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IMAGE: Visit Turku

Turku: the Face of Finland's Future

September 29, 2021

Turku is often overlooked in favour of Helsinki and there’s a friendly rivalry between them, but Turku is Finland’s oldest city, and once its capital. Extensive damage was caused by a fire in the 1800s and by World War II, but today, it’s a city rebuilt, revitalized, and very much focused on the future.

 

A major business region with one of the country’s most vital ports, Turku was named European Capital of Culture in 2011, and is re-emerging as a hub of Finnish culture and top-class cuisine. Proportionally, it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in Finland, and six universities give the city a youthful population and modern outlook. These factors, coupled with its impressive progress and ambitious goals around sustainability, give it huge appeal as a place to live, work, innovate, invest, and do business.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Smart, Wise and Carbon Neutral: Turku’s Aims for the Present and Future

 

Sustainability isn’t limited to specific projects or companies in Turku; here, it’s part of the culture. Smart and Wise Turku is a spearhead project bringing together Turku’s climate goals for 2029 and the Smart City concept, aiming to improve citizens’ well-being while increasing the city’s productivity and efficiency.

 

The city plans to become a Smart City by smart accumulation and digitalisation of data, and a Wise City by enabling citizens and companies to use that data for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable growth.

 

By improving and standardising the way it collects data, and by creating digital models, the City is working hard to:

 

  • understand, predict and respond to citizens’ needs, reducing social and digital exclusion and improving their safety and security (particularly cyber-security)
  • improve the efficiency of its infrastructure, including smart design and the prediction of repair needs (underground as well as overground)
  • develop comfortable, cost-effective logistics and transport solutions that support its climate policy objectives and respond to changing technology and lifestyles, offering companies the opportunity to develop and test new business models.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

The Green City Accord

 

The Green City Accord is a recent European Commission initiative, asking cities to commit to improving air and water quality, protecting biodiversity, reducing noise pollution and promoting the circular economy, reporting on their progress and sharing good practice. Turku, which was already working towards many of the Accord’s goals, was one of the first European cities to sign up.

 

Although the City of Turku covers less than 0.1% of Finland, around 12% of Finland’s endangered species are found here. The City’s actions to protect biodiversity include establishing more nature reserves, maintenance and restoration of important natural areas (including eliminating tree species that overshadow oaks in hardwood forests, and preserving meadows), restoration of streams and the Pomponrahka swamp, eliminating hogweed, and converting some lawned park areas into meadow-like habitats for butterflies and other pollinating species. The forests are managed according to the principles of continuous cover forestry and no more than 40% of the annual new growth is cut down. Meanwhile, in the marine environment, Turku’s Baltic Sea action programme aims to prevent eutrophication, reduce pollution and protect the marine biodiversity.

 

Turku has created the first city-level plan in Finland for transitioning to the circular economy. It’s also introduced measures to reduce air-polluting emissions from industry and street dust. Lowering speed limits has reduced noise pollution as well as increasing safety, and noise barriers are built wherever possible.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Carbon neutrality and resource wisdom

 

Using new operational models, Turku is working towards carbon neutrality by 2029, which will mean reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels. The City has introduced a model for estimating the environmental and life cycle impacts of its own investments and procurements. The aim is for Turku to have zero emissions, zero waste and fully sustainable use of natural resources, and to be a pioneer in socially sustainable urban and regional development—and to be climate positive after 2029, which is very ambitious. So how does the City plan to achieve this?

