Päivi Laajala


203,567 (2018)

Innovation Website
Lead Innovation Officers

Juhani Heikka, Aarne Kultalahti

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve internal government operations

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

  • Engagement with partners

  • Leadership from Mayor

Spotlight on innovation in Oulu

OuluHealth is one of the leading digital health innovation ecosystems in Europe. The principal objective of OuluHealth is to facilitate open collaboration, spur business growth, and accelerate innovation by bringing together key partners to cater to the needs of the healthcare sector. The ecosystem recently established a knowledge building and support system, DigiHealth Hub, which allows companies to share their best practices and connects them to emerging technologies for digital healthcare solutions. Through OuluHealth Labs, OuluHealth also provides an excellent environment for testing innovations and stimulating the integration of digital technologies in hospital environments.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Oulu has an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Oulu approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Oulu is focused on

Built environment
Environment and climate change

Digital Health: Oulu Selfcare Service, co-created with OuluHealth partners, is a personal online welfare service for all residents of Oulu. The service is one of the most utilized and well-received online services. By 2018, over 50 % of the Oulu residents (104,000) registered as users, most of them over 65 years and two thirds are women. Estimated savings between 2012-2017 are almost €3 million. The city is in the process of scaling up Oulu Selfcare Service.

Environment: The City of Oulu Environmental Program was approved by the Oulu City Board in 2019. Environmental Program defines objectives, targets, measures and indicators to maintain and improve a good state of the environment and ensuring the city's vitality. The carbon-neutral Oulu 2040 guideline is the most central document steering the environment program. Digitization and digital tools are one of the key enablers for sustainable urban development, contributing to the reduction in energy consumption in real estate and rented apartments.

Policy areas by number of cities

Oulu utilizes 5 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Communication officer
Innovation roles by number of cities

Oulu’s innovation work is sprinkled throughout the municipal administration. Besides a limited number of staff dedicated to innovation work, there are experts in various departments contributing to the city’s innovation efforts.

Terms Oulu most associates with innovation

Technological innovation

Oulu's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
  1. 1

    Taking risks or testing new ideas

  2. 2

    Data-driven analytics/public data management

  3. 3

    Engaging residents in new ways

  4. 4

    Developing new solutions based on digital technologies

  5. 5

    Organizational change within the municipality

  6. 6

    Human-centered design

  7. 7

    Rethinking your city’s approach to financing partnerships

How is innovation funded here?

Like 81% of cities surveyed, Oulu has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

International/multilateral institution budget
International/multilateral institution budget
This refers to resources from international and/or multilateral institutions’ budgets (i.e. European Union)
Central/federal/national government budget
Central/federal/national government budget
This refers to funding in the form of budget support to city authorities. Example: Stockholm (Sweden) launched the Hub for Innovation, a three-year long project funded by Sweden's National Innovation Authority, Vinnova in 2017. The hub supports a more innovative working culture within the city hall.
Regional/State/Province/Territorial budget
Municipal budget
Municipal budget
This could include, for instance, City Council approved funds; operating budget; a special funding process (bond, Mayoral special initiative funding, etc.); and participatory budgeting / citizen-selected budgeting.
Non-financial resources
Non-financial resources
This could include staff on loan and/or other in-kind contributions (e.g. materials, infrastructure…)

Activities being funded

Investing in digital systems
Investing in physical infrastructure
Paying for services
47 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
79 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
51 cities
Investing in digital systems
36 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
30 cities
Paying for services

*"Training staff and building capacity" is not an option in the 2018 survey, while "Launching or sustaining a project" is not an option in the 2020 survey.

How is innovation measured?

Oulu has developed partnerships to promote innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms and not-for-profit organizations. As part of innovation processes, the city also organizes participatory planning session with citizens and residents.

To improve data use, Oulu has also developed data partnerships with academia and think tanks to collect and analyze data, as well as with other cities.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development



Policing and law enforcement

Waste and sewage


Labour market and skills

Public works

Environment and climate change

Digital governance

Land use

Built environment

Social welfare/social services

Insufficient data

Government finance


Social inclusion and equity