Turku Takes Synergy to the Next Level

Combining cross-industrial prowess, accessibility and sustainability, the City of Turku is making room for more success stories

artikkelikuva: Turku Takes Synergy to the Next Level

A view from the front of Villa Medica towards the University Hill. Picture: Lundén Architecture Company

Right now, Turku is all about momentum. The first capital and the powerhouse of the Southwest Finland is pushing boundaries in maritime, cleantech, health and IT, and forging ahead with a superbly deep and diverse ecosystem.

Jouko Turto, Real Estate Development Director for the City of Turku, says that Turku is in

“We have industries here that keep reinventing themselves and finding new ways to innovate,” Turto says, adding that the local “secret sauce” is collaboration.

“For years now, we have concentrated in creating an ecosystem that truly serves the changing needs of the businesses. I feel that we have been very successful in this effort,” Turto comments.

The facts are there to support Turto’s claim: there are already more than 20,000 businesses and 130,000 jobs in the Turku region, and the City of Turku is growing at the rate of 1,600 residents per year – which is, proportionally speaking, among the fastest in Finland.

Where Science Meets Business

The hi-tech core of the community is Turku Science Park, located just a walking distance from the downtown area in the immediate vicinity of the Kupittaa railway station and the Turku–Helsinki motorway. The Turku Science Park is home to the University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences and over 400 other organizations and companies which employ a total of nearly 16,000 people.

In addition, Turku Science Park fosters an active start-up culture which is promoted by the start-up community SparkUp, based in ElectroCity. Furthermore, coworking space Werstas opened in 2015 and has been a success story from the beginning. However, new capacity is direly needed since Science Park is quickly outgrowing its former premises.

“We have 140,000 square meters of leasable space – and only about 400 square meters presently available,” says Mikko Lehtinen, Managing Director of Turku Technology Properties which oversees the Park.

According to Lehtinen, there are ongoing negotiations to add more space to meet the needs of the market.

“We’re presently talking about adding three new buildings into the Science Park, totaling almost 40,000 square meters,” Lehtinen says, adding that investment decisions should materialize in January 2020.

The urban development facility of the City of Turku in the Visitor and Innovation Centre Joki.
Photo: Wellu Hämäläinen

Wanted: Better Integration

Furthermore, in the spring of 2020, a new hotel (with 18,000 square meters) will open its doors in the area, followed by the grand opening of the new campus of Turku University of Applied Sciences.

But even bigger and bolder plans await just beyond the horizon. Going forward, the Science Park could well continue its integration into the downtown area by expanding across Helsingintie road, to the present Itäharju industrial district. This means that the Turku Science Park of the future would integrate working, living and leisure even more closely as part of the existing urban structure and public transport connections.

“This would be done by building a deck construction from Kupittaa to Itäharju,” explains Lehtinen, pointing out that the deck is a great fit for all types of hybrid construction, from residential to services to office.

Also public sector projects, such as schools, could be realized there. Still, the first priority, according to the initial plans, is student housing.

“The deck alone could feature as much as 200,000 square meters of new construction,” says Lehtinen.

All Hands on Deck

“In fact, there’s already a planning competition in the works for the development of the deck,” says Niko Kyynäräinen, Managing Director for regional development company Turku Science Park Ltd.

“We’re hoping to launch the contest in 2020 and get the ball rolling on the deck,” Kyynäräinen says.

According to Kyynäräinen, the Turku Science Park has proven it’s a killer concept many times over – and it only makes good sense to expand on that success.

“We have a situation here where great functionality and connectivity boost engagement – companies are really getting added value from the synergies within the business community.”

Kyynäräinen adds that none of this has happened by accident: the search has been on for “winning combinations” for a long time, and the local ecosystem has been meticulously developed onwards over the years.

“Now we’re able to reap the rewards of that hard work,” says Kyynäräinen, quite pleased with the fact that local business scene is presently firing on all cylinders.

Core Excellence

Timo Hintsanen, Turku City Planning Director, points out that a big part of the Science Park’s appeal is the great location. “While many science parks linger on the outskirts of cities, that is simply not the case here,” says Hintsanen.

