A future proof sustainable economy: The North European megaregion

11/06/2021

Megaregions are on the rise. And unsurprisingly so – they provide a strong framework for recovery from COVID-19, whilst helping enable sustainable economic growth. This is emphasised by the OECD in a newly published policy paper on the North European STRING megaregion, which extends from Hamburg in the south to Oslo in the north.

COVID-19 does not stop at national borders, and has proven the need for regional and joint action to combat the pandemic. According to the international economic organisation OECD, megaregions have every prerequisite needed to truly connect people, cities and regions across borders to provide a valuable scale for cooperation to recover from the pandemic.

The megaregion is also useful to mitigate other pressing issues related to urbanization and CO2 emissions, says the Deputy Secretary General of the OECD, Ulrik Vestergaard, from OECD:

“Cooperation across local and national borders is essential in meeting a range of challenges; agreeing on carbon emissions reductions, designing sustainable transport infrastructure (such as more efficient trains and heavy duty vehicles on hydrogen), attracting a skilled labour force, innovative companies and green solutions, to name a few, “ says Ulrik Vestergaard from the OECD and adds:

“There is strength in numbers – and acting as a megaregion can give us the agglomeration economies to make us attractive to people, innovators and investors alike. Current issues like climate change, viruses and international competition need an agile governance framework able to transcend traditional views of governance and geography, making planning at the megaregional scale increasingly important.”

The international economic organisation OECD has identified the STRING megaregion between Hamburg and Oslo as an area with particularly strong competencies within the green tech sector. In total, the megaregion has 14 million inhabitants, as well as some of the world’s most innovative companies within the development and export of sustainable technologies. The 13 cities and regions from the STRING area are gathered in the political organisation STRING to strengthen relations, and coordinate and implement sustainable initiatives and policies on infrastructure and green investments across national, regional and local borders in Northern Europe.
According to the newly released OECD policy paper, launched in Malmö on June 11th 2021, the STRING megaregion has a strong potential to become a leading European megaregion, internationally acknowledged as a Green Hub; a natural spot to invest, test, work and live in, if you operate within the business of green tech solutions. However, this joint profiling will not happen on its own, according to Thomas Becker, Managing Director of STRING.

“Governments need to “think big” and work together beyond their own boundaries. Building on our green expertise and high levels of innovation and quality of life, the OECD is recommending STRING to take advantage of current opportunities such as the construction of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link between Northern Germany and Eastern Denmark to reap the benefits of agglomeration economies and establish itself as a sustainable megaregion. Simply put – alone, we are too small to make an impact on the international market. Together, four countries pulling in the same direction is a force to be reckoned with,” says Thomas Becker.

However, time is of the essence, which is stated in the newly published OECD policy paper. Seizing the political momentum of the coming decade, including the public funding available to support recovery from COVID-19, will be critical to advance STRING’s green vision and shape a future-proof economic model.

“If we are to reach the EU goals of cutting carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and transport-related emissions by 60% by 2050, we have to act now. In order to achieve these goals, the cities and regions in the STRING area must leverage their sustainable transport infrastructure and use and further develop their expertise in green solutions to strengthen the megaregion. We have therefore taken policy dialogue to the next level by requesting an action oriented policy paper from OECD, which is a result of a year-long multi-stakeholder dialogue, resulting in 23 tangible policy recommendations targeting local, regional and national governments and the megaregional level to create a future-proof megaregion from Oslo to Hamburg,” says Thomas Becker.

STRING’s 13 member cities and regions are now working on implementing several of the recommendations, such as using hydrogen for freight traffic, strengthening cross-border transport planning, scaling up existing green companies, innovating infrastructure and technologies to attract new business and bringing the four national governments together in an efforts to strengthen the sense of a shared North European identity by building a joint brand – whereby if you invest in one part of the region, you get the competences of the rest as part of the package- and coordinating existing national and regional efforts.

“But to ensure a North European megaregion for a greener and better future, we need broad support and implementation of recommendations at the local, national and regional level. Megaregions are a real force powering the global economy and a shared economic growth and prosperity throughout the megaregion is also essential for the states as a whole. If nothing else, the pandemic should make politicians realise the need to work across national borders and make the megaregional framework a new platform on which to rebuild the economy, mobility systems and settlement patterns needed to mitigate against future pandemic and climate threats,” says Thomas Becker, Managing Director, STRING.

About STRING: STRING is a geographical area and a political member organisation in Northern Europe. We connect cities and regions to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and implement integrated policies to deliver on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. Representing some of the world’s most innovative cities and regions, STRING has a unique opportunity to lead the way towards a sustainable future.

Our common vision, as outlined in the 2030 Strategy, is to create a megaregion because there is strength in numbers. Simply put, we are stronger together. To achieve this, we strive to be a globally acknowledged Green Hub and a leading implementer of sustainable infrastructure to combat climate change while improving the lives of our citizens.

For more information: If you have questions regarding the press release or need more photo material, contact Communications Officer at STRING, Sunniva Ottersen Bærug, by phone +45 2587 0108 or email sunb@stringnetwork.org.

If you have any questions about the OECD / STRING cooperation, contact the CEO of STRING, Thomas Becker, by email thbec@stringnetwork.org or by phone: +45 2961 7010.

If you have any questions about the report itself, please contact Soo-Jii Kim, Head of Urban Policies and Reviews at the OECD, by email: Soo-Jin.KIM@oecd.org

Read the full report here: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/urban-rural-and-regional-development/building-the-string-megaregion-as-a-green-hub-in-the-wake-of-covid-19_40c840c3-en