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ICT hype in the Joensuu region

Currently, there are around one hundred ICT companies in the Joensuu region. They employ nearly a thousand employees.  The Joensuu region has had an excellent ranking each year on the expert organisation Deloitte's Technology Fast 50 list. For example, according to the ranking, there were more quickly growing technology companies in Joensuu in 2014 than in any other city or municipality in Finland in relation to the number of residents.

Many of the local ICT companies have established their position and become nationally and internationally recognised operators. Companies have versatile competence that enables solid growth.

ICT companies in the Joensuu region export solutions related to, for example, data demolition, remote mapping of natural resources, solutions based on open source code and Industrial Internet innovations. It seems that the sky is the limit for North Karelian innovators – in June, Arcusys Oy announced a cooperation agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA. The agreement deals with creating a global learning environment. The learning environment is tested in research and education programmes that investigate the potential to live on Mars.

The systematic monitoring carried out by the Regional Council of North Karelia on the field strengthens the growth trend within the ICT sector. Data on performance during the first six months in 2015 indicates that the industry grew by 7.7%. Growth figures that are part of the Trend review carried out by the Regional Council cover computing software and consulting services and related services and data services (TOL 62-63). Data services include application services, network portals, data processing and Internet server services and planning and development services.

The growing ICT sector continues to create new jobs in the area. In 2013, there were not many ICT companies in the area that had more than 20 employees. The list of companies that have exceeded said number is long – they include Blancco, Fastroi, Softroi, Arcusys, Arbonaut, Solenovo and Keypro. The greatest operators employ around one hundred employees (such as CGI, PTTK). There are also several operators that employ 30–60 employees.

The following three basic types can be identified among the companies within the industry:

  • companies originally from Joensuu that have their headquarters in Joensuu,
  • premises of companies that have their headquarters elsewhere, of which some have been formed through acquisitions, and
  • Start Up companies that have been established thanks to the business incubator operations at the Joensuu Science Park.

ICT companies typically have versatile product-based business operations.

There are few companies that focus only on subcontracting. Some of the largest companies already operate in the international market, and some are undergoing an internationalisation phase. One of the companies that has recently become more international is Cloudia that is specialised in online acquisition solutions and is opening a country office in Norway. The European Union's new procurement directive requires that public procurements are made online by October 2018. Even though Norway is not a member of the Union, the same procurement directives are followed there as well. Cloudia's objective is to extend its operations to other Nordic countries after Norway.

Organic growth, transactions and internationalisation do not happen without actual competent parties. However, there are several power sources for growth in the Joensuu region: The North Karelia Municipal Education and Training Consortium, the Karelia University of Applied Sciences, the University of Eastern Finland and the Joensuu Science Park and its business incubator operations. The decision that was made in 2010 to continue the Bachelor of Information Technology education in Joensuu was particularly valuable to the region. The founders of many ICT companies have graduated from the School of Computing.

The University of Applied Sciences played a key role when a committee on software industry was established in 2012. It is a forum between educational institutions and companies. The objective is to promote a dialogue between education and companies. Companies are offered an opportunity to have an effect on education content and tools being used. Operation is informal without unnecessary bureaucracy and that is perhaps why it is rather productive.  Initially, there were ten partner companies, but more companies have since joined. The Joensuu Science Park has been involved from the beginning. The University of Eastern Finland joined in autumn 2015.

The Joensuu region offers operators in the ICT sector an excellent development environment.

Forest bioeconomy, photonics and the metal and plastic industry with high added value offer new opportunities to develop products and services in cooperation with companies and local education and research institutes, such as the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the European Forest Institute. The international nature of Joensuu cannot be emphasised enough; foreign students and researchers bring valuable knowledge and new points of view with them to the North Karelian corporate sector.

The Government's decision to promote digitalisation as a whole is also a good sign for North Karelia. There is already solid expertise in the Joensuu region in Big Data, Industrial Internet and education technology, for example. One of the most important centres of photonics research and business has formed in Joensuu. Research in the field is extensive at the University of Eastern Finland, and the Master's degree programme also gathers a great number of foreign students each year. It is also a good sign that investments are made in developing competence in the gaming industry in particular.