Coordinated by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), the Bofori project was launched at the Suojärvi kick-off seminar in November 2018. During the next three years, the project aims to improve the opportunities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the forest sector to engage in cross-border cooperation in Finnish and Russian parts of the Karelia region.
At present, there is not much cooperation between the two parts of the Karelia region, and the potential related to the Finnish expertise in forestry is not being fully utilised towards Russia. The new “Boosting Forest Cluster SME Business in two Karelias” project (Bofori) seeks to change this situation.
– In Russian Karelia, forest sector enterprises are struggling with inefficient wood sourcing and insufficient forestry services, whereas on the Finnish side of the border the wood production chain is in good condition and enterprises have decades of experience in service business based value chain in forestry. Enterprises on both sides of the border may also face similar problems that could be resolved by working together, says Pasi Poikonen, research scientist at Luke.
Pilots, training and use of seasonal workforce on the other side of the border
The work starts by analysing needs in the North Karelia region in Finland and in the Republic of Karelia in Russia. The content of the project is steered on the basis of this needs analysis. The opportunities to use Finnish forestry services and the existing demand for these services will be identified in Karelia, and the export of services will be tested in practice in a pilot enterprise. On the Finnish side, cooperation will be boosted, for example, by identifying how seasonal Russian employees could be used.
– We are already using foreign employees, mainly from Central Europe, in the Finnish forest sector. Considering the border region, it would be more useful if seasonal employees came from across the border. In this way, expertise would remain in the area and the region would certainly gain financial benefits, Poikonen says.
The training centre to be established in Petrozavodsk helps to transfer expertise to SMEs. Forest expertise will be productised into training packages offered to companies, focusing on operations on both sides of the border. In addition, the project will develop a service based on the technology of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). It can be used, for example, to plan and report forestry operations in Russia.
The project will be carried out in cooperation between the Finnish Forest Centre and Riveria, the North Karelia Municipal Education and Training Consortium. In Russia, project partners are the Karelian Forest Research Institute, Petrozadovsk State University, and forestry and harvesting company JSC Zapkarelles. The project is funded by the Karelia CBC programme.