 

  • A carbon neutral energy system to eliminate two-thirds of greenhouse emissions in the Turku area. The region already has a multi-fuel power plant in Naantali, a pellet-fired district heating plant in Luolavuori and a wastewater treatment plant in Kakola, which has not only reduced phosphorus and suspended solids in the Archipelago Sea but also produces energy-efficient district heating and cooling. A two-directional heat trade and a low-temperature (65 °C) district heating network is being piloted in the Sustainable Development District of Skanssi, and Turku Energia has also invested in solar energy alongside increased investment in wind power and renewable hydropower.
  • Low carbon sustainable mobility via promotion of walking, cycling, public transport and MaaS (Mobility as a Service). Public transport will be carbon neutral by 2029 and urban traffic carbon neutrality should be achieved by 2025. This will eliminate one-fifth of Turku’s greenhouse emissions. The goal is to increase the share of sustainable transport to 66% by 2030, and to this end, winter cycling has been promoted by piloting new winter maintenance methods on cycle lanes and introducing a year-round city bike system. There are now 300 bikes and 41 stations in Turku. The City is also investing in electric bus lines; six e-buses now run on the City’s first electrically operated bus line from the harbour to the airport, established in 2016, and 47 new e-buses are due to come into operation this summer. The first public biogas station was opened in 2016 and there are now three stations. Also, in 2019, low-cost public transport commuter card was introduced for City employees, and pilot schemes have been put in place to assess electric vehicles for their use at work and at home.
  • Sustainable urban structure promoting low emission energy and low emission mobility, steered by the Structural Model 2035 for the Turku Urban Region and the MAL agreement (concerning land use, housing and transport planning).
  • Sustainable development: the Turku Science Park, which is still growing, is the most energy-efficient constructed area in the city, designed to bring top class facilities and over 10,000 new jobs to the city. The Blue Industry Park area is being developed as a carbon-neutral and resource-efficient production and innovation cluster for maritime and manufacturing industries.
  • Leading by example: the City of Turku and Turku City Group’s subsidiaries will significantly reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and demonstrate climate leadership.
  • Strengthening carbon sinks: an affordable solution with other significant positive effects. The carbon absorption of the City’s forests already compensates for passenger car emissions in the area.

 

Alongside the City, others are working on sustainability too. Valonia is the Service Centre for Sustainable Development and Energy of Southwest Finland, offering sustainable development services to the public sector, companies and organisations. Telaketju is a cooperation network for textile recycling and also enables development of business models for a circular economy. The ResQ scheme is also active in Turku, matching hungry consumers with half-price surplus meals from local restaurants.

 

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Business Turku: A Place for Businesses to Start, Grow, Research and Innovate

 

The Turku region has a long-established reputation for developing and commercialising products and services with national and international impact, and it’s increasingly seen as one of the best places for entrepreneurship, investment, career development, scientific research and international business expansion.

 

It’s a dynamic place where a bold approach and a focus on sustainability, together with multidisciplinary cooperation and community spirit, creates fantastic conditions for innovation and sustainable business growth.

 

Turku’s Top 5 Sectors

 

Bioeconomy, Cleantech and Circular Economy

 

Around 20% of Finland’s companies belong to the bioeconomy, cleantech and circular economy sector, which is responsible for a third of Finland’s exports.

 

Turku is a hub of expertise, research and investment in chemistry technology and the natural sciences, and home to a host of start-ups and growth companies producing bio and circular economy solutions. The Smart Chemistry Park operating in Raisio, on the city’s outskirts, is home to 14 companies at the heat of a multidisciplinary cooperation network of over 100, all working together to develop bio and circular economy solutions. This makes Turku the ideal place for product development, innovation and career opportunities in these fields, which in turn enable the growth of Clean Turku’s networks.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

CleanTurku companies, including clean tech giants such as Valmet Technologies, Renotech, CH-Bioforce and Sybimar, use and develop technologies, processes, services and products that minimise environmental impact. They rank highly among the world’s top companies for materials and processing expertise. Applications include:

 

  • Bioenergy and biofuel development
  • Biomass refinement
  • Processing and refining residual flows
  • Clean soil and water technology
  • Industrial coatings

 

Drug Development, Diagnostics, Health Technology and Functional Foods

 

Finland is recognised as one of the world’s leaders in health technology research and expertise, with one of the strongest health-technology economies in the world. The Turku region is home to HealthTurku, Finland’s leading and award-winning health cluster.

