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Hot Industry In A Cold Place

Timo Koponen takes steady aim with his pistol and fires. Instead of a bullet, a laser beam lances out, and a computer registers the hit. The laser shooting range, in the Oulu Technopolis science park, is the pride of Noptel, one of 120 companies employing 8,500 people.

Koponen helped create the optical shooting training system in the early 1980s, when Oulu University studied practical applications for fast electronics. Now, Noptel's optoelectronic systems are making police and soldiers in 45 countries better shots.

The initial push for promoting technology in this Baltic Sea port, 370 miles north of Helsinki and about 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle, came in the 1970s, when Nokia began to develop radiotelephones for the Finnish army. Technopolis followed in 1982, founded by 18 companies.

Now, the high-tech sector is estimated to be worth $1 billion. It employs more than 13 percent of the local work force and has generated 10,000 additional jobs.

Oulu Technopolis comprises 40 buildings housing hi-tech companies but also includes restaurants, children's day care centers and even saunas.

"There's no way a Finn can discuss business without having a sauna," said Seppo Maki from Oulu City Council. "And up here in the cold north, it seems our foreign guests are also keen on the idea."

More Digital Planet Destinations
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Cambridge, EnglandSophia Antipolis, France
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SingaporeKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Written By Matti Huuhtanen

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