The Nordic and Baltic markets offer many opportunities for foreign providers of chemicals. Though significant, local production is limited to fields where the countries have a competitive advantage or a historical expertise and all countries rely heavily on imports.

Finland as a new focus

The decision to locate the new European Chemical Agency in Helsinki, the body in charge of the enforcement of the new REACH regulation, has brought Finland into the spotlight. The country has an ancient and strong chemical industry, still being today the third biggest industrial sector after ITC and paper industry. In 2007 the gross value of production amounted to 18.1 billion €, 14% of the country's total industrial output, around 50% of the production being exported. Though this sector is diverse, there are few specialities like additives for paper industry, paints or industrial enzymes.
The biggest company, Kemira, is willing to consolidate its position among the world leaders in paper additives and water treatment chemicals. Its subsidiary Tikkurila is the leading painting producer in Northern Europe while Kemira's former fertilizer subsidiary has been sold to the Norwegian group Yara but still retains many production facilities in Finland.
Following the merger of the Norwegian company Dyno with Finnish Neste Chemicals, Dynea has become a global leader in high performance adhesives and resins. Many small research-based companies are linked with science parks and universities, one of the most important for this field being the Central Ostrobothnia Technology Center (KETEK).

Paints and wood chemicals among regional specialities

Though in the past 20 years all big Swedish chemical producers have been sold or merged with former competitors (examples include Nobel Industrier, now part of AkzoNobel, or AGA integrated in 2000 into German industrial gas group Linde AG), local production remains significant and innovative even outside the traditionally leading pharmaceutical industry. The overall sales, including plastics and rubber, were close to 170 000 MSEK in 2007, a value only slightly lower than Finland. Exports broke the 120 000 MSEK mark, making chemicals and plastics the third biggest exporting industry, while imports were around 100 000 MSEK. Local production includes explosives, wood-based organic chemicals and paints.

Besides ubiquitous petrochemistry and an innovative plastics industry, Norway has a powerful chemical industry, whose exports are close to the 30 000 MNOK mark. Large companies include Jotun (paints and coatings), Borregaard (wood chemicals) or Yara (fertilisers). Imports are almost twice higher than exports.

Denmark's chemical industry is dominated by a large pharmaceutical industry. Besides that, Novozymes (industrial enzymes) and Danisco (food additives) are among world leaders in their fields, Cheminova (plant protection chemicals) being another strong exporter.

Estonia's biggest specificity is oil shale mining. Viru Keemia Group (VKG) is among the world's biggest oil shale processing company and produces a variety of Phenolic compounds, resins and adhesives. The big chemical plants are all in Eastern Virumaa province (North-East). After VKG, the biggest chemical company is AS Nitrofert, ammonia and urea producer.

Latvia's chemical industry, excluding pharmaceutical and rubbers/plastics, remains fairly small but is quickly growing, the main products being coatings, adhesives and glass-fibre. In Lithuania, chemicals still form 6% of total exports as many local companies have been purchased by bigger international groups. Fertilisers (produced by AB Lifosa) remain the biggest class of exported products.

Almost inexistent 10 years ago, Icelandic chemical production remains mostly linked with pharmaceuticals.

Useful links


European Chemicals Agency (headquartered in Helsinki)

Chemical Industry Federation


Plastics and Chemicals Federation


Industry Federation


Association of Danish Process Industries


Federation of Chemical Industries


Association of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry


Association of chemical industry enterprises


19-21st May 2010:
Helsinki, Finland

7-11th June 2010:
Formula VI,
Stockholm, Sweden