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Lappeenranta – Wide open spaces, wide open potential

ImageWhen you think of Europe’s emerging markets the natural reaction is to look east.  However, one of the continent’s cities best placed to capitalise on new successes is actually North; way north.


Located in the heart of South-East Finland, Lappeenranta is half way between the Finnish capital Helsinki and Russia’s St Petersburg. The train journey is roughly two hours from Lappeenranta west to Helsinki and the same or less east to St Petersburg.



With 72,000 inhabitants, Lappeenranta is the capital city of South Carelia with 134,000 inhabitants. Lappeenranta has a unique selling point as far as investment is concerned; it’s set itself up as the meeting point for East West commerce for Northern Europe.  Lappeenranta Free Zone is the leading free zone in Finland and the city region is undergoing a heavy promotional campaign as the leading business hub as economic activity between Finland and Russia develops.


Indeed, the two countries are currently enjoying exponential growth; that’s around 5.5% in Finland and 4.4% in Russia.  Chuck in logistics factors in Lappeenranta like the Saimaa Canal, which connects Lake Saimaa with the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg, Russia.  Add to this the Mustola Logistics Centre cargo port on the canal which connects road, rail and river onwards over the border into Russia just 20km away.  In fact, almost a million trucks each year cross the border between Russia and Finland.


On top of this, the region has excellent flight connections with daily flights between Lappeenranta and Riga and scheduled flights to Brussels-Charleroi, Düsseldorf-Weeze, and Milan, and of course, easy connections between all the major European cities and global hubs via the direct route to Riga.

Lappeenranta has a unique selling point as far as investment is concerned; it’s set itself up as the meeting point for East West commerce for Northern Europe.


ImageLappeenranta’s growing international significance and accessibility is one of the reasons it is being targeted by meetings and congress organisers.  It was the obvious location for hosting the 2nd EU-Russia Innovation Forum in May 2011.  On the strength of this, Lappeenranta Innovation was selected to become the main organizer of the annual Congress of European Business & Innovation Centre Network (EBN) that is held in Lappeenranta June 13-15, 2012.

The organisation was granted the EC-BIC status and full membership of the EBN for the maximum period of three years.


The event gathers hundreds of innovation experts representing the Business incubators and innovation centres from around Europe to a common networking event every year.  The main focus for next year’s congress will be the internationalisation of innovative businesses.  Naturally, special attention will be given to cooperation between innovation supporters and innovative SME’s from Europe and Russia. The participants of the congress will be offered also with a possibility to include a visit in St. Petersburg to their program.


“EBN membership supports our strategy of being an internationally recognised leading actor in the European-Russian innovation sector”, Reko Juntto CEO of Lappeenranta Innovation explains.  “The membership opens up new international gateways between more than 200 member companies which we are pleased to invite to explore new opportunities in Lappeenranta at the border of the EU and Russia.”


ImageIt should come as no surprise that Lappeenranta has an extensive professional workforce and service ability.  Thanks to the region’s proactive development agency, Lappeenranta Business Development, active cooperation of business, university and public organisations assists in the development of extensive business operations.  The outfit specialises in professional advice on Russian business and offers a one stop shop service to everyone who wants to invest in Lappeenranta or to establish business in Russia.

The city’s economy is strong on innovative industries like energy, hi-tech metal structures, chemical engineering, and electrical engineering, but traditional Finnish industry like forestry is still important to the region’s economic engine.  This is mirrored by the fact that Lappeenranta’s University of Technology runs one of the world’s foremost educational and research units – The Laboratory of Wood Technology.  The faculty specialises in research regarding wood processing, biomass, sawmill technologies and wood-based panel development and composites.


You can see some of that state of the art technology in action at the Kaukaan Voima biomass-fueled power plant near Lappeenranta. Launched in 2009, the plant –- provides 125 MW of electricity from the world’s largest wood-fired fluidized bed boilers.  The plant also produces process steam and electricity for UPM’s Kaukas pulp and paper mill as well as electricity and district heating for Lappeenrannan Energia, a city-owned power company.


This responsible approach to the region’s energy needs should be some indication of the city’s positive approach to quality of life.  In fact, Lappeenranta’s safe and healthy living environment combined with its growing economic status is fast attracting families to relocate here.  Especially since the region’s high living standards are markedly more affordable in Lappeenranta than in the Nation’s larger cities.


And located right by the waterside of Lake Saimaa – the largest in Finland – it’s no surprise people are rushing to dip their toes in the city’s possibilities…

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