Posted on 18.10.2016 by Seppo Kallio

Seppo Kallio

Seppo Kallio is the Managing Director at housing supplier Espoon Asunnot. He thinks switching to an EKOenergia-certified energy provider was an obvious choice for his organisation to complement their existing work on climate change

Espoon Asunnot switches to EKOenergia certified power supplier for all properties – why have we done this?

The results of the latest survey into Espoo residents’ environment-related attitudes and behaviour show that climate change is seen as one of the most serious global environmental threats currently facing us and many express concerns about the consequences of runaway climate change. The environment also matters to me personally. It is up to all of us to make environmentally sustainable decisions now to ensure that future generations to come will also be able to thrive on our planet.

Following the 2015 Paris climate talks, action to tackle climate change has ramped up significantly. The responsibility for ensuring a better future for all rests with nation states, local authorities and businesses. Regardless of their size, all organisations must reduce their energy consumption and make use of sustainable energy wherever possible.

Sustainability is one of the key values that informs our work at Espoon Asunnot. That is why it was an obvious choice for us to switch to an EKOenergia-certified energy supplier as part of our ongoing action on climate change. In doing so, we are also working in line with the City of Espoo’s climate policy and the city’s strategic objective of being a leader in tackling climate change.

Following a competitive tendering process, we chose a Finnish bioenergy company as our supplier. Having chosen to opt for bioenergy, it was important for us to ensure that the production process is genuinely environmentally friendly. We are confident that when our sustainability criteria are met, the new electricity contract will bring benefits to both the climate and Finnish nature.

EKOenergia is an ecolabel for electricity that has been established to monitor the sustainability of electricity production. EKOenergia electricity is available from around ten power companies in Finland. EKOenergia itself is a not-for-profit organisation backed by a network of more than 40 environmental organisations across more than 30 countries, including the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (SLL).

At Espoon Asunnot, we believe that environmentally sustainable decisions are also economically sustainable ones that offer benefits to all of society. With this choice, we hope to draw our residents’ attention to the environmental impact of energy production. We all consume energy 24/7, which is why switching to an EKOenergia certified supplier is such a great step towards improving our sustainability.

It is a good idea for domestic and business customers alike to compare electricity suppliers from time to time. According to the findings of a study carried out by the Vaasa Energy Institute, by switching to an EKOenergia-certified supplier, you may even end up saving money. There are around ten EKOenergia-certified suppliers in Finland. A handy tool is available on the EKOenergia website to compare the contracts they offer.

Posted on 6.10.2016 by Ari Huczkowski

Ari Huczkowski

Ari Huczkowski is the COO & Chief Innovation Evangelist at Espoo Innovation Garden

Is nanoelectronics finally approaching the Plateau of Productivity?

About ten years ago I attended Nanotech Tokyo for the first time. We had a group of some 10-11 Finnish nanotech companies going to the trade fair at Tokyo Big Sight, the stand was called FMNT Finnish Micro Nano Technology -joint stand. At the event there was a lot of buzz and high expectations in the air. Carbon nanotubes, graphene, nanowire forests, nanothinfilms. There was a lot of excitement.

I believe what we were experiencing back then was to be described as "On the Rise - Technology Trigger" on the Gartner Hype Curve. Some time later I guess we hit the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" with some of the things, like CNT's. Many even pulled away from that business. But those who didn't pull away, but lived thru the "Trough of Disillusionment" started seeing new growth some time later - even "Slope of Enlightenment".

Now in 2016 we're in very exciting times, but now it's all about the "Plateau of Productivity" for nanoelectronics, and many other fields of nanotechnology.

Let's take the company Canatu, for instance. In 2007 the research group from Helsinki University of Technology (nowadays Aalto University) published a ground breaking article on single walled carbon nanotubes combined with fullerenes, allowing the creation of new form of flexible nanoelectronics - and the researchers spun out to form a company called Canatu to commercialize the technology.

Finally, 4 weeks ago Canatu landed a 22 million Euro funding round  allowing them now to finally go an conquer the world. Their replacement for ITO Indium Tin Oxide touch-surfaces is one of the first ready-to-go solutions they can now offer to the industry. And because they've spent all these years carefully, and experimenting in different customer cases, they're now finally ready to market, and I believe, the Plateau of Productivity.