This cluster brings together experts in pharma, diagnostics, health technology and functional foods research. It hosts numerous events, from the international HealthBIO annual event, which highlights life-science market trends and promotes national and international co-operation, to the BioTreffit and HealthTuesday monthly event, which encourages networking and provides a place to share  local and national life-science news.

 

HealthTurku encompasses all sizes of pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, from  talented deep-tech start-ups to global market leaders in the development of pregnancy and new-born screening, cardiac markers, and birth control implants. Health Campus Turku, a joint project by Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Novia University of Applied Sciences and Turku Science Park, coordinates the cluster’s infrastructure and research environment and offers extensive  testing and simulation facilities via the TERTTU Health Collaboration Platform. The health cluster also has a Werstas Labs laboratory co-workspace for life science and health companies and coordinates the national ProHealth Growth program, focusing on products or services within professional, regulated healthcare.

 

Important drug development and diagnostics companies in the Turku region include Bayer, Biovian, Faron Pharmaceuticals, Forendo Pharma, Hytest, Orion, and PerkinElmer, and the vast majority of Finland’s innovative drugs are developed in the Turku region.  Food companies include Eckes Granini, HKScan, Nestle, and Raisio, and the Functional Foods Forum brings together experts from several disciplines to work together on developing the healthy foods of the future.

 

HealthTurku is a member of ScanBalt BioRegion, the Council of European BioRegions and the Enterprise Europe Network, and currently involved in several EU-funded projects, including BiC Bridge, which is concerned with biomarker commercialization.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Shipbuilding, Design and Developing Maritime Logistics

 

The Turku region is famous for building the biggest cruise ships in the world and developing smart, autonomous ships. As Finland’s premier shipbuilding hub, it employs thousands of people in hundreds of maritime industry companies, and the region also offers expertise in offshore and Arctic technologies.

 

MaritimeTurku is a strong collaborative network to promote maritime expertise and innovation, and assist with the industry’s research, development and business needs. Led by Meyer Turku Oy, a shipbuilding giant that produces ships ranging from cruise ships to scientific research vessels, the network also includes Kongsberg Maritime Finland Oy, Mobimar, Admares, Wärtsilä, FCR Finland, Åboa Mare, Awake.ai and VTT Senseway.

 

Currently under development, the Blue Industry Park in Turku aims to be the leading production and innovation hub of Europe’s maritime industry—and to be carbon neutral.

 

Tourism, Film and Game Industry

 

With over 2,000 companies in the audio-visual, tourism and game industries already, and more starting up in the region all the time, the Turku region aims to be the most attractive experience industry cluster in the Nordics by 2029. Local universities and educational institutions provide a professional workforce and important collaborations with businesses and the municipal sector through the Culture Campus Turku and ExperienceTurku networks. ExperienceTurku provides opportunities for international productions, investors, new businesses, and talent.

 

There are several major projects for the experience industries including:

 

  • The Ratapiha  Experience Center and Event Arena, part of the development of Turku’s Railway Yard into a vibrant and accessible city centre area for citizens and tourists
  • The Museum of History and the Future, due for completion in 2029, which will use technology to tell visitors about Turku’s history while providing a testbed for local innovations and products
  • The development project of the Turku Science Park.

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Tourism

 

With excellent national and international connections by ferry, train and plane, the tourism business brings around 800 million euros into the Turku region each year and provides thousands of jobs. Currently, the main development projects focus on sustainable travel, digitalisation, and data management, and there’s increasing investment in the tourism sector, with several hotel projects newly built or in development.

 

Turku Science Park Ltd. coordinates the Clean&Safe Turku model, a criteria-led standard for the tourism and event business.

