Oulu The 12-minute city of innovation

”What is Innovation? It’s about generating cutting-edge global business by mixing world-class expertise, high-quality research, and youth enthusiasm.” These are some qualities of innovation you may have encountered on Oulu Innovation Alliance’s introduction video. The Capital of Northern Scandinavia has a lot to offer both for those who’ve already found their place here as well as those seeking new opportunities.

It is windy on top of Valkea shopping centre, the highest building in Oulu city centre. Atop the towering landmark, Vice Rector Matti Sarén and Executive Director Juha Ala-Mursula gaze in to the horizon over the other buildings.

“The city looks good and it’s bright. It’s like the future of Oulu”, Ala-Mursula paints a picture.

“We have done a year’s work – and continue to work – on making sure that the astonishing know-how we have in the area is more easily accessible, and the pieces are coming together”, Sarén continues.

Oulu Innovation Alliance started in 2009, albeit Oulu has a long history in working together to make things happen. The University of Oulu and VTT Technological Research Centre of Finland, both OIA partners, have been cooperating ever since the formation of the latter in 1974. OIA is just a formal manifestation of Oulu’s cooperation tradition.

Attraction and wellbeing

Ala-Mursula says Oulu has the advantage of being a high-growth city with a young population without logistics being a hindrance.

“You can get pretty much anywhere in the city in 12 minutes. Thus people are able to maintain an inspiring job within a reasonable commute with time to spare for leisure activities. This in turn ensures productivity”, Ala-Mursula says.

With the joint campus between the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences on the horizon, commutes and public transport will become significantly smoother according to Sarén.

“Linnanmaa is an attractive location for any company due to its proximity to the city, campus, and Technology Village. It’s easy to reach, and is surrounded by innovative people. We have to maximise the attraction factors –a variety of accommodation options, indoor and outdoor activities, transport, etc. – with city planning to make all possible factors world-class. Both students and those in working life need to be kept spirited”, Sarén says.

“Oulu is a wonderful city for balancing work and personal life. The city has a lot of business premises at manageable proximities with rewarding and challenging work to do, and plenty of inspiring activities for free time”, Ala-Mursula adds.

They both agree on Change just not being possible if there is not a clear goal for which to strive. Oulu Innovation Alliance is driving change with clear goals on different areas to make Oulu and the world a better place.

“Both short-term and long-term goals are needed to align your strategy. When the short-term goals create uncertainty, they need to be compared with the long-term goal to see whether they serve the long-term goals. For example, as we want Oulu to be attractive and maintain reachability, we should enhance transport to Linnanmaa as the joint campus increases traffic in the area. Self-driving busses to and from the campus by 2025 could be one solution”, Ala-Mursula says.

The joint campus with the University of Oulu and Oulu University of Applied Sciences is projected to be fully ready in 2020. Plenty of time then to do wonders until then and beyond.


Matti Sarén
Operative steering group chair at OIA / Vice Rector – Cooperation Affairs at University of Oulu

Juha Ala-Mursula
Operative steering group member at OIA / Executive Director at BusinessOulu