Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary - ROK-FOR (Sustainable forest management providing renewable energy, sustainable construction and bio-based products)

Project context and objectives:

Project context

Forests as ecosystems and wood as raw material are increasingly important for Europe in its efforts towards sustainable development and bioeconomy. Sustainable forest management is needed in order to provide the needed ecosystem services and wood biomass in a sustainable way. The versatility of European forests call for common concepts and solutions adapted to local environmental, social and economic conditions. The target areas of the project - bioenergy, biobased products and sustainable construction - are among the lead markets identified by the European Community (EC) in its lead market initiative. The ROK-FOR consortium has strong potential in all the specified fields and is versatile in its natural conditions and regional approaches, which gives excellent grounds for innovative, productive and long-lasting cooperation.

Combining regional research expertise and decision-making and policies with functioning business clusters from various regions into a European-wide 'metacluster' strengthens the research potential and creates new innovative approaches and solutions for the sustainable development of all regions. The transnational common platform of regions and the research-driven clusters creates a synergic and reciprocal learning-based network for promoting the regional knowledge perspective.

Project objectives

ROK-FOR aims to create a 'region of knowledge' in the forestry sector in Europe. It provides a networking and cooperation platform for the five participating regional forestry clusters from six countries: Baden-Württemberg (Germany); cross-border clusters from Croatia-Serbia and Aquitaine (France)-Basque (Spain); North Karelia (Finland); and Catalonia (Spain). ROK-FOR aims to promote the forest sector by supporting the sustainable use of natural resources, renewable energy, sustainable construction materials and biobased products, without jeopardising the environment. The objective of ROK-FOR project is to initiate strong cooperation between the participating forestry-based clusters, through formulating a joint strategy and action plan for development, leading to increased innovativeness and competitiveness.

ROK-FOR specific objectives:

1. facilitation of trans-national and cross-border cooperation between research driven clusters in the central topic of sustainable forest management responding to the needs of the lead markets of renewable energy, bio-based products and sustainable construction
2. improving links within and between regional actors (research bodies, business entities, regional/local authorities) in developing regional research and technology development policies, in knowledge transfer and mutual learning
3. strengthening and linking strong research driven forest clusters to provide better synergies to address the overall strategic aim. The main concept is the development of a European Union (EU) level meta-cluster of existing regional research driven clusters (RRDC) focussing on regional dimensions of multifunctional forest management
4. defining regional research agendas, building up in the work of the forest technology platform and its national support nodes as much as in regional research and development (R&D) capacities, well targeted at strengthening the contribution of the regional forest sector to the three lead markets, namely sustainable construction, biobased products and renewable energies
5. developing a joint action plan (JAP) at the European level to increase regional economic competitiveness in the three lead markets through research and technological development activities and by mobilising financial possibilities and other forms of support offered by national/regional authorities, the private sector and EC programmes
6. taking measures towards the Implementation of the JAP through joint designing of R&D concepts, development of business plans and links to structural funds, by integrating small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the R&D activities and through joint training and expert mobility
7. mentoring the relevant combinations of partners, especially the cross-border region of Croatia-Serbia with a less developed research profile to support its capacity in setting up and developing a regional research-driven forest cluster
8. supporting through networking the internationalisation of the regional research-driven clusters, bearing in mind innovative approaches fostering worldwide competitiveness and sustainable development of the economic activity.

Project results:

The main objectives of work package two (WP2) 'Analysis of regional research capacities' were to characterise and analyse the research and technological development (RTD) offer of each regional research-driven cluster in the regions concerned. WP2 has created a database on research capacity, of which a new version is under preparation and will be used to collect relevant data for the project on a continuous basis. WP2 has also prepared comprehensive compilations of European, national and regional policies for innovation, a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis for the sustainable forest management and the three lead markets per region, as well as some base material for research agenda development and mutual knowledge. A synthesis of the above-mentioned reports was published as an information brief 'Regional research capacities in ROK-FOR regions' (Deliverable D2).