Another good example is Picosun, one of the fastest growing nanotech companies in Europe:  and Beneq,  and Carbodeon.

All of these companies have gone thru the hype, disillusionment and are now all on the growth path.

I guess this proves (again), that entrepreneurship is also about believing in yourself and - perseverence. You just don't give up. Then you can be successful!

As Henry Ford put it: "Whether you say you can, or cannot - you're right!"

Posted on 30.9.2016 by Teemu Haapalehto

Teemu Haapalehto

Teemu Haapalehto is the City of Espoo's Manager of Immigration Affairs.

Chinese talent in Finland – can you afford not to engage?

For Peter Vesterbacka, well-versed in the immense opportunities offered by the Chinese export market, Chinese language proficiency represents an important building block for Finland’s future economic prosperity. As he has it, a workforce proficient in the language would attract Chinese and other international companies to base themselves in Finland, and also smooth the way for Finnish companies keen to access the huge market in China, which continues to see growth despite a recent slow down.

Few would disagree with the idea that foreign language skills play a key role in promoting a strong export sector and attracting inward investment. What Vesterbacka would like to see in support of Finland’s economic growth is the designation of both English and Chinese as official languages and Chinese language tuition for all children attending nursery.

These are bold ideas and run counter to current trends, as reported by the Finnish schools sector. Finnish young people’s enthusiasm for obtaining secondary school qualifications in languages other than English and Swedish has plummeted since the mid-1990s linguistic heyday.

It may well be that language provision at nurseries and schools alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of international business. Some considerable patience will certainly be called for, as children starting nursery now will not be entering the workforce until the late 2030s. I personally would urge Finnish businesses make use of a resource that, for now, remains woefully under-utilised and is ready to be tapped into right now, not in two decades’ time, namely, the considerable skills and expertise offered by Finland’s immigrant population.

Early this summer, the City of Espoo launched a collaboration with Sino Talent Finland, an organisation set up to represent the Chinese community in Finland. The association offers careers support to highly-skilled Chinese workers and provides advice and guidance to Finnish businesses looking for the right talent for their Chinese ventures. The collaboration forms part of the Helsinki Metropolitan Region’s At work in Finland project. The association is currently working to establish a database of Chinese talent in Finland, which Finnish businesses can use for recruitment purposes. This is an excellent opportunity for Finnish business to work together with the Chinese community!

According to a study carried out by the Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum, when a company recruits an immigrant employee, it leads to a 2% increase in exports to the new employee’s country of origin. Similarly, recruiting an immigrant with a higher education degree, who has resided in Sweden for less than four years, leads, on average, to an 18% increase in service exports to their country of origin.

The question is, can Finnish business afford to leave the expertise offered by Finland’s Chinese community untapped?

Posted on 9.9.2016 by Harri Paananen

Harri Paananen

Harri Paananen is the City of Espoo’s Manager for Economic and Business Development. He has a background both in innovation management research as well as private sector work, ranging from consulting and business development to marketing and sales in Finland as well as internationally. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, he has naturally also dabbled in startups. Growing up Harri played a lot of Sim City and Civilization, probably because already then his dream was to work in urban economic and business development.

Growth for all companies – not just startups

A vision of growth requires the right attitude, and any company can be a growth company. Examples include the guys at lääkä that were part of Summer of Startups, as well as the brave migrant restauranteur who has just expanded my favourite lunch restaurant Zava. It's all about choosing between the willingness to create new things and simply trying to survive and defend the current position. 

It also relates to the approach to new technologies and business opportunities. It is more common now to see growth generated from digitalisation and the consequent opportunities for quick expansion into the global markets. From a historical perspective, Finns have had an aptitude though less of a willingness to take advantage of this opportunity, i.e. to grow their business. A classic example of this the underused potential and parochial attitude of the online retail businesses in Finland; this has led to the collapse of many well-known Finnish retail brands. 

