The Six City Strategy projects of Oulu have been characterised by a strong emphasis on technology, the building of 5G networks and open innovation platforms. Cooperation between the Six Cities has introduced new agile tools for urban development.
The City of Oulu has a long history of engaging in innovation cooperation with companies, universities and research institutions. Even so, the Six City Strategy has kicked the City’s urban development efforts into new gear, in addition to creating new networks and increasing cooperation.“Every city has their own way of doing things and cooperation has not always come naturally. The Six City Strategy has helped us to get to know each other and learn from one another, and now information flows better than ever. This has resulted in the establishment of a more extensive competence network and a practical cooperation model between the cities,” describes the City of Oulu’s Head of Strategy Kari-Pekka Kronqvist.
Cooperation between the City of Oulu and companies has been boosted particularly by new agile tools and agile pilots. Kronqvist also highlights the data produced by the City, which companies can now better utilise in their own product development, as a major positive development.
“Companies can use the city as a development platform. Many of the pilots and projects carried out under the Six City Strategy were born out of the need for companies to test their solutions in an urban environment. It is imperative to get companies to participate and commit, as that is what drives results,” Kronqvist states.
The university’s and the harbour area’s 5G networks creating new and never-before-seen jobs
In Oulu, the Six City Strategy has maintained a strong emphasis on technology throughout. Since the projects have been driven by companies’ needs, it takes time for their benefits to manifest for residents. One example of this is 5G technology, the development of which Oulu has facilitated as part of the Six City Strategy. As a result of these efforts, Oulu has become a major competence centre on 5G technology, in which the university plays a major role. Now 5G is being opened for public use, with the University of Oulu opening a campus-wide public 5G network and Telia opening an industrial network in the vicinity of the Port of Oulu, enabling the utilisation of IoT and the development of new 5G applications.
“From the perspective of 5G technology, the utilisation of IoT was still in the laboratory stage when the Six City Strategy began. Now it is becoming a reality. 5G technology also facilitates the creation of new jobs,” Kronqvist says.
Oulu has also learned a great deal from the other Six City Strategy cities. In relation to this, Kronqvist is keen to highlight the City of Espoo’s KYKY activities, in which schools and day care centres were opened to companies for use as innovation platforms. Being well-prepared and tested, the same model has also been utilised in Oulu with minimal adjustments. The City of Helsinki’s agile pilots in Kalasatama and the City of Tampere’s Koklaamo have also produced tools and good practices that have been put to use up north in Oulu as well.
Together, the Six City Strategy cities are a major development platform for companies
The City of Oulu coordinated the Six City Strategy’s Open Innovation Platforms spearhead project, which Kronqvist considers to be perhaps Oulu’s biggest success during the strategy period.
“The project had a major impact on the City’s innovation activities. At first, we were unable to even agree on a definition for an open innovation platform, but the project allowed us to make some concrete progress in this regard. Now platform-orientation is also reflected in the City of Oulu’s strategy.”
Leading the spearhead project also laid the foundation for Oulu being able to now coordinate the preparation of the Digital Transition programme, which is part of the EU’s Urban Agenda, in cooperation with the Bulgarian City of Sofia and the Government of Estonia. The Six City Strategy has also provided Oulu with other new international networks and visibility, with the six cities showcasing themselves together abroad.
Kronqvist would also like to point out that the Six City Strategy cities are not in competition with one another, but with other European growth centres. The value of the Six City Strategy cities lies in the cities being able to together serve as a sufficiently large and notable development environment for companies.
“The scope of the Six City Strategy cities’ cooperation is considered unprecedented internationally. The Six City Strategy period has only served to deepen this cooperation and make the associated network of experts more interconnected. These co-creation efforts should definitely continue, as they are a shared resource with which Finland can hold its own in Europe-wide competition,” Kronqvist emphasises.
The article was first published in summer 2019.