Boundary Spanning in Practice: Supporting Local Companies with Fast Action Forces in South-Karelia

Due to Covid-19 crisis a huge amount of Finnish companies have severe financial challenges. Decisions made by Finnish government such as restrictions of movement and closing restaurants have immediately endangered existence of companies in travel and restaurant domains. Finnish government has made decisions to support small and middle-sized (SME) companies in this severe situation by offering financial support granted by Business Finland and ELY centers.

Helping companies together

This new and severe situation also challenges Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to reconsider and intensify their contribution to the sustainability and well-being of society (Väänänen, Peltonen & Lierse 2020 forthcoming). In cooperation with South-Karelian cities and counties, non-profit development companies, Business Mill incubator, South-Karelian entrepreneur association together with LAB University of Applied Sciences we decided to do our best to help companies. At LAB we established the Fast Action Forces (FAF) – a voluntary based group of specialists who wanted to help the companies. This article shortly presents how these actions were organized.

Phase Actions
1 In daily online meetings with stakeholder groups the means of elevating readiness to cope with corona crisis was discussed and planned.
2 At LAB discussions with experienced specialists were started. The FAF was formed in two days (8 persons). Currently, after three weeks of operating, 34 persons have joined the forces.
3 In stakeholder meetings an objective to contact all companies in the area (about 2 500) was set. About 15 LAB’s students were (part-time) recruited to contact the companies and map their need for help. The stakeholder groups together helped by providing the contact lists.
4 A manuscript for the call was created together with stakeholders groups and familiarization of students was carried out in two online meetings. Contact lists were organized and the task was divided to callers. After this, contacting of companies started.

Proactive rather than reactive

So far, over 1100 companies have been contacted and over one third of them have wanted help either with filling funding application or with special subject i.e. digital marketing or building digital sale channels. Our specialists have already solved about 170 cases. Above of that, about 500 companies have been contacted by other means. In total this equals about 30% of all companies in South Karelia. The local entrepreneurs have already got first positive funding decisions. The Fast Action Forces have got excellent feedback of our actions.

In Finnish context, South-Karelia is (based on the local entrepreneur association) the only area where the actions described here are already in operation. Positive attitude for cooperation between stakeholder groups and ability to make decisions and put them into practice rapidly made it possible to organize the cooperation at this pace.

LAB at your service

At LAB, we believe that in these extraordinary times we have to reconsider how we produce value and innovate together with the world of work. We need several different solutions of operating in boundary spanning and fast actions forces has already been proved to be among these solutions.


Väänänen, I., Peltonen, K. & Lierse, S. 2020. The Role of the Finnish and Australian Universities in Achieving a Better and More Sustainable Future for All, in Sengupta, E., Blessinger, P., Mahoney, G. (Eds.) University-Community Partnerships for Promoting Social Responsibility in Higher Education. Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, vol. 23. Emerald, 155-168.

Artikkelikuva: LUT Viestintä.


Pasi Juvonen, RDI Manager, Commercialization of Innovations, LAB University of Applied Sciences.

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