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Finnish Congress Heroes: EURO 2022 Espoo

Credits: Markus Hyvärinen, SEK

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32nd European Conference on Operational Research

We spoke with Antti Punkka, Chair of the Organising Committee about organizing the EURO 2022 conference, Espoo as a congress destination and much more.
Credits: Markus Hyvärinen, SEK

What is Finland like when it comes to hosting a congress? What was your event like?

We had the honour of hosting the EURO 2022 – 32nd European Conference on Operational Research at the new Aalto University Campus in Espoo in June 2022. In addition to the scientific programme, the four-day event included all kinds of casual mingling and networking. 

I believe that Finland has a great reputation as a safe and stable country for hosting events. We get things done on time, even when surprises come up. Finland also has a strong operations research community. Despite having a population of just 5.5 million, our organisation, FORS, is the third-largest EURO member society in terms of members per capita. 

I also believe that Finland is an easy country for visitors. Most people speak English and all the information you need is easily available. Our public transport system is quite straightforward, including all the related websites and mobile apps. From our perspective as the conference organisers, it has been great to see how our service providers truly wanted the event to be a success. If something surprising comes up, they are very flexible and will do their best to make things work.

Antti Punkka, Chair of the Organising Committee EURO 2022, Professor of Practice, Aalto University
Credits: Markus Hyvärinen, SEK

How does the Aalto University Campus work for congress events? What are Espoo’s strengths as a host destination?

Aalto Campus is the centre of multidisciplinary research and science in Espoo, and most of the international scientific conferences in the city are held here.  The renovated Campus is equipped with modern, high-quality facilities. We also enjoy a relaxed, calm and beautiful atmosphere by the sea and are close to all the necessary services, such as grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants – and bars, naturally. Another great thing is the Campus location: the metro provides and extremely convenient access to the campus from Helsinki city center and we are also within biking distance from the capital Helsinki, with great sea views on the way.

Many of our participants were visiting Finland for the first time, so we wanted them to experience Finland and Espoo at their best. As for local flavour, the city of Espoo organised a fantastic reception at the Cultural Centre, and we served local craft beer and Finnish cuisine at the opening and closing parties. Sustainability was also a natural theme at the conference. We provided reusable water bottles for our participants and asked the people at Aalto to sing the praises of Finnish tap water. We also promoted public transport, walking and biking as the best options for getting around.

How was the congress?

Well, I feel exhausted but very happy. We exceeded all of our expectations and received great feedback. We had about 1,900 participants who were clearly inspired by human interaction and in-person networking after couple of years of online meetings. We had gorgeous weather and an easygoing atmosphere. Finland and Espoo were at their best, and I believe many will consider Aalto University for their future studies or career path. 

Overall, we aimed for a sense of ease. We wanted a compact conference venue with short distances between the scientific session,  short queues and to provide enough food and drink for everyone. We also focused on ease of transport, for example by providing complimentary tickets for public transport and creating high-quality maps to help navigate the campus. I also wanted to include distinctive local elements, such as custom conference flags and our very own conference beer from the Olarin Panimo brewery. You could say we reached all of our goals.

Espoo is a great city for events and the Aalto Campus is a fantastic venue, so I believe we can have more large conferences with great success in the future as well. 

EURO 2022 facts and figures

• EURO 2022 – 32nd European Conference on Operational Research
• Venue: Aalto University Campus in Espoo
• Conference dates: 3–6 June 2022
• Organiser: The Finnish Operations Research Society (FORS)
• Participants: 1,900
• Watch the video from the conference.