RDI environments


Growth ecosystems are networks of interdependence built between businesses, entrepreneurs, research, public administration, and third-sector actors.

Ecosystem services are now more systematically assembled and networked for the business sector to benefit from growth and internationalisation.

Global competition requires companies to invest in developing new competence, digital capabilities, and a better understanding of market and customer needs.

In the global business value chains the best performers for those who are able to orchestrate the operation of value chains and to repatriate a significant part of the value created for the customer.

In utilising the potential of digitalisation and innovation activities, platforms and ecosystems in different sectors are decisive. Platforms, on the other hand, are multi-party interactions or marketplaces. Digital platforms in particular can achieve large-scale and rapidly scalable networking effects.

At their best, both platforms and ecosystems should be of critical mass, open, innovation-driven, data-intensive, and strategically managed.


In Lapland and Rovaniemi the roots of the design expertise extend out far. The Faculty of Art and Design of the University of Lapland was founded in 1990. It has educated one-third of the Finnish art industry graduates.

The faculty’s RDI work is development-oriented and is carried out in cooperation with local actors.

Arctic is a feature of many projects of the Faculty of Art and Design. In recent years, in particular, research on service design and interaction has raised the research profile, which is reflected in particular with e.g. in increased funding for research in the Horizon2020 framework.

In 2017, the University of Lapland established the Centre of Excellence in Arctic Design – Arcta, which develops RDI activities and training in design in Lapland.

In addition, the new centre of excellence supports innovation-driven business and aims to enable efficient product development. Although education and research in the design sector is a relatively new activity at the university, its effectiveness is important for the development of different sectors in Lapland.

The centre of excellence has already been networked with leading international universities. Partners include Stanford University, Tongji University, and the international DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) network and ASAD network (Arctic Sustainable Arts and Design). The latter is an Arctic network of sustainable art and design, one of the thematic networks of the University of the Arctic.

The expertise of Rovaniemi’s Arctic design is strengthened by many design sector companies and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences, which offers visual artist and technical design studies.

The activities of the Arctic design cluster are coordinated by the Centre of Excellence in Arctic Design at the University of Lapland. Strong players in the cluster include the City of Rovaniemi, the City of Rovaniemi Business Development company Business Rovaniemi (formerly Rovaniemi Regional Development Agency), Lapland University of Applied Sciences, and Lapland Vocational College.

The City of Rovaniemi organises the annual Arctic Design Week and with the help of the Arctic Design Capital brand, aims to raise awareness of the city and support business marketing activities.

Renowned regional and international business partners of the centre of excellence include e.g. Lapland Safaris, Hullu Poro, Pentik, Norrhydro, Lappset, Kone, ABB, Volkswagen, DanskeBank, Bittium, and Ericsson. Other partners include e.g. Association of Finnish Municipalities and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Oy. In 2016, 24 regional operators had signed cooperation agreements.

Project funding has been used for development projects aimed at creating certain permanent policies and structures. This is a good illustration of the fact that operators share a common will and objectives to achieve which regional development funding (ERDF) will be allocated. When the policies and structures are ready, the actors are very much responsible for the implementation of the activities themselves.

The creation of the Arctic design cluster is linked to the development of Lapland’s smart specialisation strategy and measures for the period 2014–2020, as well as to the creation of Arctic Smartness clusters. The smart specialisation strategy was updated for the period 2018–2022.