made in order to strengthen the JAMK Bioeconomy Campus, which is a satellite campus in the City of Saarijärvi, and to position the Bioeconomy Institute as a Regional Centre of Excellence through structured collaboration with local businesses, the Vocational Education Institute of Northern Central Finland, and the City of Saarijärvi.  These efforts began ten years ago through the establishment of  a dedicated bioenergy development centre (est. 2009) which was designed to develop R&D and training, projects and testing with focus on:  solid biomass and fuel production, quality management and logistics; small scale heating technology and emission control, and bioenergy entrepreneurship, business development and training.

JAMK’s long term work on bioeconomy builds on its leadership in cluster development activities in renewable energies in line with the shared regional vision that Central Finland would be independent from fossile fuels in heat and power production by 2020. Thanks to its dedicated staff in bioenergy-related activities (20-30) JAMK took the role of leading the cluster development among the regional actors which include two other leading knowledge organisations, namely the University of Jyvaskyla which focuses on basic research (20-40 staff in bioenergy) and the State Technological Research Institute VTT which develops applied research (125 staff). In addition to cluster development, JAMK develops applied research and relevant skills through undergraduate, graduate and adult education. JAMK also coordinates international activities in bioenergy. An example of these efforts include participation in in relevant international projects in the European Union Framework Programmes. For example in the 7th Framework Programme it coordinated the BIOCLUS project  which developed an RDI environment in five EU regions in sustainable use of biomass resources.

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What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

JAMK's focus of bioeconomy is aligned with the regional challenges and opportunities. The regional economy of Central Finland relies on sustainable utilization of renewable biomass, and the renewal of related businesses and workforce. JAMK has over the years developed its capacity of work in the fields related to bioeconomy and now provides both education and R&D in this domain. Thanks to its long term efforts in this domain it is a trusted partner in bioeconomy development and a neutral broker in cluster development. These efforts have brought concrete changes in the region, notably through upskilling and reskilling the local population and enhancing the sustainability and competitiveness of local companies. Given that lifelong learning, adult training and reskilling are major challenges in the rural areas of Central Finland which are dominated by microbusinesses, JAMK has also offered short trainings for local people, e.g. one-year bioenergy trainings.
JAMK has also supported industry development by testing the environment for companies, and through commercialisation of R&D results, student start-ups and support for existing businesses. Students are actively engaged in projects which offer relevant skills and work-based learning opportunities.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

Enabling conditions include a mandate for regional development to allow steering the education and R&D provision to address the needs and opportunities of the local economic and social actors, and the ability to design education and R&D provision aligned with the regional needs. An engaged and well-networked institutional leadership will ensure that the regional engagement is mainstreamed through education provision and R&D activities. Mandatory work-based learning periods for students will ensure that the institution will develop meaningful internship opportunities in collaboration with employers and that students can also contribute to the regional development activities through R&D activities and student startups. Staff appraisal system will ensure that excellence out-of-classroom activities is rewarded.


What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

Funding constraints have been addressed by actively seeking external funds from local, regional, national and international sources. JAMK has for example led successful EU Framework programme applications in this domain and has also sought regional development funds.
The challenges of accessibility have been addressed by the consistent long term development of satellite campus in collaboration with the key regional actors. The satellite campus has also been positioned as a regional centre of expertise to ensure better access to external funding.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

Establishment of education and training provision which can address long and short term needs and opportunities arising from the region; Ongoing links and partnerships with the public sector, business and industry and other education institutions.
The activities are fully embedded in the JAMK work over the long term, so the costs of the activities cannnot be efffectively evaluated. The activities are considered as a normal mainstream activities, not an add-on.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

The good practice is regionally specific and cannot be replicated as such. There is however a possibility for replicability in terms of the basic elements, such as aligning education and research and development with the regional challenges and opportunities in a flexible way, collaborating with the key regional actors - in government, business and industry, education and R&D - to develop an ecosystem and boost cluster industry activities, focusing on the long term development of institutional and regional capacity among the population and local employers.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

This example also shows how professional higher education institutions have an important role to play in regional development, through mobilising their education provision, research and development activities for the benefit of the region. Professional higher education institutions are often also wellplaced to take the role as a neutral broker in the regional development,. For example JAMK has coordinated cluster development which has been able to access 7th Framework Programme and Horizon 2020 funding.


Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

The universities of applied sciences (polytechnics) in Finland, such as the JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvaskyla, have an explicit legally based regional role in delivering education which is relevant to the labour market, and research, development and innovation aligned with the needs of the region where they are located. The regional role of the universities of applied sciences may take many different shapes depending on the local context and its challenges and opportunities, facilitating cluster development.