Finland has been divided into four subareas for the 2007-2013 EU Programming Period.
The Oulu Region, Lapland and Central Ostrobothnia constitute the Northern Finland subarea, in which the joint ERDF programme for Northern Finland, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, and the ESF regional section for Northern Finland co-financed by the European Social Fund are implemented. The ESF national section, which is implemented in all parts of the country, can also be utilised in the area.
The interests of the regions of Northern Finland are supervised by the Consultative Committee for Northern Finland.
The three regions of the Northern Finland NUTS 2 subarea cover 44 % of Finland's geographical area and 12.1 % of its population. The area has strong forest, metal and chemical industry and top-flight expertise in bioscience, information industry and northern research, for instance. About 82 % of its companies are micro-enterprises employing less than 10 persons. The commercial R&D investments in the area are largely made by companies situated in Oulu or its surroundings. There are two academic universities, one university consortium, four universities of applied sciences and three national regional units. The area also has several upper secondary education institutions and strong adult education expertise. However, the level of education is below the national average and the various parts of the area differ considerably in terms of their demographic trends, age structure and labour markets.
Although the population of Northern Finland as a whole is growing, there is special concern about the outmigration of young educated women. Another major challenge to areas with negative or positive net migration in Northern Finland is the concentration of population. Approximately 1/3 of the area's jobs are located in the private or public service sector, around 18 % in industry, 7 % in construction and 6 % in primary production.
The number of jobs increased by some 100 000 during the period of strong growth in 2006 and 2007, with 12 000 new jobs created in Northern Finland. The growth was especially strong in private services, notably financing and insurance, and high growth figures were also recorded for public services, construction and industry. Growth was experienced in a large number of sectors so the number of jobs even increased in primary production after a long falling trend.
The upswing period was followed by global recession, which has undermined the prospects of export-oriented industry in particular. The structural change still continues in Northern Finland, which is largely dominated by primary production.
There are several culturally valuable environments in the area that call for systematic restoration measures. Tourism will play a special role in Northern Finland in future.
The above challenges are addressed e.g. by means of regional development and structural fund resources.
In addition to the joint structural fund scheme (ERDF, ESF), the regions of Northern Finland pursue cooperation in a variety of other spheres. The purpose of the Open Northern Finland Strategy 2011 is to support positive development in Northern Finland while the Competent Northern Finland Strategy implemented jointly by the universities of Finland is pursued with a view to strengthening and supporting the mutual cooperation and development activities of the area's universities. The aim of the Northern Finland Logistics Strategy, in turn, is to strengthen the logistic competitiveness of Northern Finland. The interests of the regions of Northern Finland are supervised by the Consultative Committee for Northern Finland. All the above forms of cooperation outside ESF activities also involve the Kainuu Region.
Northern Finland is engaged in a cooperation scheme for northern sparsely populated areas (NSPA). A joint foresight and vision process was implemented in order to prepare for the coming 2013+ EU Programming Period. The process resulted in a report on NSPA (Nordregio Report 2009:2). Originally published in English (Strong, Spesific and Promising -Towards a Vision for the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas in 2020).