Espoo has opened up as an innovation platform and is utilising data in new ways

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In Espoo, residents develop services at schools and in the Service Centre in collaboration with companies. The Six City Strategy has served to strengthen City as a Service thinking throughout the City.

The most visible Six City Strategy action involving resident participation and benefiting companies has been the opening of all the schools in Espoo as innovation platforms for companies.

“Teachers and pupils have learned about digitalisation in pilots and companies have been provided with opportunities to test their products with real users. Some companies have also succeeded in scaling their operations all the way to North America and Asia,” says member of the Six City Strategy steering group, Director for City as a Service Development Päivi Sutinen from the City of Espoo.

The Six City Strategy has helped the residents of Espoo to realise how the City can engage in cooperation with companies in a way that benefits both parties. In Sutinen’s opinion, the fact that residents have also been able to participate in co-creation and pilots in Six City Strategy projects is another noteworthy aspect. As an example of this participation, Sutinen highlights not only the city’s schools, but also the Iso Omena Service Centre, which operates in a shopping centre and also serves as an innovation platform. The idea has also been scaled up to Otaniemi in the form of a service centre for companies and to the Cleantech Garden circular economy centre being developed in Espoonlahti.

The Last Mile project, meanwhile, challenged the residents of Espoo to come up with ideas on how to make it easier for people to visit difficult-to-reach places in Espoo, such as Nuuksio National Park.

“Services can also serve as innovation platforms in and of themselves. For example, the learning taking place in schools has been opened up as an innovation platform and scaled to early childhood education as well. The Six City Strategy and the School as a Service model have strengthened the idea that the sustainable services of the future will be based on the City as a Service model,” Sutinen says.

The opening of schools for co-creation has been one of the most visible Six City Strategy actions in Espoo. Photo: City of Espoo, Pasi Hornamo/Summit Media

Utilising data to prevent social exclusion

The Six City Strategy has also helped the City of Espoo to understand the benefits of opening up and utilising data. Data has shown how important it is to produce services that are effective while at the same time creating value for the customer.

Espoo’s most internationally and socially notable data-related project has been the City of Espoo and Tieto’s artificial intelligence experiment, which involved combining residents’ social and healthcare data with early childhood education data from a 14-year period. The aim was to discover service paths that would help determine factors that should be focused on to prevent the social exclusion of residents, for example.

In Sutinen’s opinion, it is great that Six City Strategy projects have been integrated into Espoo’s normal operations and strategy, the Espoo Story. Cooperation between cities has also become closer at the operative level. The Six City Strategy has also brought a large number of international visitors to Espoo to learn about the cooperation between the Six Cities and cross-sectoral co-creation.

Make with Espoo tools spreading around the world

One of the key benefits of the Six City Strategy to Espoo has been an understanding of how external funding can be utilised in the implementation of the City’s own strategy.

“Instead of being tacked on, the use of external funding supports and enriches our own operations. At the same time it improves the well-being of residents, the vitality of companies and the economic stability of the city,” Sutinen says.

All Six City Strategy projects are structured so that they simultaneously add value to a city’s basic operations and also include experiments and forms of cooperation between the city, companies and research, development and innovation actors. One of the concrete results of this approach is the Make with Espoo toolkit. Due to international demand, it has also been translated into English, and parts of it are also being used in other European cities.

”The Make with Espoo toolkit is open to everyone and does not bind you to any specific organisation structure. It starts with how we could better build the city of the future with the customer being front and centre,” Sutinen explains.

The article was first published in spring 2019.

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