Espoo Innovation Garden is even gaining international recognition as a haven for growth businesses. People are talking about success stories such as Rovio and LeeLuu. The area is also home to numerous success stories that are not as well recognised by the public, including the pioneer of automated advertising Kiosked and the cybersecurity company Nixu. The most active entrepreneurship society for students in the world, AaltoES, keeps pushing new entrepreneurial young people onto the market; their passion to change the world is palpable. 

Enthusiasm about growth should not, however, be limited to small businesses or to the frenzy over new apps created by technology startups. As the growth among the 500 largest companies in Finland is slowing down, new jobs and growth are now mainly created in small and medium-sized enterprises that invest in their future and take risks to change their markets. The big players should learn from the ideas and practices implemented in small and flexible companies; this is what Paulig did when it purchased the majority of shares of the pulled oats sensation Gold&Green. It is good to notice that a greater number of the pillars of our economy are building their future success by learning from and supporting smaller companies in initiatives such as the 11 accelerator programmes organised by the city of Espoo. 

You're welcome to join us!

Posted on 7.9.2016 by Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola is the City of Espoo’s Director for Economic and Business Development, and a keen gardener with a particular knack for cultivating innovation. Her background as an entrepreneur and career working with and for companies in all industries gives her a in-depth understanding of the realities of day-to-day business as well as the macroeconomic mechanisms that shape the development of regional economies. Tuula’s approach to network leadership is all about collaboration and openness, and she is well known amongst innovators and entrepreneurs alike as a match-maker extraordinaire.

Wherever you – delivering user-focused services

I have now spent nearly five years in my post as Espoo’s Economic and Business Development Director. In that time, our operating environment has undergone significant, wide-ranging chage. Currently, around 30% of higher education graduates consider self-employment as their most likely career path, when just five years ago the same figure was as low as 5%. Small businesses are expected to be significant employment generators in the future. Social media has become the most potent communications and marketing channel available, and new business opportunities are being created in these interfaces. For a business to operate internationally is no longer the preserve of the few – it is now the rule, not the exception. Savvy business people are making full use of the benefits offered by digitisation, as they generate new, customer-driven services.

As I see it, the role of cities today is to act as a platform for the services underpinned and made possible by these rapid developments. As a new city enjoying strong growth and a positive outlook, Espoo is ideally placed to do just that. What could be a better location for a new, nimble business start-up than a top spot right next to a brand new metro line?

The new look Iso Omena shopping centre was a hive of bustling activity when it recently celebrated the opening of its extension. Not that this should have been a surprise to anyone in attendance, after all, there are more people living within a stone’s throw of this top notch retail hub than in nearly 300 Finnish local authority areas put together. In addition to the new retail services, the day also marked the launch of the Espoo Service Centre (palvelutori), comprising a library and offering cultural and youth services, a child health clinic, health centre, mental health and other allied services, a service hub, a Kela office, and a HUS (Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa) laboratory and imaging centre, along with Kohtaamo, a brand new meeting place for art and culture. In the coming years, Iso Omena is forecast to provide employment for up to 2,500 people.

The Dinner Under the Espoo Skies was one of the most popular events organised during our annual Espoo Day celebrations. Now, if you find yourself out on an Italian piazza, al fresco dining is no problemo, even in November. In Finland, however, you just have to grab your chances on the odd occasion when the ideal, balmy weather is happening. Luckily, the Iso Omena shopping centre perfectly reflects the Finland’s challenging climactic conditions, while still managing to look more like a traditional city centre setting than your average mall. Having realised this, I am enthusiastically recommending our very own ”Big Apple”, along with our other urban centres, to my thirty-something colleague, who ”wouldn’t dream of having dinner in a mall”. The wonderful thing with mall dining is that, once you are done eating, you can go and see a film, top up your travel card, pop into the sports bar for a drink or create a pair of earrings using the library’s 3D printer. Public and private sector services complement one another perfectly – and need to be delivered where the users, the people, are. Soon, they will be just a short metro ride away.

Posted on 6.9.2016 by Olli Isotalo

Olli Isotalo

Deputy Mayor Olli Isotalo is the Head of Technical and Environment Services in the City of Espoo.

