Not a cloud in the sky.
10 o’clock on the dot we are in room 1 of the Turku School of Economics. Matti is already there. Wrestling with the sound system. He did his PhD on the Finnish Video Games Industry. While we were visiting Nokia in April 2000, we knew that Mobile Monday and First Tuesday had started here in Finland. But not even our executive ITMP students at Infogrames in Lyon had ever heard of Finnish video games. Nobody ever mentioned a video games cluster. Nothing was strategically planned by the government. Now there are over 200 companies, the industry is valued at 2,2 billion Euros, it’s growing by 39,5% a year and is very, very profitable. Matti is interested in the fact that « everything is merging but I’m not sure into exactly what! » We’ve been lucky to sample him every year since 2011 and his insights about the merging of the real and virtual worlds seem to be coming true. Lots of pictures of us all, the Vappu bottle ceremony, the golden ITMP book and then fast to Pharma city where we picked up Kirsi Lehto. She is a cell biologist. Her husband Harry is an astrophysicist. Together with other colleagues in 2011, when Turku was European Capital of Culture they made up a 13.720 kilometre long history trail which invites us to walk the 13.720 billion years from the Big Bang to now. This contact came out of the blue in Paris last week when Laurence Honnorat told Mike about a big future European Bioastronomy project and he spotted something about Turku. He located Kirsi and within hours they had set up what was to follow. Total serendipity. Just how Finnovation started. We drove out, into the countryside, along a gravel road, up to the Turku observatory. Under it a 50 metre tunnel where high precision optical mirrors used to be tested. There we enter a world of galaxies, supernovas, pulsars and see the instruments used to make the mirrors. it was absolutely magical!! The real Finland. We emerge into the sunny forest where a block of pink Turku granite marks our beginning. On it 3 brass plates separating the earliest events when Hydrogen and Helium were formed in the first 100-1000 seconds. We see a map of the history trail meandering from here to the centre of Turku and ask « why does it change from black to red on the map here? » « Because, after 9720 metres of walking you reach the origins of life ». So we leave Harry (after another Vappu bottle book signing ceremony) and Kirsi guides us in our cars to the Turku Biovalley. It’s where all the biopharma companies are. We’ve visited some in the past. Here over a little footbridge, in the middle of a field, next to a little stream, with a little cherry orchard (trees not yet in blossom) is another granite megalith with a brass plaque that says « somewhere in a watery anoxic environment, the building blocks of life form. Nucleotides for the RNA and DNA, amino acids from proteins, and lipids for the membranes are formed ». It is the origin of life. Here in Turku. The real Finland. This fantastic 2011 project is waiting to be rekindled and turned into a « must » and not just a « nice to ». I hope we can help to make this possible. We take Kirsi back to Pharmacity and meet with Eeva and her French language students in room 2 of the TSE. Her (advanced) students check nuances and go through their essays and tests with Amine, Mouad, Sébastien and William. Then our students put on headphones (we were in a language laboratory) and learned and uttered their first words in Finnish. This has never happened before!! We must do it again. Eeva explained what Vappu was. We saw pictures of white caps being thrown into the air. Another little Vappu ceremony and more nice words (in Finnish) from the students and in French from Eeva into our ITMP kultakirja. First person to find out what that is gets a Vappu special when we get back next week! Now it’s time to get lost in the islands of the Archipelago. Moi, moi