500 new ICT jobs in the past 6 months: Oulu’s ICT ecosystem grows with international companies

Let’s get one thing straight: if you want to develop technological innovation, there’s no place like Oulu. With over 400 ICT companies practically spewing innovative products and offering subcontracting wide and far, and over 12 500 people working in the industry, the talent pool is simply outstanding in quality. The University of Oulu and the Oulu University of Applied Sciences hold about 25 000 students combined, with increasing focus on entrepreneurship – something that is worth keeping in mind when combined with the innovative start-up culture in the region. All this just 150 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, or one hour’s flight from Helsinki. All this has definitely caught the attention of international companies.

Diversity in companies

“During the fall of 2014 alone, over 11 globally influential companies decided to locate an office in Oulu, founding a total of 500 jobs on the go and aiming to triple that in a little more than a year”, explains Janne Mustonen, Key Account Director for ICT and Nano Industries in the regional business developer unit, BusinessOulu. “The main thing is that these companies are very heterogenic, from automotive electronics manufacturing to wearable IT. One of the strengths of Oulu is the heterogenic ICT business pool.”

The region is widely regarded as one of the best locations in the world for ICT product development. “We’re looking at a place where you can have all stages of ICT product development from concept to a ready device, all within a radius you can easily travel by a bicycle”, comments Juha Ala-Mursula, Executive Director of BusinessOulu. ICT has evolved into new businesses in health tech, cars and fine sensors, and created business where it hasn’t existed before. “It’s about change of paradigm, modular approaches and agility in open APIs – we’re in a position where market access is almost guaranteed as long as the pieces are all together.” He compares business development to game development, where iterative testing and phasing the development path are constantly evaluated, bit by bit, according to user feedback. “You can’t eat an elephant in one go.”

Keeping up the pace

Janne Mustonen points out that ICT isn’t just about human-to-human communication anymore. “We’re capable of combining the tech and the opportunities the Internet is offering with client requirements into fully functioning solutions, services or products. We’re working on 5G at the moment, we’re seeing first successful larger scale results in the Internet of Things, we’re heavily investing in big data and printed electronics. The diversity is massive and as a business development unit, that is the reason why it is such a big thing for us to see results in all these fields.” They are not worried about stagnation in the business pool, either: both universities in the region see entrepreneurship education as a top priority, which will certainly help keeping the start-up dynamics healthy and vibrant, not to mention providing essential research for the product and service development field.

Now, the aim is set on a global scale. The markets are changing, and there is work to be done in recognising them early enough to be among the first to utilise them. The investments in exporting regional companies globally are high but in collaboration with other cities in Finland. Is the target luring international corporations to the region? After all, investing into the region helps new companies emerge. “All new activities and jobs are equally important, whether it is a company setting office here, or a company being founded here. Either way, good business is good business, and we know that the quality of the work is top notch here, regardless of the employer”, says Juha Ala-Mursula.