Google uses Finnish data center as springboard for startup outreach

It seems Google(s goog) has a habit of using its European data centers as keys to the local startup community. Having already used its Belgian facility as a springboard for local jobs events and cultural tie-ins in that country, the firm is now doing much the same in southeastern Finland.

Google bought an old paper mill in Hamina several years ago, and converted it into a data center that is, interestingly, cooled by seawater. Now, the company is extending the facility at a cost of €150 million ($196 million) — design nerds should note that this is being done by converting a machine hall originally designed by the architect Alvar Aalto. And now Google has also struck a deal with Aalto University and regional development agency Cursor.

According to a Google blog post, Google’s backing will allow Aalto University to better support local startup accelerators, and help “improve the use of the internet” by small businesses in the region. The university is already a backer of the Startup Sauna program and various other entrepreneurial initiatives, so we can now expect to see more in this vein.

Google’s push is supposed to “show the way from our industrial past to our digital future,” according to the post, and indeed both the Belgian and Finnish data centers are sited in areas left somewhat depressed after the death of older industries – mining in the case of the St Ghislain facility and paper milling in the case of Hamina.

It’s good PR for Google, of course, but there is validity to the conceit — and it’s also quite a clever way to keep an eye on  ideas that local developers and engineers are coming up with.