“Where else can you find a science park located in the core of the city?” he asks, adding that having business, science and universities all located within one hectare of space is a rare combination indeed.

Hintsanen also observes that the Science Park is very apt at channeling economic growth, as companies of all sizes flock to the park and lock into the local network.

“Talking about the future, it is clear that Turku is one of the three growth hubs in Finland. What’s more, we have industries here that are able to thrive in just about any economic trend,” Hintsanen says.

Homes for Talent

Jyrki Lappi, Land Use Director for the City of Turku, points out that also residential construction has been very intense in Turku. “In 2018, there was, proportionally speaking, more apartments being built here than anywhere else,” Lappi says, adding that the growth arrows keep trending up in the foreseeable future, too.

“The local industries are growing and require workers, so business and residential development is likely to continue hand in hand.”

Actually, the need for skilled labor is so pronounced, that the University of Turku was just granted the right to expand its educational range with Master’s Degree Programs in Mechanical Engineering and Material Technology.

For several years now, the University of Turku has pursued the expansion of its educational portfolio with a view to create a sustainable solution for supporting the business world. Research, product development, and the experts graduating from the University of Turku are all factors which contribute to increasing the vitality and attractiveness of the region.

“We’ve been talking with several international players who are thinking about establishing operations here and they are pleased to see that the local talent pool is becoming deeper as a result of the new programs,” says Niko Kyynäräinen.

The roof terrace of Mauno Circus in ElectroCity.
Photo: Turku Technology Properties Ltd

Blue Industry Rising

One of the industries hungry for new talent is marine, spearheaded by the Turku shipyard. As Meyer Finland has doubled its production in recent years, the entire marine cluster is feeling the rising tides. Enter: Blue Industry Park, located right next to the shipyard, with an aim to become a leading production and innovation cluster of the maritime and manufacturing industries.

As per “Turku business playbook,” also here the key competitive advantage is the synergy created by the cooperation of enterprises and other actors in the area. Upon completion, Blue Industry Park will combine a critical mass of resources and expertise as well as a competitive setting with production, product development and research.

“The Blue Industry Park is presently just starting to take shape, with infrastructural work being done and plots getting ready to be delivered for interested parties,” Kyynäräinen describes the park-tobe that has 60 hectares open for development. Eventually, the Blue Industry Park could feature as many as 100 companies and 10,000 employees.

“The growth of the local marine industry is greatly supported by the upcoming park,” Kyynäräinen believes.

All Aboard the One Hour Train

As Turku keeps on blazing the growth trail, also logistical concerns arise – just how connected is the Turku Region? Program Director Riitta Birkstedt believes that Turku is in fine position in this regard, as well.

“In addition to upgrades to E18 road and the port, we are fully committed to One Hour Train and want to see it through,” she says.

One Hour Train is a high-speed rail link between Turku and Helsinki, which has been waiting in the wings for sufficient political will power to move forward. What the new fast rail connection would entail is that, at first, the travel time between Helsinki and Turku will be reduced by more than 30 minutes from present time. Then, as the equipment is modernized to enable maximum speed, the travel time will be reduced by almost an hour, and the distance between the destinations can be travelled in approximately 75 minutes.

In September 2019, the Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that it has begun negotiations with municipalities and other parties to set up project companies for the One Hour Train. The primary task and function of these companies will be planning and financing railway projects until their construction is completed.

With sizeable investments on the way, it appears that designing the new, rapid railway links will take six to eight years, with the lines likely to begin operating in the 2030’s at the earliest.

The lobby of the Visitor and Innovation Centre Joki.
Photo: Turku Technology Properties Ltd

Carbon Neutrality Within a Decade?

Boosting the rail is also part of the local “green” approach, as Turku seeks sustainability in all its operations. In accordance with the city strategy, the main target of Turku’s climate policy is to be a carbon neutral city by the year 2029.

In order to meet the target, Turku strives to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 % compared to the 1990 level by 2029. This target will be reached through milestones that are set for each council term; for instance, already by 2021, the City wants to reduce emissions by 50% compared to the 1990 level.

“Among big Finnish cities, Turku has set the most ambitious climate targets, showcasing its commitment to be a true forerunner in sustainability,” says Juha Elo, Marketing Manager for Turku.

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