The metro as an opportunity – Espoo driving towards sustainability

In Espoo, the metro is a significant driving force in our efforts to create a dynamic and competitive region for the growth and development corridor that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

The West Metro growth and development corridor is expected to attract not just new residents but also new, knowledge-intensive jobs. The aim is to see 180,000 people and 85,000 jobs in the area by 2050. The metro line area does not merely represent intellectual capital but is also a beacon for smart and zero-carbon construction. The new area will attract investment and innovation across new products, services and digital solutions. A well-functioning and diverse urban structure and efficient public transport provision are some of the key considerations for people and businesses looking re-locate. Through our commitment to creating a sustainable city, we are on the driver’s seat, with our route firmly set towards a prosperous and thriving future.

In order to truly deliver zero carbon construction and lifestyles, many parts of a wider puzzle will need to fall into place at the same time. Wood construction and smart energy solutions are some of the key pieces forming the bigger picture. In collaboration with a number of stakeholder groups, we in Espoo are in pursuit of new wood construction models and concepts that lend themselves to large scale, industrial application. Our local businesses and other partners have the drive and capacity to identify these new solutions and promote and enhance our competitiveness.

In energy policy terms, we are working closely with our commercial partners to achieve our goal of zero emission energy provision. In our vision for the future, Espoo will move towards a sustainable energy sector by ensuring that our technology and business solutions are capable of serving as a reference point for product and service standards internationally.

Our urban structure must be designed to be both high-density and highly effective, and make it possible for vital services to be delivered close to high-quality public transport provision. A high-density urban environment will also allow us to preserve biodiversity and make it possible for people to continue to enjoy access to nature and wildlife in their own local area.

The smart, low carbon construction solutions used at the West Metro growth and development corridor represent brand new opportunities for Finland’s economic and environmental sustainability nationally.

Sustainability starts with collaboration. Espoo is open to innovation.

Posted on 5.9.2016 by Jukka Mäkelä

Jukka Mäkelä

Jukka Mäkelä is the Mayor of the City Espoo. He has served the city of Espoo as Mayor since 2011. He is passionate about education, innovations, nature, sports, and above all empowering the citizens of Espoo and including them in the co-creation of Espoo Story, the city strategy of Espoo. Jukka has a wide and varied work experience, which allows him to collaborate with and understand the needs of the diverse stakeholder groups of the city. Jukka is known to both colleagues and partners as being an encouraging and ambitious collaborator, and is often heard greeting good news of progress and success with a smile the phrase “It’s a good start”.

Espoo – delivering sustainable growth

The resultation levels as well as the best health in Europe. The population is growing and the city is considered safe. Our city’s appeal is underpinned by our varied leisure offering, including sports and culture as well a wide variety of other public services. Espoo residents report high levels of confidence in one another and the wider society around them. Our CO2 emissions are already low and continue to fall. Significant contributors to our shrinking carbon footprint include the launch of the Suomenoja CHP plant, the Kivenlahti biomass station and the low-emission electricity available for local households. Energy derived from solar and geothermal sources is increasingly popular and driving our emission down even further. Espoo will be the first area to trial a new geothermal heat source, generating district heating that is completely emission-free. To this end, Nordic energy company St1 is currently drilling seven-kilometre deep rock wells into the Otaniemi bedrock. lts of an international study have found Espoo to be the most sustainable city in Europe. Researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands discovered that Espoo has succeeded in ensuring that development taking place here is on a sustainable footing, across a series of economic, sociocultural and environmental indicators. The study, commissioned by the Netherlands government, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, included more than 140 cities from across the continent.

According to the study’s findings, Espoo’s strengths lie in its education provision and highly skilled workforce as well as the stability and expanses of nature it offers. In sociocultural terms, Espoo residents enjoy some of the highest income and education.

In line with our values, Espoo is committed to being a responsible forerunner in environmental matters, ensuring that all our operations and activities are financially, ecologically and socially sustainable. As a growing city, we want to serve as a platform for new solutions that will further enhance our status as a smart&clean city. We are not engaged in building just a metro line but all the future potential the arrival of the new line implies. The new metro line allows us to continue building our sophisticated and sustainable urban area, with its first rate services and transport systems. Alongside the metro service, the expectation is that all local and regional traffic provision will aim for the lowest possibly emission levels too.

