News about ICT specialists available in the Tampere city region has spread far this year, attracting several new technology companies to the area. Tampere – All Bright! Magazine visited the Tampere R&D center founded by the Chinese PowerVision to see how it got started.
Prepared and negotiated over the summer, the decision was made in August 2016: as the local specialists and co-operation opportunities were exactly what the Chinese PowerVision needed, the company would establish a new R&D center in Tampere. The specialists at the center have been busy ever since: they began the product development immediately and have been equipping the Tampere office, and the number of employees has doubled from the initial four.
“We got off to a quick start indeed, and since we all have strong backgrounds in product development and international operations at Nokia and Microsoft, we have managed to keep up the pace,” says Senior Project Manager Timo Manninen.
PowerVision is a global technology company that, in line with its mission, innovates the future – drones, robots, big data, artificial intelligence… The company has its headquarters in Beijing and European headquarters in Espoo, whereas the Tampere unit strengthens its position in research and product development.
The Tampere R&D center works on data links and cameras. The local traditions and skills are strong in both of these areas, and these are exactly what persuaded the company to come to Tampere. The specialists are fascinated by the diverse opportunities provided by the company.
“The camera drone market is still just developing, the features and usability of the equipment are improving and more applications are constantly being found,” says Senior Product Development Manager Pekka Salonen.
Consumers have recently discovered camera drones, but they have previously been used as support tools in agriculture, the energy industry, police and rescue work. This year, PowerVision has launched its first consumer products, PowerEgg and PowerEye.
“The leading idea is using robotics to strengthen or improve the human senses and properties – in this case, enhance vision by lifting it up in the air,” Salonen says.
“That’s right: you must remember that PowerVision is a robotics company, and the drone is a kind of robot,” Manninen continues.
The expertise was not the only reason for establishing the R&D center in Tampere; the opportunities for co-operation with the local companies as well as research and educational institutions were also important. Salonen says that the company intends to initiate joint research projects with the universities. In the coming years, PowerVision may be strengthened by students in the form of theses and summer jobs.
Plenty of partnership potential can also be found in start-ups. These have been popping up in numbers lately, and many are relying on specialists who earned their spurs at Nokia and Microsoft.
“It is great to see the communality of these new companies, how they are capable of benefiting from each other. We will also certainly make use of this local expertise,” Manninen says.
One of the reasons for the speedy start of PowerVision’s Tampere office is the fact that the people knew each other in advance. They were able to begin the work immediately, without the getting-to-know-you phase, in an environment that supports creativity.
“Quite a lot of the design work takes place by brainstorming, thinking together. For this, having a shared history, good operating models and reference points in earlier projects is essential,” Salonen describes.
Now that many other experts let go by Nokia and Microsoft have also found new jobs, the PowerVision people in Tampere dare to predict a brighter future. The expertise has attracted companies to the area and given rise to new business, so bad news has been turned into opportunities.
“Of course, there are still competent people who haven’t found their place yet. There are strong specialists among them, whom we would also like to recruit when our operations grow. And strong growth is to be expected,” Salonen says.
Huber Hu, CEO of PowerVision Europe, stated earlier that for PowerVision the main reason to locate in Finland was the Finnish expertise in the research fields essential for a drone company. Also, the corporate cooperation of the Finnish universities in PowerVision’s fields of interest have impressed the Chinese drone manufacturer.
How is the Tampere Region fulfilling these expectations today?
– Tampere Region has provided us excellent resources and talents. We are very happy with those and we are exploring more interesting fields.
What kind of future do you envision for the PowerVision Tampere R&D center?
– We will firstly push current R&D activities forward and merge those results into our products. From bigger picture, we see big potential to grow in Tampere.
And how about drones and consumer robots, and their future?
– Robot era is just beginning, and drones are flying robots. Consumer drones are currently providing aerial photos for us. They can do much more, so Powervision drones and consumer robots will change people’s daily life. Keep an eye on our news in CES 2017 on 5th – 8th Jan. Powervision will announce a totally new and surely exciting consumer robot.