 

The Film Industry

 

Over 60 feature films and series were filmed in the Turku Region between 2000 and 2020. Business Finland has been offering a 25% cash rebate incentive to audio-visual productions, which has increased the number of international film and TV productions in Turku and throughout Finland. The West Finland Film Commission provides a variety of services for productions filming or planning to film in the Turku region, and promotes the area as a filming location for international and domestic film and TV productions, bringing in revenue to the area and offering increased employment opportunities for local film and TV professionals.

 

The Game Industry

 

The Turku region has a growing gaming scene and invests in the industry’s business development and education in the University of Turku and Turku University of Applied Sciences. The HIVE-Turku Game Hub brings together game industry professionals and creates collaborative opportunities that enhance the growth and business interests of the local gaming community, providing events, seminars, mentoring and connection to national and international networks.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Manufacturing, Data Economy and New Technologies

 

An international study in 2019 ranked Turku as the seventh most innovative city in the world. Together with the larger Southwest Finland area, it’s a dynamic hub for modern technology, digitalisation and applied ICT expertise, at the forefront of using Big Data, robotics, automation, sensor technology and artificial intelligence, and combining them in innovative ways.

 

Turku’s progress in this area has been hugely beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic. During its more serious second wave, the city brought together disparate systems and streamlined the process of symptom assessment, testing, and delivery of results to patients. The project has reduced the time taken for the process from between 3–10 days to 24–36 hours. It uses a digital symptom assessment service, and robots to create laboratory referrals, and to enter results into the national patient data repository before sending them to patients via an SMS message. Turku also created an artificial intelligence application to provide information about the pandemic to citizens in nearly one hundred languages. These measures have freed up healthcare staff to perform more specialised tasks.

 

Turku’s production methods are among the most advanced in the world, and the region is famous for its premium cruise ships, mining vehicles and cars, while its data platforms, huge engines and modern welding automation are behind worldwide technological success stories. It’s also home to the largest 5G network in Finland.

 

The TechTurku network brings together companies, research and education institutions and municipalities to spark innovation and produce products and services that are internationally competitive. It works closely with Business Finland and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and at EU level, is working towards gaining Digital Innovation Hub status and funding. Significant TechTurku companies in the region include Meyer Turku, Wärtsilä, Valmet Automotive, Sandvik, Teleste, Turku Energia, Silo.AI, Sofokus, CadMatic, Valohai, Ctrl Reality and Payiq. The region is also home to other tech network, including the AI HUB for AI professionals, #TurkuAwakens for local ICT companies, the ICT Project Club for project cooperation and Tech Campus Turku, which supports technology education and research in the region’s institutes of higher education and research, development and innovation in local companies.

IMAGE: Visit Turku

From Idea to Expansion: Turku’s Business Programmes

 

Whichever stage of business you’re at, Turku can provide the support and advice you need. In 2019, this support helped 485 new companies get off the ground, while 19 companies out of 45 companies that applied were accepted on to accelerator programmes.

 

Support programmes include:

 

  • Start Info sessions, providing comprehensive information to aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Start Workshops, which help entrepreneurs understand how to relate the advice given in their Start Info session to their own business idea and provides peer support
  • StartingUp sessions with growth advisors, for companies looking to move into international markets
  • The BusinessUp programme, an intensive 10-week accelerator course that includes mentoring, peer support and advice on international expansion
  • One to one business advice from business and growth advisors, and from industry specialists, plus guidance visits from local members of the business services association (Yrityspalveluyhdistys ry) to advise on legal, financial or insurance matters.

 

Help is also available from BoostTurku, an entrepreneurship society that inspires and helps young students become start-up entrepreneurs, and Turku Science Park Ltd, Turku’s regional development company, which brings together the region’s expertise and development services. It provides support, including private sector consulting and mentorship, for growth and, business development, and contacts and guidance to help companies find the right research partners, test platforms, loans, funding and subsidies. They also help to facilitate international partnerships through networks such as the Enterprise Europe Network and World Trade Center Turku.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

A Sustainable Visit to Turku

 

If you’re keen to get a feel for the city, it’s easy to make your stay sustainable—and despite the pandemic, the last year or two has seen big investment in the hotel sector, indicating a great deal of confidence in the region’s future.

