' LEISURE & COMMUNICATION: Silicon Valley, Tampere
  Silicon Valley, Tampere
Image size 8 Kb "Tampere's second wave of industrialisation is now beginning. The first wave over 150 years ago made the city a manufacturing centre that was in many ways ahead of its time. What is happening in communications technology here is certainly as big a process as the first factories meant in the 19th century," says Jarkko Lumio, Managing Director of the Tampere Media Centre.

Lumio's argument is easy to accept, because information and communications technology companies in the Tampere region have been experiencing phenomenal growth. From a zero start a decade ago, they now employ over 13,000 people and are hiring a thousand more each year. "A significant feature is that the emphasis in the work of all the companies, big or small, is on planning, research and development. Growth is certainly only beginning, because new people are arriving all the time, and yet there is a terrible shortage of people with the right skills," says Lumio.

All benefiting from network services

The Tampere Media Centre, which opened its doors at the beginning of 1999, is a cooperative venture between the City, the University and four large communications-sector companies. It functions as a kind of skill centre, which coordinates the efforts of companies to tackle joint projects.

"The basic idea is genuine networking, transferring technological expertise from universities to companies and thereby creating new firms and jobs," says Lumio. Another task is to promote internationalisation by establishing contacts with cooperation partners elsewhere in the world.

The primary focus of work is on building up new forms of network services, an enormously wide field. "The limits to technological development are not even visible yet," says Lumio. "Only time will tell what will happen. And of course the future never turns out to be what we imagine today. Elements that will be quite central are already at hand now, whereas others will prompt laughter in retrospect."

Lumio promises that all citizens will gain from the new services that the development of information and communications technology is bringing. "One socially-important example is the adoption of new technology to take care of the elderly. In the future, society will be able to look after ageing citizens much better than in the past. Elderly people will be able to continue living at home, because networks will make it possible to deliver certain services to them there."

New technology in old factories

Image size 28 Kb The Media Centre is located in the heart of Tampere, in a place where the city's own mini-Silicon Valley is obviously coming into being. The old Finlaysson textile mill, an important cultural monument in its own right, is now the home to quite a cluster of information and communications technology companies. When all of the old factory premises have been refurbished early in the new millennium, there will be accommodation for about 200 companies in all.

The new media companies in Tampere are conscious of their responsibility to respect the traditions of the environment in which they operate. When it opened in 1820, the Finlayson cotton mill was Finland's first large-scale manufacturing operation and pioneered the industrial revolution in its home country. One of the factors on which it based its success was an ability quickly to adopt new technology developed elsewhere. By contrast, the new companies that occupy the site today are in the front ranks of those leading the technological advance, the first in Finland - and sometimes even the world - with revolutionary ideas and products.