Ho-Don Yan: Research and local culture in Oulu

In 2019, I took a sabbatical leave and was delighted to have Matti Muhos along with the faculty of the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute (UniOuluKSI) to be my host to visit Oulu 3 months from August to November. After four years, in June of 2023, I was very lucky to come back to Finland again. From a city (Taichung, Taiwan) with 2 million habitants, congested with people and heavy traffic in the central part of Taiwan, Oulu is like an idyllic garden, with huge space, and sparsely populated town.
Ho-Don Yan

After exploring a bit by myself through regular jogging and biking, Oulu is such a peaceful and safe city for living. With daily coffee and lunch accompanied by Martti Saarela and Peetu Virkkala, I learned more about the fascinated history of Oulu, the downtown delta area, the world-wide known architect Alvar Aalto, the city hall and the Nazi garrison, etc., up to the recent documentary film about Arctic War-Untold story produced in Oulu, and the rejuvenated Nokia, to name a few of this fascinated city.

Without talking and interacting with local people, it is not easy to find that this city has created some many fascinating things for human beings. Martti showed me the experience that during the summertime there are track-field competition for the kids from 5-7 years old. Quite impressed to see that people are willing to organize the competition so serious, even for the little kids. Perhaps that is one of the reasons, people said that Finland has the best education system for the kids in the world. Good environment, nice education system, and safe to live. No wonder people like to stay here. When Nokia went down and made a big layoff in 2014, most of the people, instead of moving out, would stay to find a new jobs or starts a company in order to stay in Oulu.

I appreciate the daily lunch with colleagues from the KSI, meeting with Matti, Martti, Peetu, Veronica de Paula, Henry Jarva, Pauliina Björk, Ossi Kotavaara, Anna-Mari Simunaniemi, etc. I appreciated Peetu introducing the trail run in Pyhä and arranging all the transportation and accommodation with his young friends. Sharing information of how the college students to get student loans, take the gap year, and live independently, is so interesting and different from Taiwan. To be invited to the Rokua staff meeting of the KSI was an honor and very good opportunity to observe up to close of the Nordic style of living and working.

As for the research, Matti has demonstrated his way of efficiency to make interview appointment with three key actors in Oulu’s entrepreneurial eco-system possible. I indeed find that Taiwan has many to learn from Finland regarding the organization and governance of the entrepreneurial eco-system. My second 3-month visit to Oulu was ended on Sep. 5. Apparently, it was not the end, or it is just the end of beginning. Martti and I are applying for a Finland-Taiwan mobility project for researchers. I am also pleased to meet Veronica from Brazil. KSI has amazingly provided a platform to connect researchers from Europe, America and Asia together. I look forward to having more interaction and collaboration between Finland and Taiwan in research.

Ho-Don Yan, professor, Department of Economics, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan

Photo: Minna Kilpeläinen