How Helsinki is becoming Europe’s leading virtual reality ecosystem

The 90 Day Finn Programme invites foreign businesses, entrepreneurs and employees to work and live in Helsinki for 90 days. This year’s cohort all have one thing in common they are all experts in artificial intelligence.

Jussi Hellsten

The global VR market is currently valued at $12 billion and is growing at around 50 per cent annually. Helsinki has positioned itself as the heart of this growing industry. The Helsinki XR Center (HXRC) is a unique institution with the goal of bolstering Helsinki’s booming Virtual Reality (VR) ecosystem. It is supported by industry associations, municipalities, government agencies and educational institutions. The HXRC acts as a developer hub, offering free facilities, mentoring and support for startups and projects in extended reality.  

Damon Hernandez, an expert in the field of immersive technology, visited the HXRC as part of the 90 Day Finn Programme. One of his passions is extended reality technologies in the built environment. “I’m interested in where the real world meets the digital world. Finland does this well,” Hernandez explains. 

The 90 Day Finn programme is aimed at international investors, entrepreneurs and tech industry executives who could contribute to the sustainable growth of Finland’s business sector. To date, the programme has received applications from nearly 6,000 people, of whom 13 were selected to participate in the 2022 programme. Hailing from nine different countries, including the United States, Hong Kong, and South Africa, the selected participants and their families arrived in Finland at the start of August 2022. What they all have in common is expertise in artificial intelligence and investment operations. The aim is to provide participants with an opportunity to learn about Finnish society as a potential business location, but also from each other.

Virtual reality in the built environment

While some of the 90 Day Finns are new to Finland, Hernandez is an old friend of the country. He first came to Helsinki in 2015, since then he has attended the famous startup and tech conference Slush, has been actively involved in the construction community, and has given keynote addresses at multiple events. 

“VR is useful for the construction industry, from planning to fabrication. Architects and designers can use it when planning buildings as part of the Building Information modelling process,” Hernandez says. “You can also go beyond buildings and create whole 3D models online, building a digital mirror of the real world in a browser.” 

One example of this is Virtual Helsinki, a digital replica of Helsinki’s centre created by the Finnish company Zoan. The virtual city has practically unlimited uses. Tourists can, for example, visit Helsinki virtually to see the sights, shop or go to concerts. Residents can gather virtually in town hall meetings. Public officials can use this digital city for urban planning, while companies can use it to plan where their next store should be opened.  

VR is useful for the construction industry, from planning to fabrication. Architects and designers can use it when planning buildings as part of the Building Information modelling process.

Damon Hernandez, Founder & Executive Director of AEC Hackathon

This year marks the second time that the 90 Day Finn Programme is being organised. Of the first 90 Day Finns, two relocated to Finland permanently, establishing two new companies in Helsinki. In addition to them, several of the other participants also continue to actively seek business opportunities in Finland. One of the participants of last year’s 90 Day Finn programme, equity investor Sophie Winwood (UK), recently invested in the Finnish circular economy company Rentle through her employer, Anthemis

”We’re thrilled to invest in Rentle’s Seed+ round, and we look forward to working closely with Tuomo and his team as they expand and realise their mission to accelerate the sustainable consumption of durable goods.” says Winwood, Principal at Anthemis.

Helsinki wants to actively attract foreign businesses, entrepreneurs and employees to the city

The City of Helsinki wants to play an active role in attracting foreign businesses, entrepreneurs and employees and helping them settle in Helsinki. Moreover, Helsinki wants to be a City that actively contributes to the tackling of major global challenges. The 90 Day Finn programme contributes to the achievement of both of these strategic objectives. The programme is carried out by Helsinki Partners, a city marketing, investment and talent attraction company owned by the City of Helsinki.

The programme will run until the end of October, and the participants are available for interviews upon request.

Learn more about the 90 Day Finn Programme

90 Day Finn is a programme designed and run by Helsinki Partners, a city-owned non-profit supporting international businesses to succeed in Helsinki. We’ll invite 15 entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, event organisers, tech talents from all over the world to live and find opportunities in the Nordic capital for three full months.

A family on the streets of Helsinki.
© Julia Kivela
Juhana Hurtig

Contact Helsinki Partners

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