Latvia: How local economic clusters add value...
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Latvia

How local economic clusters add value to international meetings

Photo: Oleg Gamulinksij by Pixabay

The definition of economic clusters (here: in a destination) usually refers to concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers and associated institutions in particular fields. A focus on clusters is considered to increase national and global competitiveness and naturally builds up strong expertise in their fields. A government strategically defining its economic clusters can set priorities along a multitude of parameters — with important future development in mind.

This strategy includes innovation and a search for new, future-oriented methods and products. As a result, ideal conditions are created for knowledge exchange and collaboration with the attendees of relevant meetings and congresses.

Latvia has since long used their expertise and knowledge topics to relate with foreign investors and the range of interesting subjects is wide. Business information is important to meeting planners looking for context and inspiration for their meetings. As transfer of knowledge accelerates global solutions for urgent problems at hand, meetings will benefit in depth and purpose.

Where in Latvia do we find the most obvious overlaps between business development of a country and knowledge topics relevant for the conference industry ?

Foreign investors and Latvia’s export goods are an obvious connection: That makes the forestry in Latvia a good example for the cluster approach. The forestry industry has always been Latvia’s export leader. Exports of wood and its products was the most significant export sector in 2018, comprising 21 % of total export value. About 71 % of forestry-sector output is exported.

Forestry and wood processing have a long tradition and the country exports the raw wood to many international partners. The processing of the material offers a variety of classic methods, but also many new products are generated through start-ups and design companies.

Unusually beautiful items are made from the precious material, with surprising characteristics. To use organic material like wood is a trend, the forest is important for the environment and climate policy.  Also, with a lot of know-how and high employment rates, Latvia is home to leading research and resulting innovation in the cluster.

There are a number of leading companies, like in laminated wood production, furniture, wooden houses as well as start-ups like Ewart Woods or qinn Designs, which present awesome new methods to work on wood and its design – like wooden washbasins in the case of Quinn Design. An unusual company is also Manta North, where you can buy online prefabricated wooden houses. Presently Latvia exports more raw materials and immediate products from forests — in future it will be important to identify also new biomass processing routes for the raw materials to result in higher value of products.

Trees from the forests can be fractionated to the level of molecules and thus provide sources for aromatic oils, and other high-valued products. It will be important to better understand the trees, in order to use their full capacity and by-products which are now creating waste.

With clean soil, air and abundant natural resources, there are many more options in the country to cultivate and process niche medical and aromatic herbs — analysing chemical compounds and conditions and learning how to extract elements for pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic productions offer great opportunities. Organic farming industry and new factories for bio-refining of medicinal and aromatic plants are taking agriculture to the next level. Madara Cosmetics Organic Skincare and Zelt Products from Buckthorn Oil are established examples for companies working with local plant extracts.

A smaller but future-oriented strategic development cluster for Latvia are Smart Materials and Smart Cities. The Latvian startup ecosystem with its focus on deep tech is a strong driver for this cluster —  one example is xT Exponential Technologies , which has found a solution to optimize multi-objectives environments (like needed to finding new vaccines….).

LIAA supports incubators in most cities to develop projects. But all the smart applications need a reliable 5 G technology.  LMT (Latvijas Mobilais Telefons) company is the force behind the focus on development and implementation of 5G technology. As a result, the 5G Techritory Forum in Riga is the only conference in Europe dealing with the political and regulatory side of 5G — in contrast to the usual focus on technology at 5G conferences.

Since technological development is progressing so quickly, the necessary adaptation of laws and bureaucratic regulations remains far behind — but these are urgently needed to enable cooperation between countries and politics. This side of 5G development is covered by the 5G Techritory Forum.

No country can imply 5G on its own — it is too expensive, too complex and has too many cross-border aspects: just think of self-driving cars or the development of drones (such as Atlas Dynamics or aerones in Latvia) all of which, like smart materials and smart city projects, require a fast and stable network.

When it comes to research and innovation, an active cluster is built around the government’s strategic view on digital health service and DATA in Latvia. Presently there is a quantum leap in the way information (or DATA that is) are used. Medicine is changing the character from purely curing sick people to predict what can happen, based on probability. Preventive medicine and research needs sound data as a basis.

Genetic database and genome research allow predicting — and diminish — risks for patients with a susceptibility for certain diseases. Digital health is an important aspect for therapy and data help to bring developments into the right directions. Besides the medical aspects, there are many social and economic reasons for introducing the technology, which helps in many ways to reduce repetitive work patterns and to allow jobs which are more responsible and thus provide more purpose to the life of people. Here is an example of a new service - Vigo a startup for stroke therapy applications. The app offers physical exercises for patients to be taken at home.

Last but not least: the most exciting development project is the construction of the new Rail Baltica route. The largest rail infrastructure project in Europe on a pan-European level is intended to contribute to new growth for Latvia (and the Baltic States) and to promote economic cooperation in Europe as part of the European Post-Corona strategies.

Rail Baltica can be seen as a classic cluster project — with a great potential for new structures and a need for collaboration on a European level: not only equipment is required, but technology solutions, architecture, engineering skills and many more services are sought for this project. A case study of this size is nowhere else to find in Europe. More information can be found at https://www.railbaltica.org/

A conclusion of all is that international companies planning meetings in Latvia can benefit from the dynamic spirit of innovation in the country and find ways to disrupt static structures.


More reading about the topic:

3 practical ideas how international conferences in Latvia can benefit from the high vibes

The revolution of the micro cities set the pace in Latvia 

About LIAA - Investment and Development Agency of Latvia

With the brand “Magnetic Latvia”, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) works to increase export and competitiveness of Latvian companies, facilitate foreign investment and implement tourism development and innovation policies .

Responsible for conference and congress development:  Ms. Ieva Gredzena, Email: meetlatvia@liaa.gov.lv 

This article is part of a series to showcase MeetLatvia innovation and knowledge Initiatives, follow all stories on linkedin.com/showcase/meetlatvia

Content design, copywriting und community management: Johanna Fischer, tmf dialogue Knowledge DestinationS

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