Espoo will remain on the lookout for exciting new solutions, in close collaboration with the higher education sector, including universities and research institutes, as well as businesses of all sizes and the city and its residents as a whole. Innovation and collaboration are the key to the continued success of our endeavours to become ever more sustainable. The Espoo Innovation Garden is a thriving community that offers excellent opportunities for fostering new knowledge and skill-intensive businesses as well as jobs on a sustainable basis and thereby contributing to the economic success of our local area and the country as a whole. We must be able to generate solutions that are scalable and suitable for exporting to the wider global market.

P.S. In the Netherlands, they have been benchmarking their own cities for some time now. The cities are evaluated on the basis of their economic, environmental and social sustainability, with resources allocated on the basis of the findings. The survey of European cities was carried out by the Telos Research Institute, based at the University of Tilburg. For the full report, please visit

Posted on 1.8.2016 by Oiva Lukander 

Many ways to make your startup grow

Hi, I am Oiva Lukander and I have been an intern in Summer of Startups for almost a week now and I am going to tell about my own experiences. I am also going to tell the image I got of working in Summer of Startups.

Okey, so the thing about SoS (Summer of Startups) is that a group of teams are given free working space and coaching for their own startups. This summer there are 14 teams with incredible startups. All the teams have been very active and hardworking all this time. Some of the groups have even given me some work to do as an intern, which have been good practice for my own coming working career.

The working here is very different from what I expected. Before I got here i thought that everyone would be working in the same way, but now I have noticed that everyone has their own way to work and that there are a lot of ways to make your own startup grow bigger. I also thought that SoS would be more like an office, but instead of the strict rules of an office, Summer of Startups is a very relaxed place. But even though you have got all this freedom you still have to get the work done.

The groups have been very inspiring, and not least with showing the interest and passion they have got for their own startups. I have been here for a week now and not one time have i seen these guys just laying around not “caring” about their startup.

Not only have the startups gotten “one to one” coaching but also some great lectures from some great entrepreneurs like for example Linda Liukas and Peter Vesterbacka.

In the lectures the teams got some great tips and so did I, which is awesome. It has been fun to work with the teams and with SoS and I think I will come here myself when I am a bit older.

Posted on 27.5.2016 by Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola is the City of Espoo’s Director for Economic and Business Development and a keen gardener with a particular knack for cultivating innovation.

Espoo birds flying high

The Espoo and wider Finnish economy received a new and unexpected boost when the Espoo Innovation Garden-based entertainment media company Rovio’s Angry Birds flew out into the world – and most recently to a cinema near you. In its coverage of the story, Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat rightly noted that, with the film, Rovio has established itself as a world-class studio. The film might not have been made in Finland but it is precisely that unique brand of fearlessness and innovative thinking so typical of Finland and Espoo that paved the way for this new style of project, generating new growth opportunities for Finland, and Rovio’s native city, along the way.

As Espoo’s Director for Economic and Business Development, I have watched the Angry Birds’ cinematic success with a mixture of pride and joy. The film was released to a hugely excited reception and children the world over are having great fun watching the birds and pigs’ outrageous exploits. The film flew to the top spot on the charts in the US, China and many other countries. What better way for Espoo to conquer the world?

In domestic Finnish terms, the film’s viewing figures are simply staggering. Rovio’s sizeable investment in the production, and the marketing in particular, has paid off and the film’s success will now open doors to further expansion.

In a bold move earlier this spring, the United Nations appointed Red, the Angry Birds Movie’s male lead, as an Honorary Ambassador for Green on the International Day of Happiness. Red’s appointment forms part of the UN’s #AngryBirdsHappyPlanet campaign, designed to promote the International Day of Happiness, observed in March each year, around the world and to encourage people to take action against climate change and its impacts.

Perhaps one day Espoo might adopt one of these furious feathered creatures as an ambassador for a good cause. The film’s growing popularity certainly makes it an attractive prospect. 

