The revolution of the „micro cities“: Valmiera setting the pace in Latvia

Trying out new ways to economic success, experimenting and daring does not depend on the size of a city! In Valmiera, innovations are systematically sought after and promoted in order to achieve economic goals.


The year 2020 forces most companies and organizations to think about necessary changes, digitization and new alliances. Conferences or congresses seek enriching examples and exchange of knowledge at the conference destination when choosing the right place for their gatherings. A great advantage of holding events outside the capital cities is the smaller size of (economic) ecosystem, which helps the participants to better understand the underlying dynamics and context and to use them in their environment. Valmiera is an outstanding example of a city that, despite (or because of?) its micro size, stands out thanks to exemplary economic development and well-considered strategies.

Valmiera is only about 120 km from Riga Airport and is the center of the northeast region of Vidzeme in Latvia. After only 1 hour’s drive on the well-developed motorway from the international airport in Riga, you can observe a smoothly interacting system of key players as under the microscope: cooperation between state and municipal authorities with universities and companies, targeted networking activities, support and implementation of new ideas.

In order for business communities to develop successfully, routines and interaction between research, industry and companies works best when distances are short, exchange is quick and mutual support and commitment from all those involved is backed up by the matching political direction – a result-oriented collaboration is the outcome in Valmiera.

These are ideal conditions for new, streamlined forms of conferences – e.g. in a hybrid „phygital“ format, mixing local reality with virtual reach – but also international investors can benefit a lot. A total of 44 “Foreign Direct Investment Companies” (FDI’s) have already settled in Valmiera, which (according to the FDI magazine of the Financial Times 2019) is “the third best micro-city in Europe for their FDI strategy”.

The alignment for the city’s future is clearly laid out and so is the dynamic development as a livable and flourishing industrial city. Institutions such as the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LTRK), the city of Valmiera, the “Knowledge and Technology center of Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences „, Entrepreneurship Center of Vidzeme Planning Region and Valmiera Business Incubator are mutually carrying forward the strategy. (All that with a background of only approx. 25,000 inhabitants!)


60 years of industrial history and the headquarters of internationally operating companies such as Valmiera Glass Group or VALPRO Ltd., one of the largest metalworking companies in the Baltic States, also shape this clear direction. The city has designated 110 hectares of development area for the relocation of industrial companies and companies and offers a wide range of maximum support (e.g. up to 90% discount on property tax for investors).

Successful educational concepts are another backbone for ambitious goals. Valmiera is a member of the renowned UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities and is known as the “Talent Magnet City” in Latvia: highly motivated and well-trained young people like to stay here after their education or studies in the city and region – the quality of life is highly emphasized in all conversations.

One of the important educational centers is the Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. A conversation with André Nitzschmann, Deputy Head of Study Program „Virtual Reality and smart Technologies“ sheds light on the academic module in Valmiera’s business ecosystem:

André Nitzschmann, Deputy Head of Study Programme „Virtual Reality and smart Technologies“. Foto: Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences

„We as the lecturers appreciate the work at the university here for many reasons: a lot of support is offered when applying for funding, which creates great freedom in the development of new research programs. Both the university as well as the city have an enjoyable personal atmosphere and a close and good cooperation between academic research – institutions – companies and all kinds of organisations.  Short distances and processes are easy to manage, and the opportunity to bring together technology and its practical application in companies is there due to the interest and open atmosphere between all partners.

It is not just the start-ups that are innovative here; the companies based in Valmiera and Vidzeme are very fit and open to new ideas. The regional influence on what happens is pronounced, a lively network culture between the university and non-university partners is actively promoted through numerous hackathons and other events to boost the exchange of ideas. Our goal at the university is to integrate existing knowledge and technology into companies as best as possible and to help optimize business processes. An overall very good infrastructure supports these interactions. “

In summary, the attractiveness of the city consists of the mix of existing professional competence and the quality of the infrastructure, the medium-sized or small companies and their openness to applied new technologies, the clear orientation of the city towards business development – but at the same time the proximity to a green and untouched surrounding area.

Vidzeme Innovation Centre. Fotos: Vidzeme Planning Region, Innovation Conference 2020

Further advantages are real estate prices, standard of living, the proximity to Estonia and the Russian market and the international connections via Riga. Says André Nitzschmann: „Companies interested in Valmiera and its strategic economic development will be welcomed with open arms!“ Valmiera has sufficient conference and accommodation facilities for smaller congresses or meetings. The next town, Cesis, is 30 km away and offers space for congresses up to 1200 participants.