By Kari Arokylä, September 2006, updated May 2009
Some two decades ago in Oulu, a town in the north of Finland, a company called Oulun Teknologiakylä (Oulu Technology Park) started up in a disused dairy. Its founders could scarcely have dreamed of what the company would eventually become: Technopolis Plc, a thriving publicly traded company and one of the largest and best-known technology centres in Europe.
In recent years, Technopolis has grown at an accelerating pace. Today, it runs technology centres not only in Oulu but also in the Helsinki metropolitan area (Espoo and Vantaa), and in the towns of Lappeenranta and Jyväskylä.
In all, the various units of Technopolis house some 900 customer companies, which employ a total of about 10,000 people. The customers represent a wide range of high-tech fields plus service and specialist companies and branches of research and training institutions. There are also various testing and product development environments.
Pertti Huuskonen, president and CEO of Technopolis, underlines the fact that technology centres provide an exceptionally dynamic and creative environment where commercial activity, research, and product development can meet in a mutually beneficial way.
"Innovative encounters are constantly occurring in the corridors, canteens, conference rooms and even the gyms of our units, as people from different organisations and different fields rub shoulders," he says.
Technopolis is already a major player in almost all of the important high-tech communities in Finland. It is, however, still seeking to expand both in its present locations and elsewhere. There is particular interest in the markets in Russia and the Baltic countries.
"Russia and the Baltic countries now have favourable circumstances and plenty of demand for technology centres that function on a modern concept," says Huuskonen.
Technopolis is currently building a technology centre in St Petersburg, set to open in April 2010. It is intended for both Finnish and foreign companies, and will be one of the first technology centres in Russia based on such advanced, modern principles.
Pertti Huuskonen feels that Russia is ripe for the introduction of technology centres. Social and economic developments and an influx of international companies contribute to a favourable environment and create robust demand for modern infrastructure that is purpose-built for technology companies.
Huuskonen regards the growth and financial success of Technopolis as a testimony to the fact that the company’s service concept works. The company offers corporate customers not only modern facilities but also business services and development programmes that improve their competitiveness.
"Ultimately, our job is to support the growth and success of our customers," he says.
Technopolis has developed its concept with technology companies in mind, and the service companies that support them. It continues to refine this concept on the basis of feedback from customers.
"We have learned to listen humbly to what our customers have to say," says Huuskonen. "Many of our new services are based on customers' ideas."
Oulu, the hometown of Technopolis, has boomed along with the company. Within a fairly short time, Oulu has become an internationally significant centre for technology and expertise. In wireless communications in particular, it is a world leader.
This is a good performance for a town that as recently as the early 1980s was primarily known for its chemical and wood-processing industries and enjoyed its previous international boom in the heyday of the tar trade back in the 18th and 19th centuries. With a population of some 200,000, the Oulu area is not a metropolis, and it is located far from the major market areas, but in high technology it is peerless.
Today, some 850 high-tech companies are based in the Oulu area, employing some 18,500 people and representing a combined turnover of billions of euros per year.
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