The eight-year Six City Strategy, or 6Aika, has included several successful urban development and employment projects in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu. The results of these projects have benefited not only the cities and their residents, but companies, universities and other educational institutions, and organisations as well.
Major cities often face similar development challenges. As such, it makes sense for cities to engage in cooperation to tackle them, as operations or services developed in one city can be utilised in other cities as well.
“One of the biggest successes of the 6Aika strategy is the increased and improved cooperation between the six participating cities,” says the Acting Head of the City of Helsinki’s Economic Development Department Kimmo Heinonen.
The City of Espoo’s Director of Economic Development Harri Paananen agrees with Heinonen. He adds that the scope of the cooperation carried out during 6Aika was also unprecedented: 6Aika served as a bridge-builder not only between the participating cities, but between other operators, such as companies and universities, as well.
In Espoo, for example, several operators engaged in cooperation to develop the city’s early childhood education and care, educational institutions and learning environments. This cooperation made it possible to establish a clear operating model and guidelines for different parties for the development of education.
“These developments lower the threshold for engaging in cooperation in the future as well,” Paananen adds.
Cities as drivers of development
The 6Aika strategy funded concrete measures. By adopting a ‘development by piloting’ approach, the strategy turned cities into testing environments and more agile co-creators. This also showed companies and universities that cities make good partners for testing and developing innovations.
6Aika cooperation provided many companies with references that helped them enter the international market and gain additional funding.
“The state steers innovation at the national level, but cities can offer real, physical locations and services for projects,” Paananen says.
He hopes that cities will be given more opportunities and resources to serve as drivers of innovation and development in the future.
The work carried out during the 6Aika strategy also provided insights on exactly what kind of development work this kind of innovation programme is suitable for. According to Heinonen, one of the biggest successes in Helsinki was the extensive refinement of the City’s innovation platform operations.
“The Testbed Helsinki innovation platform developed under 6Aika became a permanent fixture.”
City development continuing under ecosystem agreements
One of the lessons learned from 6Aika was that city development programmes must be city-driven. In addition to this, the projects and pilots carried out under 6Aika helped the participating cities identify new opportunities and development areas.
With 6Aika coming to an end in July, the participating cities’ development efforts will continue under ecosystem agreements. In addition to the six 6Aika cities, there are also a large number of other Finnish cities participating in these agreements, with the total number of participating cities being 18. Some of the development themes of the ecosystem agreements, such as projects related to sustainable development, are the same as those of the 6Aika strategy.
Heinonen and Paananen feel that it is important for cities to continue to engage in cooperation with each other under the ecosystem agreements. Paananen points out that this cooperation has significantly increased the national impact of results.
In the Helsinki Metropolitan area, development will continue under a joint ecosystem agreement. Heinonen and Paananen are both pleased about this. The joint agreement ensures that the area’s three cities, at least, will continue to engage in close cooperation.
“Thanks to the 6Aika strategy, we are now that much wiser when it comes to implementing shared innovation programmes,” Heinonen adds.
Thank you to everyone who has been cooperating with us in the Six City Strategy! You will find more information on the main results of the strategy and examples of the projects’ results on the Results page.