The series of OSIRIS three-day seminars kicked off in sunny Vaasa in the first days of windy October, with energy as the theme chosen by the hosting Regional Council of Ostrobothnia. All project partners were present, accompanied by a number of stakeholders with an interest in energy, experiences, and the exchange of ideas and good practices.
Torbjörn Johansson of lead partner Region Västerbotten found the event to be packed with new knowledge and information:
- It was very intensive. The highpoint for me was the Communication/Storytelling workshop. I could fully embrace the importance of communication and storytelling, and I improved my understanding of Smart Energy.
Communication was one of the main topics - both because the associate partner Åbo Akademi University hosted a workshop on how to communicate, engage and tell stories around the themes of OSIRIS, and due to the benchmarking and exchange of good practices between the partners that really got underway during these three days. This topic culminated in a visit to the brand new Experience Lab and an introduction to user centred design as a tool for developing communication procedures and tools.
The regional energy cluster - the Energy Vaasa brand - presented a number of labs, projects and themes highlighting the need for sustainable solutions in this expanding field on local and global levels, as well as the importance of the cluster for the Ostrobothnian economy and regional development. For this part of the seminar, the OSIRIS members were joined by a group of project developers and stakeholders working with ERDF projects in the Western Finland region - also interested in energy as a topic and open social innovation as an engagement tool.
The energy experience was capped off with a hands-on workshop on the merits and challenges of open and social innovation in developing energy solutions and anchoring them in the society. Even though targets and practices vary between the regions, the challenge of finding common ground and building understanding was tackled with good results. A general consensus was reached on the importance of expanding the traditional triple helix with the fourth sphere of citizens and civic society.
And on a general level, the understanding of differences and similarities between the participants was taken to a new level - resulting in both more common ground and a number of lines of action to expand that ground further.
Niklas Ulfvens of the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia agrees:
- In my opinion one of the highlights of our event was this final workshop. We had the possibility to combine our experiences to dig into the theme of energy and all the different examples of innovation environments we had talked about during the previous couple of days.
- We could then mirror these towards the challenges of identifying what could and should be developed regionally and how open and social innovation methods could be implemented in different scenarios. What became abundantly clear was that while every region works within its own context, we’re quite alike at the end of the day, facing the same challenges and pondering the same goals.
Looking ahead, Torbjörn Johansson of Region Västerbotten knows what he’s looking forward to the most:
- I’m looking forward to establishing a working, good and productive relationship with the Stakeholders to get a good base for Smart Specialization Strategies and the Action plan. And, of course, build on the interaction with the partners to arrive at an improved management process and an even better understanding of all aspects of the project.