The success story from Oulu (Finland) – how to recover from an anchor firm’s collapse? – early stage support measures was presented by Juha Ala-Mursula from BusinessOulu – Oulu’s economic development company – in a webinar on June 17th with more than hundred registered attendants focussed on experiences from regions having coped with crisis such as the collapse of an anchor firm in Oulu (Finland) followed with panel discussion how previous experiences and Interreg Europe can help regions overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and its economic consequences.

Small city with about 200.000 inhabitants located less than 200 km south from Artic circle, was able to create “Oulu miracle” – to be known as a high-tech city with more 15 000 jobs in IT-sector in year 2000 with mostly Nokia and its subcontractors. Today, only about ten years after the dramatic change of Nokia, Oulu claims the third place in Europe for venture capital per capita invested in local companies. To quote Juha Ala-Mursula (Director of Economic Development at City of Oulu/ Business Oulu/ former Nokia executive): 'Today we can say that Nokia’s problems were the best thing that could have happened to us.' No wonder this fits greatly as an example of regional economic resilience that FOUNDATION – Building Regional Resilience to Industrial original Structural Change is all about. 

Image: Juha Ala-Mursula presents at webinar on 17/06/20 the transformation for more resilient region after Nokia.

It was clearly known that the industrial structure of the high-tech sector was too depending on Nokia’s success – but nobody takes real actions before it was had to be done, so the structural change hit hard. When it seemed obvious that Nokia would face severe difficulties in 2009, the same spirit that once had formed the above-mentioned miracle - the key actors along with Nokia employees started to act. Also, Nokia carried it responsibility and worked in close cooperation with local authorities to support the economic recovery process with its NOKIA Bridge Program. They were offered 5 paths to take the next step: find another job at Nokia, find another job outside of Nokia, start a new business, learn something new, or create your own path. 

One pillar of Oulu’s structural change management focussed on the creation of new entrepreneurship. This “YritysTakomo” was presented in FOUNDATION as a first good practise coming from University of Oulu. The City of Oulu, together with the Centre for economic development, transport and environment created “YritysTakomo”, a significant building block in the emerging startup ecosystem: 'the local pre-incubator that drove the unemployed engineers towards employment or to team up around new business ideas.' The aim was to develop and evaluate business plans and to establish companies.  

This led to new business ideas - over a hundred new startups and 400 jobs were created and thus this practice was indicated as a highly valuable project because of its outcomes. Its value lies in the main target group – unemployed people (mostly former high-technology employees) to whom entrepreneurship and re-education was provided, but also teaching us very valuable lesson.  

Employment in the high-technology sector in Oulu is currently at the same level as before the crisis, and the growing trend in high-technology employment is expected to continue, especially in the high-technology service sector. But the region is more resilience than ever, not just because of broader set of skills. Oulu is co-operating between public actors and companies stronger than before. 'Without the story of Nokia and mobile phones and how it ended, we would not have this mobile industry here,' said Juha Ala-Mursula. Resilience is created in constant dialog between different actors, where public sector role is to listen and support companies, as most innovations and ideas are coming from bottom up.  

Image: Juha Ala-Mursula concluded the success of Oulu to be in co-operation and constant dialog between different actors.

To view the presentations and further information on the webinar :