Tartu County is located in southern Estonia. It covers 3000 square kilometres and has a population of 150,000. The county comprises 22 local governments – 3 urban and 19 rural municipalities. The biggest municipality is the City of Tartu (100,000) and the smallest – Piirissaare municipality (100) located on an island in Lake Peipus.
Tartu is Estonia’s second city, hosting several national institutions like Supreme Court, Ministry of Education, Agricultural Registries Board, Agency of Medicines, e.a.
University of Tartu (founded in 1632) has made it to the top 1 per cent of the world’s most highly cited science institutions, particularly in the fields of biosciences and medicine. Also located in Tartu is Estonian University of Life Sciences – a center of research in agriculture, veterinary science, rural economy and environment technologies. Altogether, there are 11 universities and colleges with 20,000 students and 5000 employees, including 900 research fellows, in Tartu region.
Tartu University Hospital with the staff of 3,500 is the largest provider of medical care in Estonia. It also plays a substantial role in graduate and postgraduate teaching. New and modern facilities have been built and equipped in the recent years.
The economy of Tartu region relies mostly on small and medium enterprises; few companies have more than 100 employees. Industrial production includes food, clothing, various machinery and prefabricated houses.
A large share of public sector jobs (administration, education, medicine) has contributed to relatively low unemployment rate in the region. At the same time, efforts have been undertaken to foster entrepreneurial spirit and skills, to create new jobs, especially in knowledge intensive and export oriented sector. Knowledge intensive entrepreneurship is promoted by several institutions, such as Tartu Science Park, Tartu Biotechnology Park, Tartu Centre for Creative Industries, e.a.
Tartu County hosts some of the biggest and most successful farms in Estonia. In addition to traditional livestock and crop farming, several innovative farms have emerged, some specializing in unusual niches, and some in ecological farming.
Tartu is the second most popular tourist destination in Estonia after the capital city Tallinn. It is attractive on its own with its museums and cafes, but Tartu also serves as a gateway for rural tourism in southern Estonia where the summer tourist season is complemented by a winter season attracting downhill and cross-country skiers.
Challenges for Tartu region include maintaining regional balance and competitiveness on the national and international level. The county development strategy is to promote knowledge intensive production and exports of services.