MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.
The City of Vaasa is a successful seaport that is well known for its unique archipelago – the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Finland.
The region has always been open to new ideas and people, and Vaasa alone has inhabitants representing over 120 nationalities. There is a strong tradition of active entrepreneurship and good employment levels. Around 80% of the industrial production in the region of Ostrobothnia is exported.
There are 13,000 students in six different units of higher education in Vaasa, and education is available in Finnish, Swedish and English. The strong cooperation between the institutions of higher education and the companies guarantees good employment possibilities for students and offers competent manpower for companies in the future.
The Vaasa region represents the biggest energy cluster in the Nordic countries: we employ 12,000 persons and are responsible for more than 30% of total exports within the energy technology industry in Finland. This is despite the fact that only 2% of the country's inhabitants live in the Vaasa region. In total, there are over 140 companies in the regional energy cluster, with the biggest being ABB and Wärtsilä. Their combined turnover is around €5 billion.
The private sector of the energy cluster invests about €200 million per year on research and product development. The Finnish government has given Vaasa the task to lead the development of sustainable energy solutions for the whole country. We develop platforms for solutions that work anywhere in the world.
The City of Vaasa has committed itself to several international, national and regional projects and agreements aimed at reducing the strain on the environment and increasing energy efficiency. Our Energy Education Strategy brings energy and sustainable development into the curriculum and aims to increase energy consciousness, interest and passion among different age groups. The new research and innovation centre, Vaasa Energy Business Innovation Centre (VEBIC), also supports the development of the energy business field in Vaasa.
Another project, Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor, includes building a new innovative ferry for the traffic over Kvarken in the Gulf of Bothnia. The harbour of Vaasa is already an important part of the Nordic Logistics route, which reaches all the way from the Norwegian harbours to the European and Russian transport routes.
Vaasa has also decided to apply for the next Tesla factory, Gigafactory, which produces lithium-ion batteries. The advantage of Vaasa as a location is that it is the most important energy technology centre in the Nordic countries. Kaustinen, which lies nearby, has the biggest lithium deposits in Europe. This combination of energy technology knowledge and supply of raw materials for battery production is globally unique. The energy cluster in Vaasa and Tesla has a common target: to speed up the world's transition to sustainable energy.
Joakim Strand represents the Swedish People's Party in the Parliament of Finland, where he is also a member of the Commerce Committee. He is chairman of the City Council in Vaasa and chairman of the Board of the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia. Previously working in the banking and IT sectors, Strand has a Master of Law degree as well as a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration, while he has also played football in Division 1, representing Vasa IFK. Strand is Chairman of the Board of Vaasan Sähkö, as well as being a member of the EPV Energy, Kvarken Ports, Kvarken Council and VAMK boards.