 

The Sokos, Radisson and Scandic hotel groups have their own rigorous sustainability policies and many of their Turku hotels have eco-certification labels too.

 

Here are five great places to stay, all holders of Green Key labels:

 

  • The iconic 70s Radisson Blu Marina Palace Hotel by the River Aura has lovely views from its riverside terrace. A 120-room accommodation extension is due to be built in 2022 and opened in 2023.
  • The Original Sokos Hotel Wiklund near the Market Square has been recently renovated in a smart but laid-back urban style, with four restaurants, a rooftop bar and a relaxing vibe.
  • The Original Sokos Hotel Kupittaa is a stylish new hotel located in the heart of the fast-growing Kupittaa area of Turku, close to Kupittaa train station. This modern hotel offers a sophisticated interior, a gym, a sauna, the cosy Bistro Elli, the Deli 24/7 and the Kuppis Rooftop Bar.
  • The Solo Sokos Hotel Turun Seurahuone is an elegant boutique hotel in the centre of Turku, built in 1928. It combines 1920s touches with interior design by Jaakko Puro, and each room is completely unique. This hotel has a premium sauna and gym.
  • The Hotel Kakola is a private boutique hotel on the infamous Kakolanmäki Hill, built in the premises of the former Regional Prison. The hotel’s interesting history is celebrated in the décor—you can even stay in a former solitary confinement cell—but the 151 rooms, restaurant and facilities are modern and luxurious, if a little quirky!

 

Another great hotel, if you’re visiting later this year, is the Scandic Hamburger Börs. Due to reopen in Nov/Dec 2021, this hotel right by Turku’s market square, has been welcoming guests since 1894, and is attached to an iconic art nouveau banquet venue. Currently undergoing a renovation and expansion, with a new accommodation annex built in a sympathetic style, it will offer a restaurant, heated winter garden and outdoor terrace on the ground level, a Sky Bar with a large rooftop terrace, and a stylish relaxation suite and modern gym. The Scandic Group’s robust sustainability policy means you can rest assured your stay here will be a sustainable one. They group also offer the Scandic Julia and Scandic Plaza, stylish hotels certified under the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and both located near the Market Square.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Greener Meetings and Events in Turku

 

Turku is also a great place to hold your meetings and events sustainably, offering over 2000 rooms and numerous places to hold events of all sizes, from intimate meetings to large exhibitions and conference. Congress City Turku Finland is a network comprising the City of Turku and partner companies, helping customers organise congresses and meetings in Turku according to the principles of sustainable development, so let’s look at the options the network offers for your sustainable event.

 

The hotels mentioned above all offer spaces for small to medium events and meetings. They’re also all within walking distance of each other and the river Aura, as well as the most modern venue in Finland, Logomo. This makes it easy to accommodate delegates for even the largest of events in one area.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Logomo is a cultural centre in the former VR machine shop and is not only a great space for sustainable events, but also ideal for post-meeting entertainment such as film screenings and concerts. Numerous spaces are available, including state-of-the-art meeting rooms that hold between 15 and 50 people, smaller congress halls and the Logomo Hall, an adaptable space that can convert into an auditorium for 760-2,300 or a concert hall for 760-3,500. This hall offers the Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system, with 64 different presets that instantly optimise the room acoustics to suit your event. Energy and water-saving measures are employed here and local, seasonal, ethically-sourced produce is the focus of the menu in the restaurant, where cutlery and crockery is reusable or biodegradable.

 

The Turku Fair Centre can host meetings, exhibitions, conferences and evening events in a selection of variously sized halls, including a restaurant hall that can cater for up to 800 guests simultaneously and serves fresh, seasonal produce that is local and organic wherever possible. The Centre constantly monitors (and strives to reduce) its energy usage, water usage and waste reduction.

