Changing the trajectory of the Baltic Sea challenge requires using a new innovative lens

As a part of the Baltic Sea City Accelerator Programme, Race for the Baltic convened cities, experts, solution providers, science and research to dive into specific challenges that municipalities are facing when it comes to water quality, and to innovative solutions.

The Innovation Lab, which was a one and a half day event, back to back with the EUSBSR Annual Forum, provided an innovative arena for cooperation across countries and sectors and stakeholders.

Stakeholders countries gathered to exchange ideas, good practices and to connect with potential partners for current and future initiatives.

Themes discussed:

– Cost-effective solutions for Individual Sewers
– Sludge to Resource
– Data and Cross-Regional City Cooperation
– Initiative financing

Visiting municipalities from Słupsk, Poland and Panevėžys, Lithuania shared challenges and best practices with Swedish municipalities of Värmdö, Vaxholm, Västervik and the Kalmar Region.

See the full two days program here.

Goal of the Innovation Lab:

Idea refinement, generation of new ideas and solutions as well as partnerships, and set up next steps for action.

After an inspiring opening speech from Barbara Jackson Director of Race For The Baltic, Futerra, a sustainable communications agency, presented the importance and the opportunity presented with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as how communication and storytelling can be used as a vehicle to engage new stakeholders.

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Four key challenges that municipalities face around the Baltic Sea were addressed during the Lab, with key presentations from cities and solution providers, as well as through roundtables.

  • Cost-effective solutions for individual sewers

The morning sessions focused on cost-effective solutions for individual sewers with a presentation by Ecoloop on innovative methods for sewage, followed by a case presentation from the municipality of Värmdö. The roundtable discussions on this topic allowed participants to exchange ideas in smaller groups and to get ideas flowing. Those smaller group discussion allowed for participants to share their own experience, get new ideas, and explore new possible work partnerships. There is a potential for Värmdö to create a leading example for other municipalities with the same kind of issues.

  • Sludge to resource

The afternoon session focused on the opportunities for turning sludge into resource. It allowed participants to explore the possibilities for using sludge as fertilizer and to produce biogas.  The challenges municipalities currently face with using sludge as a resource was also discussed. Companies offering solutions such as Ecofiltration discussed the topic with cities that are trying to work with sludge recycling like Mariehamn. Some of the main challenges that came out of the discussions highlighted the need to explore the demand for sludge products in local settings, but also to get an overview of the existing technologies in terms of sludge use.

  • Data Transparency

Data Transparency in the Baltic Sea Region was discussed as the third topic of the day. Presentations from Quantified Planet, the Baltic Health Index from Stockholm Resilience Center and SIWI presented how data could be used to improve cooperation in Baltic Sea issues. In terms of data, challenges are to gather and harmonise data, but also to know how to use it and communicate it to citizens in an efficient way.

  • How to finance your initiative

Day 2 focused on how cities could go to action, with emphasis placed on how initiatives could be financed, and city-to-city collaboration across similar initiatives. Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) presented on how to finance initiatives, followed by roundtable discussions focusing on project development. One of the key aspects of project financing that came out of the presentation was the importance of stimulating cross-border projects in the region in order to make a sustainable and prosperous Nordic region. There is also a great need for innovative project-financing models for Baltic Sea projects.

This Innovation Lab was a great way for the Baltic Sea City Accelerator to gather partners and municipalities to accelerate change and to turn challenges into opportunities.