We have all heard that Finland has one of the best education systems and that Finnish people are happier than most people. But what does it mean exactly for Finland? How is Oulu becoming an innovation hub?

This article expands on my observations made during Polar Bear Pitching event.

Technological innovation

Oulu has already been leading technological innovation since the creation of Nokia. Now, Oulu is leading the 5G research and is launching the first 5G hospital.

Oulu has an impressive ecosystem of health companies like Polar and Oura. The cooperation between those local companies is very dynamic and is a major factor in their rapid growth.

Oulu has the biggest R&D investment in Finland and has already started the 6G research.

Polar vantage v

Cultural innovation

Oulu is hosting the Air Guitar World Championships, the Polar Bear Pitching event, The Irish Festival of Oulu and many other international events.

Everyone can find something for their taste. Moreover, the Nordic climate creates interesting opportunities like fatbiking on the frozen sea, admiring the aurora borealis and of course alternating between the warmth of saunas and the coldness of the sea.

Photographer: Chris O’Brien (VentureBeat)

Educational innovation

Students in Finland have almost no standardized test, almost no homework and 15-20 min break between each class. Collaboration is crushing Competition in Finnish schools which explains the trust and collaboration between local companies.

Students also have many opportunities to get a job without a degree and to work while being in school. The best part: It’s free!

Finland also gives a lot of financial aids to study at university covering rent and food for example. Children often go to school on their own despite the cold weather at 7 years old.

Photographer: Chris O’Brien (VentureBeat)

Oura as an example of a successful startup in Oulu

The Oura Ring allows you to track your sleep and to understand how to improve its quality.

This ring is extremely popular across Finland but also internationally due to many celebrities using it regularly.

Oura raised $20 million in funding in its last funding round. Many celebrities participated including Steven Chen (co-founder of YouTube), Kevin Lin (co-founder of Twitch), the co-founders of Skype, Shaquille O’Neal, Lance Armstrong, Manu Ginobili, Will Smith, Neil Strauss, Sam Harris.

What’s next for Oulu?

Oulu is in the race to become European Capital of Culture in 2026. When the world will be ready to adopt 5G technology on a large scale, all eyes will be turned to Oulu as the leader in this domain.

This sudden visibility will probably give more resources and influence to Oulu. Which would come in handy as the city has the ambition to lead the 6G research.

For more startup trends and business tips, check our entrepreneurship section and subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

The splash photo has been created by the photographer Henri Louma.


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