At Espoo, we are thrilled to be cheering on one of our own, as they reach for ever greater things on the global scene.

Posted on 14.4.2016 by Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola is the City of Espoo’s Director for Economic and Business Development and a keen gardener with a particular knack for cultivating innovation.

Welcome to Otaniemi

It’s hard to think of a better birthday present for an Otaniemi alumna than the news that all of Aalto University’s core functions are due to be centralised at the Otaniemi campus.

The university’s business school Bachelor programme re-located to Otaniemi in the autumn of 2015, while the School of Arts, Design and Architecture is due to follow in 2018. As part of this new announcement, it has been confirmed that the Business School’s Töölö-based functions, along with all teaching staff, researchers and students will also move to a new, purpose-built facility in Otaniemi.

During my time at the Helsinki University of Technology, teekkarit, the technology students and kylterit, the business students, were more likely to mix at parties than in the academic arena. At that time, the world around us was changing, perhaps more profoundly than any of us realised. I remember being sat a German tutorial and hearing that the Berlin Wall had come down, and an excursion to a paper mill at Tervakoski, where the news reached us that the Finnish currency, the markka, was to undergo devaluation. Student life does not seem to have change so much from those days, apart from the technological aspects, of course.

I graduated in 1994, the same year that Justin Bieber was born, version 1.0 of Linux was released and Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa. Soon after this, in 1995, the university launched its first cross-disciplinary International Design Business Management (IDBM) qualification that brought together business, technology and arts students in a groundbreaking new programme, where participants were tasked by real businesses to solve real problems. In 2006, one such IDMB team made a huge contribution to the service design of my own fledgling business.

Aalto University was created in 2010 with the merger of the Helsinki Business School, the University of Art and Design and the Helsinki University of Technology.

By 2014, it was my very great pleasure, in my role as Espoo’s Director for Economic and Business Development to invite the Aalto University Product Development Project team to design a new and innovative user experience for the Aalto University metro station. The end result was a virtual art gallery and a never-before-seen experience for metro passengers.

Aalto University is a multi-disciplinary institution, where art meets science meets technology meets business. In the same way, the fundamental principle informing everything that happens at the Espoo Innovation Garden, is joint working and shared effort. This sort of interconnectedness has real power, and the potential to change the world.

At Espoo, we are thrilled and proud that Aalto University have decided to focus their core functions at Otaniemi. This move is a boost for the Otaniemi-Tapiola-Keilaniemi area as an international business and innovation hub and as a driver of economic growth for all of Finland.

Posted on 23.3.2016 by Juuso Virkajärvi

Juuso Virkajärvi

Juuso Virkajärvi, 20 year old first year Student at Aalto University School of Business and a proud member of Aalto Entrepreneurship Society.

A journey to wilderness

Imagine a group of young students creating a program that helps connect people who are interested in creating or joining a startup. The plan was to gather and connect people who share the same passion and ambitions towards startups as we do. The participants would form new teams and start to develop their idea to startup with help from our coaches and workshops. TeamUp, as we decided to name it, would be the program giving the tools and knowledge so that the next Rovio or Supercell could born.

When I first heard the idea, I felt eager and excited. This idea was just what the startup community needed. But also among these feelings I felt fear and doubt. I could hear a voice inside my head is whispering. “Do you really have the skills and knowledge to do this?”

We all fear and doubt ourselves too often. We all hear the little voice whispering inside our heads. And we all have choice to let our fears hammer us down or to face them. I think entrepreneurship is all about this choice. The choice to meet our fears and doubts in quest to create something new and beautiful.

Think about it. So often we limit our choices to the ones we are familiar with. The ones we feel safe. But ask yourself: How many of your life's best moments and outcomes are caused by you moving out of your comfort zone and stepping to the wilderness filled with possibilities, misfortune and success. For example it might be scary to ask someone out or to start your own startup. Surely they might say no and the startup can fail miserably. But I think these moments of failure are easily overshadowed by the joy of successful outcome. During TeamUp I had the pleasure of feeling this joy once again.

