Skip to the navigation Skip to the content

South Savo

South Savo, Finland

NUTS codeFI1D1
Population143.744 (2019)
Area in km²19.130 km²
GDP/inhabitant (year)30.496€ (2016)
GDP growth rate (year)2.8% (2016)
Unemployment rate (year)9% (2019)
Cohesion Policy categoryTransition regions

Number of CCI support organisations: 11
Global creativity index – GCI, country level: 0.917 (2015)
Regional Entrepreneurship Development Index – REDI: 43.2 (FI1D, Northern and Eastern Finland, 2017)

1. Introduction

Already in 2001, the South Savo cultural development plan [1] noted that the area has a quite well developed network of art and cultural entities, well maintained museums, attractive art and cultural centers. It also noted that it has shining international, regional and local cultural events taking place.

According to the same document, South Savo’s cultural history and heritage has its peculiarity as a border region with war history together with specific water traffic areas and industrial history. The document listed a specific lifestyle as a part of the local culture as the area’s strength, whilst a short season for outside activities that makes all events to be concentrated in summer was noted as its weakness. As tourism is one of the main activities in the region, in 2007 it was decided that the situation forces local entrepreneurs to focus on service innovation in order to offer for visitor different services all year around. This created new challenges for developing the creative industries in the area.

The growth of the creative economy is both a national and international phenomenon. Therefore, strategies and development programmes of the creative economy have been published in recent years. The experience economy has been seen as a new opportunity for creating jobs and as a new way of developing environments for innovations. A key question in this context is what role is given to cultural abilities and contents when developing new services for tourism. At the same time, there is a need to consider how the co-operation between different professions and branches can be included in the regional development programs.

The 2008 research and development plan for the creative economy in South Savo [2] raised up four key issues that should be taken into consideration in regional development: (1) developing entrepreneurship and business, (2) creating new service innovations and new kind of co-operation between different professions and branches, (3) planning clusters and cultural knowledge pools and (4) developing applied research in the field of creative economy. These key issues are linked with action plans that will be used in the development of the creative economy in South Savo. Central themes when developing entrepreneurship are for example ability to connect management and artist creativity with each other, international marketing and linkages between event management and regional economic development.  

Currently, the region’s strategic focal points are Water, Food and Forest [3].

2. General information about South Savo

As provided in figures of the Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education,  South Savo’s share of Finland’s financial and cultural resources forms about 2%-6% [4]. This is in proportion with the South Savo’s 2,6 % share of Finland’s total population (2019).

Picture 1. Cultural profile of South Savo (% from whole country) (Ministry of Culture and Education, 2011).

The information is given for cultural industries, which is one of the categories available through official statistics of Finland.

In 2010, South Savo's cultural industries employed in total 2,305 people, which was about two per cent in relation to the whole country. The main cultural sectors were newspapers and magazines, news agencies, printing, libraries, archives and museums, as well as artist-, stage- and concert activities. There are four museums with a total number of 11 museum units in Southern Savo. Also, there are two theaters in the area based and supported by the framework provided by the Theater and Orchestra Act, as well as orchestras. Major cultural events in 2019 and in 2020 in the area included Mikkeli Art and Design Weekend, Joroinen’s Music Days, Kangasniemi Music Week, Mikkeli Music Festival, Savonlinna Opera Festival and Salmela Art Cente, events of the Punkaharju Art Center Retretti, St. Michel race, Sulkava Soudut and Workers’ Stage Days and Siltakemmakat festival in Puumala. Mikkeli Ballet Festival, Jurassic Rock and Campus Festival are not existing anymore but now we have Festival in Puumala (Siltakemmakat) for example.

In South Savo area there is a need to underline that CCI contributes to other spheres related to society and citizens. Art and culture offer experiences, open up new perspectives and bring people together. Research shows that art and culture also contribute to health, well-being and to societal inclusion. This is why cultural well-being has been widely raised to the fore in the area.

South Savo wants to be developed as a pioneer of cultural well-being. To support the process, a provincial cultural well-being plan for 2019-2021 has been prepared [5]. A regional network of cultural well-being promotes and monitors the realization of the cultural well-being plan.

South Savo Foresight for Creative Areas [6] forecasts thatCrafts are an important part of the creative sector in the area and it has links with tourism as well. The importance of digitalization is growing for example in the growth and marketing of creative industries. In addition to traditional distribution channels, the digital platforms scale the products and services of the creative industries to the global market and at the same time create new growth potential for the creative industry consumer branding.

The foresight also forecasts that co-operation between the cultural and creative sectors, such as tourism, product design, service design and welfare, increases the potential for growth. Social media strongly changes the working methods and content of the industry (e.g. crowdsourcing, where the tasks of professionals can be performed by people interested in the subject). Internationalization will be a life condition for many actors. On the other hand, for example in the media sector, understanding locality is very important. Employment in the industry depends heavily on the actors’ own areas of expertise and personal networks. There will be a demand for creative professionals in the future when looking for new ways of doing things. Work is often done in the role as a freelancer or self-employed. The industry requires actors to be independent and bold as well as to have an ability to tolerate economic uncertainty.