The main objective of WP3 'Development of regional research agendas' was to develop regional research agendas in a common way with the view to improve connections between clusters and to promote competitiveness and economic growth at supra-regional and European level. Under WP3 there has been a clear identification of stakeholders within the regions, improved networks of stakeholders and the involvement of stakeholders. WP3 has also collected extensive compilations of European, national and regional agendas and commitments, challenges for the sustainable forest management and the three lead markets per regions, as well as research priorities, suggested political measures and training needs, per regions for sustainable forest management, sustainable construction, forest bioenergy and forest bio-based products (Deliverable D3). WP3 has gathered improved and deepened knowledge of the regions among them, as better way to act as a meta-cluster.

WP4 'Development of JAP' has as its aim to prepare a JAP that expresses the strategy of the participating clusters to drive economic development through joint R&D activities on sustainable forest management concept covering renewable energy, bio-based products and sustainable construction sectors. It also aims at preparing a business plan related to the JAP. WP4 has produced the following planned deliverables and reports: 'Interregional workshop: Synthesis of regional capacities and competences' (D11 in March 2011, together with WP3) and a 'Report on JAP' workshop, including the final report on JAP and related business plan (D13 in July 2011).

Activities under WP5 'Measures towards the implementation of the JAP' have started after the reporting period, in August 2011. This WP aims at selecting the best implementation tools.

The main objectives of WP6 'Mentoring for capacity building' are to develop and strengthen clusters in the less-favoured regions of Croatia and Serbia for the support of innovation in the sector and in the selected lead markets. Under WP6, the first mentoring workshop was organised back to back with WP7 Biarritz conference (13 October 2010). WP6 has also prepared a mentoring plan which is being updated during autumn 2011 and organised a fact finding tour in Serbia and Croatia from 6 to 8 June 2011. Fact finding tour resulted in a list of potential topics for joint actions. In addition, possibilities for cooperation between Croatian and Finnish companies utilising wood have been investigated after the tour and the investigation continues. WP6 has identified mentoring needs and mentoring potentials within the regions and supported the transfer of knowledge and good practices and sharing information between ROK-FOR regions. WP6 has contributed to improved and deepened knowledge of the regions among the partners.

The main objectives of WP7 'Dissemination and stakeholder interactions' are to facilitate stakeholder interactions throughout the project and to synthesise key findings of the project and to disseminate them in a suitable format for various target audiences at both regional and European levels. WP7 started with Deliverable D2 (Strategic dissemination plan). WP7 has also created the ROK-FOR website/portal at Deliverable D5. Under WP7, the First ROK-FOR conference was held in Biarritz, France from 13 to 15 October 2010 and the first synthesising report of ROK-FOR on research needs and capacities 'ROK-FOR info brief - Regional research capacities in ROK-FOR regions' was published in May 2011 (Deliverable D10).

Potential impact:

In relation with the central topic of the project on sustainable forest management and through addressing interdisciplinary issues such as renewable energy, bio-based products and sustainable construction, the ROK-FOR project will have the following general impacts:

1. better linkages between academic and applied research and innovation in the forestry sector in coherence with the strategic objectives of sustainable management of natural resources and lead market initiatives; forestry, forest owners and forest industries along forestry-wood value chains with representatives from industry, policy and research; research organisations and regions with similar problem situations.
2. coordination and integration of research activities regarding applied research taking into account regional needs and priorities of both public and private actors from different sectors such as forestry, forest industry, renewable energy production, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, water, recreation, etc; and interdisciplinary research integrating ecological, technical, economic and social science research questions.
3. improved RTD capacities for regional cluster members to implement the future JAP, taking into account rural and remote regions and countries with economies in transition in eastern or southeastern Europe.
4. strengthened regional economies in different European regions through networking of public and private actors, through exchange of knowledge and experience and through research initiatives, including remote rural areas as well as countries with economies in transition. The project will also contribute to better communication between public authorities and stakeholders such as industry as well as different interest groups for multiple uses of forest. It will also strengthen the topic innovation and entrepreneurship in forestry in international research agendas in order to foster, through research, innovation, cooperation and diversification, the contribution of the forest sector to the lead markets of renewable energy, biobased products and sustainable construction, at the same time ensuring sustainable use of forest resources.

Project website: http://www.rokfor.eu

Related information

Reported by

POHJOIS-KARJALAN ELINKEINO-LIIKENNE JA YMPARISTOKESTUS
Kauppakatu 40B
FIN-80101 JOENSUU JOENSUU
Finland
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