TeamUp’s first event was a huge success. All of my fears and doubts were unfounded. More than 30 new startup teams were formed in just three days. In an event created by bunch of students and me. People praised the program. And to think I would have missed all of this if I had listened the little voice in my head repeating my doubts.

I would like to say thank you to the Espoo Innovation Garden and our other sponsors. For they put aside their doubts and fears and joined in our journey to wilderness.

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
William Shakespeare

Posted on 19.1.2016 by Fanglan Tao

Fanglan Tao

Fanglan Tao is the Head of International Affairs in the City of Espoo. Born in Shanghai, China, she moved to Finland in the age of 15. Before the current position, she has been working in ABB in different jobs e.g. in China and in the United States.
She is responsible for international activities and strategies for the City of Espoo and is contributing international co-operation between EU, Finnish Ministries and councils of foreign countries. Fanglan is an important link between the City of Espoo and Shanghai in their sister city relation. Attracting foreign investments to Finland and Espoo is essential part of her job. In other words, Fanglan is making Espoo Innovation Garden familiar all around the world.

My two home cities

November 2015 was a very special month for me. I said goodbye to my many years’ colleagues in a giant global corporation and started my new professional journey as a Head of International Affairs of City of Espoo. Even if I have lived in Espoo already for 14 years I have only seen a small part of Espoo so far. Now it’s time to open the curtain and look at what is behind the scenes.

As an original Shanghainese, I am proud that my present home city Espoo is a sister city to Shanghai. Already during my third week in a new job I had a chance to visit Shanghai. The delegation was led by the Mayor of Espoo, Jukka Mäkelä and followed by Director of Economic and Business Development, Tuula Antola. The main purpose of the visit was to strengthen the close and long-term relationship between the cities. The sister city agreement will be renewed with a new MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) for the next three years in 2016.

This was a first time to me to start a trip with a dragon dance and air hostesses choir performances at the airport. This extra program was arranged to celebrate the first long distance flight of Finnair A350 from Helsinki to Shanghai.

Our three day visit to Shanghai was booked full of program including meetings with Shanghai Mayor Mr. Xiong YANG, Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone management, Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) colleagues and ZhangJiang Group (ZhangJiang Innovation Park) Ventures and Incubator management. Our program included also the Finnair’s reception, which was a nice get-together of Finnish business representatives based in Shanghai. The Finnish business community in Shanghai is the biggest one outside of Europe.

We also joined the celebration of Finnish Innovation Center FinChi’s 10 years anniversary. Finchi was established in 2005 and is now a key orchestrator of Team Finland operations in China. Finchi offers Finnish companies a great access to local hi-tech companies in a variety of industries. As a city, Espoo wants to encourage both Finnish SMEs to establish their bases in Shanghai, and Chinese companies in Espoo.

In all the meetings Mayor Jukka Mäkelä emphasized the importance of good collaboration in all levels - between countries, cities, universities and companies. Mayor YANG expressed his full support on this approach. He also welcomed SLUSH - a matchmaking event for startups and investors - to Shanghai in 2016. The meeting of two Mayors, which was already a third one, was reported widely in Shanghai media. As an example, my parents who live in Shanghai called me on the next day and told they had seen me on television with two Mayors.

All in all, this was an unforgettable trip for me personally. I promise as both a Shanghainese and a present Espoo resident, that I will do my very best on developing this special relation for the good of people and businesses, in both of my dear home cities.

Posted on 17.11.2015 by Huawei Kong

Huawei Kong

Huawei Kong is a Chinese early stage investor from Zhangjiang Ventures. His special focus is on medical and gaming industries. He stayed in Espoo for three months in 2015 to get to know the Espoo Innovation Garden ecosystem and its' actors, including potential investment targets.
Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, established in July 1992, is one of China's first state-level high-tech zones approved by the State Council as well as the core park of Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone.
City of Espoo and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park signed a MoU on 2013 related to startup collaboration and investments.

I love Espoo Innovation Garden

As a venture capital investor from China seeking startups to invest in, Espoo was a complete stranger to me when I landed at Helsinki Airport in April 2015. It was during that visit that I was recommended to join Espoo Innovation Garden’s Facebook group as a Gardener.

