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Impact of the war in Ukraine on UEF

Joensuun kaupunki ilmakuvassa, kuvalähde

Bird-eye view of the Pielisjoki River in Joensuu

How to define smart adaptation?

The Äly Project maps change management and new opportunities in Finnish regions and municipalities with shrinking and aging population. Our literature review concentrates on defining smart adaptation.

  • Petri Kahila

More than two thirds of municipalities in mainland Finland are losing population. At the same time, some urban areas are growing. Managing uneven development requires intelligent adaptation. The Äly Project's first stage is literature review. Smart adaptation is a new approach that identifies opportunities for the development and renewal of regions and municipalities. It aims to develop new strategies, plans and policies to prepare for population decline and manage change. The aim of smart adaptation is securing and developing services and quality of life, irrespective of growth opportunities.

UEF’s Centre for Regional Research Spatia and Norrum Oy implement the Government-commissioned research activities (VN TEAS) under a research project called What is Smart Adaptation in Finland (ÄLY) during the years 2021–2022. The project maps the change management and new opportunities of regions and municipalieties in Finland with declining and aging population. First, the project analysed international and domestic academic literature. The literature review answers the question of how to define intelligent adaptation.

The concept of smart adaptation (also referred to as smart shrinking or smart decline) originates from research on depopulated towns in former East Germany. The uneven pace of development in regions and municipalities is also characteristic for contemporary Finland. However, the concept of smart adaptation is not well-established in Finnish regional and municipal development. In Finnish literature, the definition of intelligent adaptation overlaps with international research, but the terms shrinkage and decline have often been translated into a more positive-sounding ‘adaptation’ in domestic sources.

Read the project’s Policy Brief about how smart adaptation has been defined in the Government’s research (VN TEAS) at (in Finnish)


More information: Research Director Petri Kahila, Karelian Institute, UEF, tel. +358 50 411 8445,