3. Economy

2016 and 2015 statistics [7] characterize the economic position of South Savo in Finland. The number of culture and media companies and their employees seems quite stable for both South Savo region and entire Finland.

2016 and 2015 statistics [7] characterize the economic position of South Savo in Finland. The number of culture and media companies and their employees seems quite stable for both South Savo region and entire Finland.

Table 1. Culture and media enterprises by region 2016

RegionNumber of enterprisesStaffTurnoverTurnover / person
   1 000 € – EUR 1 000
All enterprises in Finland388 4831 426 041387 040 305271
Of which culture and the media17 99448 62312 591 896259
Culture and the media (%)4,63,43,3 
Southern Savonia266883131 570149

Table 2. Culture and media enterprises by region 2015

RegionNumber of enterprisesStaffTurnoverTurnover / person
   1 000 € – EUR 1 000
All enterprises in Finland391 5121 422 013379 765 677267
Of which culture and the media17 98250 41612 078 128240
Culture and the media (%)4,63,53,2 
Southern Savonia287894149 320167

To learn more about key regional CCI sub-sectors and their products please see the following list:

  • production of animation: Gigglebug Entertainement
  • firm of architects: more than 20 companies, all small companies
  • movie and tv-production: some, most famous Jesse Haaja with Rendel movies
  • fine arts and galleries: for example Salmela in Mäntyharju, GalleriAri in Mikkeli, Taidekartano Johanna Oras in Savonlinna
  • handicrafts: important for the region, mostly small companies
  • physical exercise and adventure services: Tanhuvaara Sport Sport Institute and Sport Resort, Saimaa Stadium, Visulahti theme park and a lot of smaller companies
  • advertising and marketing communications: important, mostly small companies
  • music and event organizing services: most famous is Savonlinna Opera Festival, also for example Mikkeli Music Festival, Kangasniemi Music Week, Joroinen’s Music Days, Puumala’s Siltakemmakat
  • gaming industry: some, Observis and OiOi are doing also gaming solutions
  • dance and theater: theaters in towns and summer theaters also in smaller villages, Worker’s Stage Days
  • communications: newspapers used to be very important sector of CCI, but recently there have been some acquisition away from the region

International links cannot be considered as very active for the region. Export in this region is quite small. The biggest exporters are Gigglebug Entertainment, Oioi and Haaja who do productions to international markets. Chamber of Commerce in Southern Savonia and Business Finland help CCI companies from CCI sector to reach international fairs.

4. Regional business eco-system

CCI Support Organizations have been listed in the following table together with types of support they provide and support programs.

CCI support organizationTypes of supportImportant CCI projects, programs, partnerships
Kenkävero / Taito Itä-Suomi ryShops, workshops, exibitions, eventsTaito Itä-Suomi ry
Xamk Small Business Centretraining, RDI, consultingSouth Savo Export Experts, Digiportaat
Miksei Oyconsulting, supporting networksSouth Savo Export Experts, Digiportaat, EEN network
South Savo Chamber of Commerce [9]consulting, supporting networkSouth Savo Sxport Experts
South-Savo Entrepreneursco-working, supporting network 
Regional Council of South Savo [10]financial support 
DeSavo (Association of CCI companies)supportco-working, networks
South Savo ELY Centersupport, counselling, financingERDF, ESR
Youth Institutetraining 
Esedu (South Savo Vocational Educ. Institutetraining 
Samiedu (East Savo Vocational Educ. Institute)training 

The most important CCI projects, cooperation programs and partnerships for South-Eastern Finland University for Applied Sciences (XAMK) are related to South-Savo Export Expert project implemented by the Xamk Small Business Center in co-operation with Miksei Oy and South-Savo Chamber of Commerce. This project supports SMEs’ export abilities and their development.  Digiportaat project is targeted for development of the digital skills in SMEs.

5. CCI in the region - Overview of the role of CCI sector in regional business

CCI support and development system bases onFinland’s cultural policy that comprises the different sectors of arts and culture, museums, cultural heritage, libraries, cultural exports and creative work. Arts and culture are supported by both central and local government.

CCI development & support strategies (national, regional, municipal, European): The national strategy until 2030 is the outlook review of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s officials [8]. It introduces the areas on which the Ministry, its agencies and branches of government should focus over several government terms. The key message of the strategy is that the Ministry of Culture and Education and its agencies will take responsibility for securing the foundations of culture and education in society. Early childhood education and care, education, science, art, culture, sports and youth work all play an intrinsic role in creating and fostering education and culture and help revitalise society. The strategy describes three impact objectives and their priorities. The Ministry’s goals are to enable better skills, knowledge and competence for all, to take creative, inquiry-based and responsible action that renews society, and to ensure equal opportunities for a meaningful life. To reach the goals, the Ministry seeks to act transparently and responsibly, and strives to build trust.

