Interview with Professor Erkki Uusi-Rauva

Date: 
June, 2012
Professor Erkki Uusi-Rauva

Professor Erkki Uusi-Rauva graduated and earned his doctorate from Tampere University of Technology (Finland) and started his career in engineering industry. Then he joined the academia and served for a long time as professor of industrial management, department head and vice-rector of Tampere University of Technology.
He is currently the director of the joint eMBA programmes organised by the two universities in Tampere. Mr. Uusi-Rauva has memberships in several boards in companies and foundations.

1- For many years the EU locomotive economic regions played an important role in the generation of economic growth and social welfare in its countries and in the whole European economy. Since the emergence of the information society, do you think this model is changing?

I don’t think so. On the contrary, locomotive economic regions are able to take the advantage of the information society to a large extent and play as a role model for the less developed regions. Best companies and other organisations are usually quick adopters of the latest developments. Excellence tends to be cumulative.

2- Do you think that the model based on economic growth induced by the locomotive economic regions is contradictory with the need to reduce the economic gap between regions?

I see no contradiction. The locomotive economic regions challenge the less developed regions and it is also a primary task for the policy makers to allocate resources to reduce the gap. Having worked for a long time in a university I would like to put my finger on the increasing economic importance of regional universities. In regions that have research universities with an entrepreneurial orientation, universities are perceived as powerful engines of technological development and innovation. Another source of development is found in many new forms of cooperation, both formal and informal. There are many new communications between the regional economy and universities of importance aiming to reduce the gap.
Yet, the metropolitan areas should not be neglected. For example, the Helsinki Metropolitan Region accounts for nearly one third of Finland’s GDP with is a bit more than 20 per cent of the country’s population. Not less than a half of Finland’s facilities for research and development are based on this region.

3- From your point of view, what do you think are the most important factors to keep pace and to avoid the economic decline and of social welfare in the European countries?

Growth and continuous improvement of productivity. Both are at risk during economic decline. As to Finland, amount of work increases only little because of the aging of the population. Demographic dynamics and patterns do matter, and he share of working age population is expected to be particularly low in several Finnish regions. Demographic change is of far-reaching importance for the economy and society influencing strongly almost all relevant areas of policy action.
Both growth and investments have diminished over the past few months. There are too few rapidly growing ‘gazelle’ companies and the financing of both start-up and growth companies has become more difficult. This is an uneasy signal for the near future. So called ‘patient money’ is now badly needed.
Productivity improvement should not be neglected during economically difficult times. This is especially true in our case in the public sector that has been behind the private one in this matter.

4- Do you think that the development of the R+D+4i Project can contribute to identify the appropriate counter measures in order to improve the EU competitiveness?

New understanding of regional development is always welcomed and needed. There is similar type of research and development efforts conducted such as ‘Operational Programme Northern Periphery’ and ‘Operational Programme North’ in our case together with our Nordic neighbours, but R+D+4i Project can certainly add something in our body of knowledge. We have seen that there is considerable diversity in regional performances and regions seem to have different strengths and weaknesses. Thus, we can learn from each others.

5- Which are the main challenges that the EU locomotive economic regions involved in the R+D+4i Project so far are facing today?

In a short run how to minimize the damages of the evident economic decline/crisis. In a longer run, how to reach and maintain the global competitiveness edge. This also solves if Europe can maintain its current level of social welfare. The demographic challenge in terms of population aging described above hits Europe in the near future, but in the case of Finland it is already there.

6- Do you think that the EU locomotive economic regions have any important role to play in the recovery from the current economic crisis?

The EULERs in this project are antennas of the economic situation and development. They are also nationally and dynamos of development indicating the positive turn after the hopefully short economic decline/crisis. This is particularly the case in highly export-driven economies such as Finland.