Scandinavian Reports

Visiting Nordregio

Visiting Nordregio, Interview with Eva Franzen and Nicola Wendt-Lucas on May 31, 2023

Nordregio is a leading Nordic research institute in the fields of regional development, policy, and planning. They are an official entity of Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union; though, it was initially founded by the Nordic Counsel. Within which, it is a part of a network of organizations that also work together. I had the pleasure of speaking with Eva Franzen and Nicola Wendt-Lucas. Franzen is a social scientist with a master’s and Ph.D. Their official title is senior researcher for Nordregio. Their main projects have been focused on climate change and 5G accessibility within the Nordic region in pursuit of a digitally connected region. Wendt-Lucas is a research fellow with Nordregio and also has a Ph.D. Wendt-Lucas’s focus of study has been international relations. They have also led projects on digitalization and how digital inclusion differs in the public versus private sector. They also focus on healthcare solutions and evaluating the economic consequences of such.

Franzen mentioned the idea of Nordic added value and how they had done a research project on the essence of why the Nordic region is such a special region for innovation and accessibility. It stems from their visionary nature and how they see themselves as the most accessible and sustainable region in the world. The push for this goal is what Wendt-Lucas says differentiates themselves from other countries and regions as they focus on open collaboration towards a goal. To that end, Nordic added value was the topic they researched on how the collaborative culture of the Nordic region was more successful and beneficial to that of comparable other regions.

Given that Nordregio has a parent organization of the Nordic Counsel of Ministers, many of their specific needs and interests are determined by the Counsel’s goals. These are outlined in a mission statement that details the objectives of the Counsel for the next 5 years. This ultimately is what shapes Nordregio’s development as well as pan-European efforts. The name of this mission statement is the Nordic Vision 2030.

There are two main sources through which organizations such as Nordregio are funded. The first is a larger-scale research project funded by the Counsel or EU. These grants require an application process and might involve working with other organizations and collaborating on the research as dictated by the results of the application. The second is smaller projects that are funded nationally by area of influence.

One project that Franzen and Wednt-Lucas introduced to me was their digital inclusion project which dates to just over a year ago. They began with policy overviews of the Nordic and Baltic region to understand what the political state of the issue was, whether it be providing access or a lack thereof. This also helped them base a common understanding of what should be achieved. This involved mapping what areas have social organizations and what they might offer. They also included notes on where policy is aging or there is need without social orgs stepping up to help. To find this data, they used Desi-index European monitoring scheme which is published every year and the EU. They were looking for key factors or missing indicators that might’ve been left out and potentially bring those to light.

Each project is typically assigned 1 project manager and a deputy and team is assembled based on the project size. Overall, Nordregio employs roughly 50 people. Typically, people are working on more than one project at a time. For example, the digitalization project had 15 people work on it at different stages of the process.

Nordregio was initially referenced to us by the Nordic Welfare Center, who were unfortunately too busy to meet. The difference in their organization is that NWC focuses more on welfare issues and social health as well as only receiving Nordic Counsel funding.

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