At first I didn’t pay attention to the word Gardener, so I nonchalantly glanced at the information about activities and events. Every now and then joined the events virtually, like Demo Day of Startup Sauna, Breakfast at Aalto Design Factory, or the Innovation 2.0 conference.

Soon the events from Espoo Innovation Garden filled my calendar, and I was positively surprised by the amount of activity in the “small” city of Espoo, comparing it to the much larger Shanghai.

After interviewing several startups and attending different events, I met with some active people and understood that they are Gardeners too.

It was then when I started to follow the Gardeners’ activities and their posts in the Facebook group with more interest and was able to understand their secrets. It seems that they all have three key factors: a pair of smart eyes, passion of heart and positive motives.

Gardeners are experts in their special field. They can look at new technologies and position them into existing systems. They are involved both in the off- and online worlds. They let people around them feel their passion, and they have understood that innovation is the force driving positive development for both individuals and the system.

Slowly I started to apply my “passion and wisdom” to become an active participant in the Garden, making friends and finding startups like Catchbox. My current goal is to become an “on-line to off-line” Gardener in my own ecosystem. Since July I have stayed in touch with Espoo Innovation Garden every day. Espoo Innovation Garden is active; it collects the wisdom from the Gardeners and shares it back as inspiration. It impresses me deeply with its diversity and the vitality of innovation. I love Espoo Innovation Garden.

Posted on 3.5.2015 by Markku Markkula

Markku Markkula

Chair of the Espoo City Planning Board
President, the European Committee of the Regions
Markku Markkula is a long-standing member of Espoo City Council. A few months ago he was elected the President of the European Committee of the Regions. With its 350 members the CoR is one of the EU Institutions, the assembly of regional and local representatives from all 28 Member States.

Openness Is a Key Ingredient of Talent Competiveness

Professor Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices, stopped me today to think about society’s renewable capital and the operational tactics in defining our Espoo political and also business priorities. His keynote speech in the European conference on Digital and Key Enabling Technologies Skills was titled “The War for Talent”. His two conclusive messages were “Openness is a key ingredient of talent competiveness” and “Talent in the 21st century must go beyond the traditional pillar of formal education”. He also integrated my European opening remarks to the results of the INSEAD study “The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2014” with a statement “There is something happening here – Europe is not doing badly at all”. What does this mean to us in Espoo?

We recently published a book about the Espoo Innovation Garden – a journey titled “Orchestrating Regional Innovation Ecosystems”. The driving idea in the 30 articles in the book is pioneering through experimenting.The City of Espoo wants to attract people with a mind-set for discovery - the key people are the ones living, going to school and/or working in Espoo. Our Espoo-way means also structural readiness for change. The city has re-organised its governance structures and processes by initiating five policy programmes, each with a steering group of five top decision-makers and five top civil servants. The targets are defined to focus on co-creating new innovative solutions to Grand Societal Challenges. This Espoo exercise can turn out to become – through policy experimenting and piloting – a prototype, scaling something unique for the rest of the world.

When thinking the words of Bruno Lanvin, I opened the Orchestration book (you can also download the book from the front page of and read again the Moving Forward article of Saija Äikäs and Sirpa Hertell, two chairs of our Espoo five policy programmes. The city’s commitment and eagerness to increase societal renewable capital can be characterised by quoting their text:

How can we create an inclusive and fully accessible society, in which all citizens are ‘smart’ and can contribute to co-creating quality of life? This is not the kind of inclusion that means someone tells us what to do and what is important for us, hoping citizens will simply comply. It is an inclusive society in which all citizens are seen as people with talents – “potential waiting to be unleashed” – who can creating value for their own lives and for their communities. It is a society in which innovativeness is the common state of mind. It is a region of reciprocal relationships and relevant roles for government and civil society, empowering and engaging people to contribute in the most appropriate ways.

For me political decision-making is above all commitment to positive changes and building the desired future. These changes need to be based on our shared values and attitudes, even eagerness, to knowledge co-creation and shared ownership of the processes needed. We will experiment and pilot these hosting the EU Open Innovation 2.0 conference in Espoo – and also prototyping some interesting conference outcomes after the conference.