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II Summaries of case studies on cross-border areas

Bothnian Arc (Finland-Sweden)

The Bothnian Arc is a cross-border area on the border of Finland and Sweden that covers the most populated areas along the upper Bothnian Bay, spanning 800 kilometres. It has a population of around 710 000, across 55 000 km2 with an economic output of USD 31 billion. The Bothnian Arc collaboration was initiated by local authorities, with strong commitment of the mayors of the cities of Oulu and Lulea (300 kilometres apart) to such collaboration. Despite a peripheral location in all respects, some parts of the Bothnian Arc have shown a remarkable vitality, notably Oulu (Finland), driven by an innovation ecosystem that builds on the heritage of Nokia and the contribution of Oulu University. Lulea (Sweden) has recently attracted the European Facebook data centre. The area is looking to go beyond ad hoc projects for a more strategic approach to innovation-driven collaboration to be the dynamic hub of the north.

This chapter is an excerpt of Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of the Bothnian Arc (Finland-Sweden) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/17, OECD Publishing, Paris,


The Bothnian Arc is a Swedish-Finnish cross-border area initiated by local authorities to support the peripheral region in becoming a dynamic hub in the north of Europe. This goal is expected to be achieved both through a macro perspective of the region as a “corridor” between larger economic areas with high economic potential, and a more micro approach - developing synergies through the exploitation of business and innovation opportunities across the knowledge-intensive cross-border region. Global warming brings the perspective of opening an arctic sea route that could change the context for the Bothnian Arc. The construction of an Arctic railway, connecting the Bothnian Arc with the northern shores of the Barents Sea, is under study. Huge investments in mining and energy are planned in the region. This creates new potential for the Gulf of Bothnia, at the interface between the Baltic Sea region and the Barents Sea.

The Bothnian Arc Association seeks to foster co-operation between actors on both sides of the border in the coastal zone at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia. Such co-operation concerns new business development, innovation, education, training and R&D. The association was founded in 2002. As this is relatively recent for promoting cross-border innovation activities, the task of developing strong, knowledge-based linkages across the cross-border area is still under development.

Figure 4.1. The Bothnian Arc cross-border area

Note: This document and any map included herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

Sources: OECD (2013), OECD eXplorer, (accessed 15 October 2013); and www.bothnianarc .net (right).

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