One of the big challenges facing entrepreneurs is to improve their credibility and to build trust.
'Business Planet' reporter Serge Rombi travelled to Lapland, where 'cluster culture' is helping to achieve those goals. But what is a cluster?
Serge spoke to Kari Poikela from The Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster.
"Our cluster is a network of 100 companies, mostly SMEs. Large scale enterprises are from the bio, metal and mining industries," he said.
"Our aim is to improve competitiveness, collaboration, innovation and highlight the potential of the circular economy in Lapland.”
Serge also met Mika Alasuutari, the boss of an SME serving the mining sector.
The cluster helped him find a site for storing and analysing mining samples, and with setting up his business strategy. That strategy has led him to work together with other SMEs in the region and to innovate.
"Our services go from the first research, from exploration, to the point when the mine starts to operate," explained Alasuutari, the Managing Director of Palsatech.
"We offer the whole range of services"
"We offer the whole range of services and this type of service package is unique in Europe."
Four years after getting started, Mika is working with all the mining companies operating in Finland. The experience has allowed him to specialise by intervening in protected natural areas.
Among his projects is recycling mining waste in the construction sector. The idea is also to replicate his business model in other markets.
"We have carried out extensive market research into the need for our services in the Nordic countries, in Europe and all the way to India! With our partner network, we aim to start exporting our expertise and services to global markets," Alasuutari said.
Having already made huge strides, Kari Poikela's cluster still has massive potential.
“Yes! We have identified 16 different circular economy investment potentials worth 500 million euros, which could create 400 jobs in the region,” he told 'Business Planet'.
What about interest from abroad though?
"If I am a non-Finnish entrepreneur, can I still link up with your cluster?" reporter Serge Rombi asked.
"Yes! Most certainly. We are always ready to share experiences and learn new things," was the emphatic response.
"Just give us a call!"
CLUSTERS IN EUROPE
Clusters are groups of specialised enterprises – often SMEs – and other actors that cooperate closely together in a particular location.
By working together, companies can be more innovative, create more jobs and register more international trademarks and patents than they would alone.
The European Cluster Observatory is a one-stop-shop for information on clusters in the EU. It promotes clusters, supports the development of emerging industries, makes it easier for SMEs to join clusters and helps companies to expand abroad.
In 2014, six European regions were selected to showcase new or better ways of designing and implementing modern cluster policies. These regions got support from the Observatory to design and implement regional cluster policies.
One of these regions was Lapland in Finland. Lapland has been systematically developing its cluster policies and building on cross-sectoral cooperation, resource-efficiency, sustainability and its vast natural resources.
Today, the Arctic Industry and Circular Economy Cluster connects process and mining industry companies, SMEs serving industry, universities, research institutions, funding and regional authorities. It is a strong driver of the circular economy in the region and searches for new, innovative and sustainable ways to modernise its processes.