Cluster- to platform-based innovation policy

Development led to local experimentation with open innovation environments and platforms during the years 2008–2010. Highly renowned and award-winning initiatives – Demola, Protomo and the whole New Factory concept – were generated. A new innovation program, Open Tampere, was launched as a large-scale program from 2012 onwards, scheduled to last until 2018. This program aims at fostering new growth of firms and international businesses and at promoting a continuous innovation-based transformation of the traditional industries. It also involves stakeholders such as students, other citizens and heterogeneous local communities in participation in many ways.

It is highly probable that New Factory, with its Demola and other service concepts will be the most important future generating instrument which has already in a very short period of time showed its true colours. Or what about these figures? Since 2012, New Factory has facilitated more than 600 projects with 300 partner companies and other partner organisations, generating 110 start-ups and more than 650 new knowledge-intensive jobs, and attracting 18 million euros of funding for start-ups and innovators.

Demola is an environment in which to generate prototypes and demonstrations from ideas coming typically from private firms. These ideas will be developed in projects by multidisciplinary student teams which own the intellectual property rights; no wonder it is highly popular among them. Demola has developed into a Europe-wide ecosystem for collaborative innovation, and it is now located in 12 cities in 9 countries, and has 40 university partners.

New Factory has over 1100 square meter of co-creation space in the heart of Tampere. The building – the “old factory” or “six-storey” as it is sometimes called – is located in the historic Finlayson area. The name comes from a Scottish industrialist James Finlayson who selected the place for setting up a mill in the early 19th century. The industrial development of Tampere began from there and the area continues to be a prime location for business and renewal of the region.

These open innovation platforms are environments for product and service development and for new market creation. Their processes, from idea generation to real business, are guided by clear, explicit procedures that have made operations easy and have left space for creativity. However, a fundamental idea behind the obvious success of New Factory is that it relies on a community spirit and is fuelled by participant individuals’ real, genuine motivation.

And yet, there is more. Mediapolis open innovation environment was opened in 2014. The national broadcasting company Yle (TV2), Tampere University of Applied Sciences, City of Tampere and Technopolis Ltd. are the backbone of this mesh of creative and ICT-based industries. Experiences from the New Factory will be widely applied to lead the different stakeholders with their ideas and competences on an intended collision course to generate innovations.

Within the life sciences cluster, the most important single activity must be BioMediTech at the Institute of Biosciences and Medical Technology, where over 250 scientists conduct research and education in the fields of cell and molecular biology, genetics, biomaterials, biosensors, computational systems, biotechnology, biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine. What makes it especially interesting is that it is at the same time a joint biotechnology research centre of University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology and an innovation platform combining biomedicine and medical technology.

All these developments can be further boosted by exploiting the potential of innovative public procurement and creation of local lead markets. For these purposes, the national Innovative Cities Program (INKA) provides Tampere a significant advantage, as the city is in the leading role nationally to coordinate the Intelligent Cities and Renewing Industrial Production sub-programs. The program began in 2014 but the city has gained a lot of experience already before that through, for example, adopting practices such as crowdsourcing in suburban development and public transportation.

Oma Tesoma (my own Tesoma), launched in 2013, is the first case in Tampere’s innovation strategy in which innovation platform activity is integrated into urban development policies and projects. In Oma Tesoma, a city district of Tesoma is developed as an innovation platform to attract companies, residents and local communities to generate and create service innovations, business opportunities and attractive living environments and economically viable and sustainable urban areas together. Tesoma, built in 1960s and 1970s, is a diverse city district with some 20 000 inhabitants.

The results and experiences of Oma Tesoma will be utilized and scaled up in other major urban development projects and investments in Tampere - required by the city’s rapid growth (225 274 inhabitants in October 2015 vs. an estimated population of 275 000+ in 2040).