 

For something different, why not venture out to the archipelago for your event? Herrankukkaro (Mama’s Pocket) is a unique meeting and recreation place built around an old fishing farm that can be reached by road. With a selection of stunning timbered meeting places that accommodate 8 to 200 people, luxury waterside wood cabins to stay in, the largest smokehouse sauna in the world, a range of activities, and buffet menus focused on wild, natural, seasonal foods, it provides everything you need for a memorable event—and runs entirely on wind power. Or you may prefer the more intimate Villa Wolax, on the western tip of Kuusisto Island. The Villa, which holds the Green Key certification, is in a wonderfully scenic maritime location. It offers accommodation in 34 rooms and its event spaces can cater for up to 140 people.

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Living in Turku

 

Turku is a city of opportunity, offering great career and business prospects and a sustainable lifestyle. If you’re tempted by what you’ve read about it, then let us tell you a little about what it’s like to live here.

 

Prosperous, safe and lively

 

Finland is consistently in the top 5 most prosperous countries in the world and always ranks highly in safety indexes. Turku is home to 130 different nationalities, giving the city a multicultural vibe, and with 40,000 students here, there’s no shortage of boat bars, pop-up bars, rooftop bars and more traditional historic pubs.

 

There’s also no shortage of opportunities to do your bit for the planet and its people, with plenty of stores offering ethical and sustainable shopping.

 

Accessible, with eco-friendly transport

 

Turku Airport is around 7 kilometres from the city centre, offering a range of direct domestic and international flights and a regular bus service to the city centre. Regular passenger ferries run between Turku and Stockholm or the Åland Islands.

 

Finland has only one direct train connection to a neighbouring country: the Helsinki to St. Petersburg rail link, but Finnish trains (operated by VR, Finland’s national railway company) efficiently link major Finnish cities. Helsinki, linked by ferry to Sweden, Germany or Estonia, is only 2 hours away by train.

 

Turku’s archipelago is accessible by foot, bike, connecting vessels, ferries, car or waterbus. Within the city itself, there are regular buses running on an extensive route network including an increasing number of electric buses, plus park and ride facilities for both drivers and cyclists. Föli-fillarit is an easy-to-use bike-sharing system with numerous stations across the city.

 

Turku is Finland’s first CIVITAS city, involved in their project to develop electric transport, shared use of cars and bicycles, and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) models, so it has a host of smart mobility projects and apps. These include demand responsive buses; TripGo, a route planner application that combines public transportation, bicycle and taxi, for example, to find routes; and Fölix, an app which combines buses and taxis, allowing you to book a taxi between a destination and a Föli bus stop.

 

The Turku for All website, run by disability access and human rights organisation Kynnys (the Threshold Association), includes useful information on accessibility to public and private services in Turku.

 

IMAGE: Visit Turku

Active and green

 

Turku offers a wide range of sports and athletics facilities, including indoor and outdoor public swimming pools, fitness tracks, kayaks for hire, beaches offering swimming and water sports, indoor ice rinks and tracks, and, in winter, natural ice rinks and ski trails.

 

Cultural exercise routes that you can run, walk or cycle go around the city centre and along the river, passing the city’s architecture, art and history highlights, while the ‘Paths of Paavo’ are marked walks and cycle trails through urban and natural landscapes. There are also nature trails from 1.8 km to 20 km long, 14 city parks, and 12 nature reserves, each with its own appeal. Many of the islands in Turku’s archipelago are linked by the Archipelago Trail, a circular 200 km route including roads, bridges and free ferries, which will take you through thick forests and scenic landscapes.

 

You’ll also pass the summer cabins owned by many Turku residents. Who knows, maybe you’ll buy one if you move here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover what makes Turku such a vibrant sustainability hub and plan your next green congress or investment by visiting:

 

 

 

 

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