American enforcement technology company Axon has set up its first European R&D facility in Tampere, Finland, after recruiting a whole new imaging engineering team led by Finnish imaging technology visionary Juha Alakarhu.
According to Axon, the team will enhance the capabilities of the company's wearable and in-car cameras and develop a platform for future advancements that leverage Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
"We are thrilled to bring this talented group of imaging engineers on board. We never stop trying to improve upon the technology we produce for our customers. We know this team will take it to another level, creating next generation breakthroughs for our body-worn and in-car cameras," says Axon CEO and founder Rick Smith in a statement.
Tampere is among the world's leading centres of excellence for imaging. With Tampere University of Technology at the cutting edge of signal processing and imaging research, the city has produced hundreds of highly skilled imaging engineers, many of whom have worked for Nokia and Microsoft Mobile.
"Today Tampere's imaging ecosystem consists of about 15 companies and offers a compact and agile business environment where all the companies know each other," says Oula Välipakka, Director at Business Tampere which coordinates the ecosystem.
Juha Alakarhu, Axon's newly appointed VP for Imaging, is himself a graduate from Tampere University of Technology. His wide-ranging experience includes work on the 41 megapixel smartphones Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020, optical image stabilization, proprietary image signal processing, iris scanning and professional VR imaging systems. Until recently, he led the team that developed Nokia's OZO camera.
"For the last decade, our team has revolutionized the imaging industry, and the revolution will continue at Axon. The team and I are excited for the opportunity to apply our skills to help ensure Axon can deliver the highest quality cameras to law enforcement across the world," says Alakarhu.
A successful greenfield foreign direct investment is often the end result of a lengthy process but Axon has moved fast after snapping up the Finnish imaging talent in Tampere.
"When Axon's five-person team came here for a week in October 2017, we arranged 16 meetings with companies in the ecosystem as well as 48 interviews with potential job candidates for the new R&D centre," says Oula Välipakka.
Axon also met with Tampere University of Technology and discussed cooperation possibilities with the Police University College in Tampere, the only institution of its kind in Finland.
"Axon did not have a company or any presence in Finland, so Business Tampere helped them navigate the company formation process and the preparation of Finnish employment contracts as well as in finding suitable business premises."
Tampere's imaging know-how has recently also attracted R&D investments from Huawei, the Norwegian company poLight, and Chinese drone manufacturer PowerVision. The Swedish defence and security company Saab has also recently established its new Saab Technology Centre in Tampere.
"The contribution that these companies can make in Tampere goes beyond product development and the hiring of local expertise because they also create new business opportunities for Finnish companies and attract more know-how around them," says Markku Lehikoinen, Senior Advisor, Business Finland.
"Business Tampere has done a great job in helping Axon to set up its operations in the city. In the longer term, companies like Axon and the others have the potential to drive growth and develop something bigger for the whole ecosystem."
Senior Advisor, ICT & Digitalization, Invest in Finland
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