For the accessibility and accessibility of art and culture, the South Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) is responsible for [9]:

  • Promoting new forms and access to artistic, cultural and artistic education services;
  • Increasing cultural inclusion
  • Enhancing the expertise of the sector in its territory, to strengthen cooperation between regional development and cultural actors, the arts and culture festivals and other actors.
  • ELY center’s task is also to strengthen the employment and operating conditions of creative workers and the creative economy by providing advice-, training- and development services and funding. For example, companies can get counselling services and sparring to develop and interoperate their business.

Governmental level supporting institutions: The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for legislation, central government financing and strategic steering and for providing prerequisites for artistic and cultural activities.

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland responsible for the economic and employment policy, financing, development entrepreneurship and implementation of the governmental strategy.

Regional administrative divisions: Finnish municipalities are self-governing entities and promotion of general cultural activities is one of their tasks. They encourage cultural activities among local residents by providing grants, by making facilities available and by organising events. Municipalities also maintain arts and cultural institutions.

CCI eco-systems (national, regional): Creative Finland (Luova Suomi); Creative Business Finland; Creative South-Savo (Luova Etelä-Savo); Taito Itä-Suomi ry; DeSavo ry.

Entrepreneurial conditions: South SavoELY centre and Finnvera provide financial support for the establishing of the new companies and development and internationalization of the growth companies.

Access to finance: there are national and international (ESR, ERDF, BSR Interreg, Erasmus+, etc.) support programs for the Creative Industries incl. RDI activities, building export capacities, supporting infrastructure and cooperation, cluster programs, training, product development, international fairs and events.

Regional success cases (special experiences):

Gigglebug Entertainment Oy: Finnish animation for tv, also published in Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.

HAAJA & ARWO DESIGN OY: Advertising and marketing company with a very visible entrepreneur Jesse Haaja. Probably movies are not made under this company (at least not anymore) but Rendel was first Finnish superhero movie ever.

OiOi Collective Oy: Crafts unique and magical interactive installations using the latest digital technology. A lot of references with theme parks, museums, Helsinki Vantaa Airport etc. Also international works e.g. in Hong Kong.

Savonlinnan Oopperajuhlat Oy: Opera Festivals in Savonlinna 1912-1917 and restarted again by city of Savonlinna in 1967. Since then the event has had steady growth of both audience and reputation and is now world famous.

6. Knowledge base and skills

CCI work force, professions and their qualifications: training, RDI activities, development entrepreneurship, couching, support services for SMEs.

CCI Education and training: educational and trainingprograms are available tothe CCI companies and start-ups. These provided by the Xamk, South Savo Chamber of Commerce, Miksei Oy and other regional offices,  KasvuEsedu Oy, South Savo Vocational Education Institute (Esedu) and East Savo Vocational College (Samiedu) and other local organisations and educational institutions.

Education and training programs at universities: South Eastern University of Applied Sciences (Xamk) provides wide range part-time and further education training for the entrepreneurship development, SMEs growth and internationalization. Xamk provides also cultural-, tourism- and gamification training. University of Helsinki has a unit in Mikkeli and Finnish Organic Research Institute has strong expertise in the organic food industry.

Education and training programs at other institutions: Finnish Youth Institute in addition to youth work and tourism, provides sport-, dance-, well-being-, culture- and theatre training. 

Esedu and Samiedu provide fashion-, creative industries-, textile-, interior design- and other training.

In addition to the educational institutions also business support- and development organizations contribute to the development of CCI sector by the providing of the counselling, short-term training and services to the companies.

7. Regional CCI development outlook

As the area’s strategic focal points are Water, Food and Forest, there is no separate strategic priority for the CCI sub-sectors in South Savo. However, there are great possibilities for further development of the CCI sector and establishing new CCI companies. More entrepreneurship training is recommended for the different levels of education (including basic-, vocational- and university levels).

In South Savo there are good opportunities for the further development e.g. of the following sectors: music festivals and events, handicraft, fashion, design, film- and media, game design, digitalization,  landscape design and fairs.


  1. Etelä-Savon maakuntaliitto (2001), Kulttuurista työtä ja toimeentuloa. Etelä-Savon kulttuurin kehittämissuunnitelma vuonna 2001.
  2. Kimmo Kainulainen, Pia Puntanen, Heli Metsäpelto. (2008), Research and development plan of creative industry in Southern Savonia, Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences, Mikkeli. Retrieved from:
  3. Älykkäästi erikoistunut tutkimus- ja innovaatiotoiminta 2018-2021 – Etelä-Savon älykkään erikoistumisen strategia, Etelä-Savon Maakuntaliitto. Retrieved from:
  4. Ministry of Education and Culture. Retrieved from:
  5. Etelä-Savon kulttuurihyvinvointisuunnitelma [Southern Savonian Cultural Well-being Plan 2019-2021] Retreived from:
  6. Etelä-Savo Ennakoi [South-Savo Foresight for Creative Industries] Retreived from:
  7. Statistics Finland, Business Register (2017). TOL2008 – 2008 toimialaluokitus. Retreived from:
  8. Ministry of Education and Culture. Retreived from:
  9. Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (2018).  Retrieved from:
  10. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland,
  11. South Savo Chamber of Commerce,
  12. The Regional Council of South Savo,