Tampere (the centre of the Pirkanmaa county) is Finland’s second largest urban area, home to 0.5 million people with a projected 40% population increase by 2030. Michel Lemagnen, CEO and Co-Founder, MCJ Lemagnen Associates Ltd (MCJ), interviews Oliver Hussey and Ari Lylynoja, Business Tampere.
MCJ: Finland is well known for being a high tech location that is welcoming to start-ups and innovators, but people might not know about Tampere. Could you give me a few basic facts about the city?
BT: For several years now, Finns have consistently rated it as the best place to live in the country. It’s a good-sized city, convenient and easy to get around, especially with new transport infrastructure investment. Historically, It was called the ‘Manchester of the North’, because Finland’s industrial revolution started in Tampere, and, by the way, that was courtesy of a foreign investor, James Finlayson, a Scotsman, who established the mill on the rapids in today’s city centre. That Finlayson building is still here today and is home to an exciting mix of high tech companies across industries.
MCJ: So where is Tampere and are you easy to reach?
BT: We are about 180km northwest of Helsinki, 1.5 to 2 hours by car or train. We are a major national railway junction, which has been key factor for logistics and manufacturing companies. Tampere has its own city airport, serving 300 destinations, with daily flights to Helsinki, Riga and Stockholm (all are key international transit hubs) and you can get to Helsinki airport in 1.5 hours. To put that into context, that’s about the same time as travelling from London’s Docklands to Heathrow or Gatwick airports. So, we’re very accessible!
MCJ: How easy is it to set up a business or relocate to Finland – what about bureaucracy?
BT: Finland is a very open place – it’s yet again been ranked as the world’s happiest country. Yes, there is regulation, but you can really get your whole business up and running in 3 weeks, including getting all the bank accounts and paperwork sorted out. I should also add that Finland was ranked the 4th best country in Europe for doing business (EuCham 2019) and 1st in the world for governance (Legatum Prosperity Index 208) and for safety and stability (World Economic Forum Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 and Fund for Peace Fragile States Index 2019).
MCJ: Which industry sectors, sub-sectors or activities would you say you have an expertise in?
BT: There are five main ones: intelligent machines and manufacturing; ICT product building (meaning development, R&D); automotive; cleantech and bio- & circular economy; and healthtech. You’ll notice a common link between digital and smart technologies, building on our strong heritage in embedded electronics, sensors, mobile technology, imaging and manufacturing.
MCJ: Tell us a bit more about the automotive side?
BT: That’s relatively newer but there is an automotive cluster now up and running and we have developed close links with the Gothenburg cluster in Sweden, which is the home of Volvo. It’s very much about connected vehicles, autonomous driving and smart/intelligent mobility – all the enabling technologies. After all, the car of the future is basically a smart phone on wheels…and we know a lot about smart phones from our Nokia heritage. The town of Nokia is about 30 minutes’ drive from Tampere city centre.)
MCJ: We know there are some big foreign digital investors, but what about Tampere’s own ‘born-in-Tampere’ start-ups?
BT: There are more than 250 start-ups in the region. Some exciting examples include Forciot which develops stretchable electronics that can be embedded in textiles, Modulight (medical laser technologies), Colloidtek (photonics technology to analyse and measure liquids) and Echargie, the Airbnb of electric vehicle charging. (Oliver himself is one of its co-founders.)
MCJ: What about any new foreign investors?
BT: A couple of really interesting ones are AAC Technologies (Shenzhen, China) and Axon (USA). AC Technologies is one of the biggest companies you’ve probably never heard of. They develop components for mobile phones and they’ve set up an R&D office here, with a strong focus on camera technology, which will see more than 100 new hires in Tampere in the next two years. Axon, part of Taser International, established an R&D centre in 2018, which will, for example, develop wearable camera technologies for the police services. Tampere is one of the top imaging ecosystems in the world.
MCJ: We have seen in the ‘FDI and the Rise of the Unicorns’ study that executives in high tech companies are seeking a highly talented and well educated workforce, so what does Tampere have to offer?
BT: Our three universities are now merged under the new Tampere University. Finland is ranked 5th in Europe for collaboration between higher education and companies. All our graduates have already been working with companies and it means they are more employer-ready when graduating. There are 216,000 students (60,000 in engineering and ICT) within two hours of Tampere, that’s 69% of all Finland’s HE students (Vipunen Education Statistics Finland 2019). I’d also reference the Demola initiative where companies commission projects to expert students from Tampere and around the world.
According to TechSkillsAtlas™ Finland 2018, Tampere has the second largest IT and engineering talent resource in Finland. There are 57,000 technical IT professionals in Tampere Western Finland and a further 114,000 accessible workers from across Finland. Already, 1 in 4 work for foreign owned companies and 85% of professionals have at least Bachelors’ qualifications.
So, we feel we’ve got great talent with a growing population and we’re an attractive place to live and work.
MCJ: Do you have any specific programmes or funding opportunities you would like to highlight to companies?
BT: Business Finland (the division previously called Tekes) is the main entity that offers a variety of funding instruments, loans, grants etc. for companies. To benefit from these, you must establish a company in Finland.
MCJ: What does Tampere offer that you can’t get in the Helsinki region?
BT: Lots of things! But the really big one would have to be better availability of talent and at a reasonable cost. If you look at various benchmarking tools, you can see that we have an internationally competitive offer. Operating costs in downtown Helsinki are generally cheaper compared with, for example, London and San Jose, and the cost of living is significantly cheaper. Tampere is consistently (6 times in a row) voted by Finns as the country’s most desirable place to work, live and study in (Taloustutkimus study).
MCJ Lemagnen Associates
‘Foreign Direct Investment and the Rise of the Unicorns’ Report
This report is produced by MCJ Lemagnen Associates Ltd and is independent of any government or economic development agency.
© MCJ Lemagnen Associates Ltd 2019