The City of Helsinki serves as a platform for new business

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The Six City Strategy efforts of Helsinki have included the promotion of platform-oriented operations and the city’s role as an innovation platform. Now the City is in the process of preparing an operating model that will make operations even more systematic.

In Helsinki, development efforts are so extensive and constant that member of the Six City Strategy steering group, Leading Adviser Kimmo Heinonen has difficulty specifying all the things that the Six City Strategy has had an impact on. However, there is one area that stands out from the rest.

“The Six City Strategy has had the greatest impact on Helsinki’s platform-oriented operations and the development thereof. The City’s strategy now strongly emphasises the city as a platform for new business operations. The fact that this aim was added to the strategy is at least partly thanks to the Six City Strategy. It has allowed us to promote the city’s role as an innovation platform,” Heinonen says.

Now Helsinki is in the process of preparing an operating model based on the Six City Strategy that aims to systematise and regularise the City’s platform-oriented operations with the aim of making them more coordinated and less dependent on factors such as external project funding. Content-wise, the preliminary model consist of five focus areas: health and well-being, learning environments, clean and sustainable urban solutions, mobility and digital solutions and data.

Business cooperation with agile pilots

The Six City Strategy has taught Helsinki to more effectively identify users’ needs. For example, in the Smart Learning Environments for the Future project the needs that it is hoped business cooperation will respond to are defined by teachers. Helsinki has also utilised service design in defining the project’s challenges. Companies have been engaged with via the City’s and partners’ communications channels and networks, social media and HILMA information requests, for example.

“We have carried out businesses cooperation primarily through agile pilots. The model for the 3–6-month-long pilots was originally developed in the Smart Kalasatama project conducted by Forum Virium as part of the Six City Strategy,” Heinonen explains.

The Six City Strategy has also been visible to the residents of Helsinki in the form of various pilot projects. In regard to mobility, residents have been provided with opportunities to utilise experimental smart mobility solutions, such as robot buses. The Open Participation and Customership spearhead project, on the other hand, focused on the development of services and information sources for residents. In Kalasatama, the City has created good models for promoting participation and co-creation between residents and local actors. The Six City Strategy has also facilitated the development of the Kalasatama Health and Well-being Centre into a key development platform in the health and social services sector.

Project Manager Tuomas Vanhanen showcasing the Energy Wise Cities project. Photo: Emma Berg

Now in the latter half of the Six City Strategy period, Helsinki is emphasising carbon reduction in the Carbon Neutral and Resource Wise Industrial Areas, Climate Smart Housing Companies and Energy Wise Cities projects, among others.

“These projects alone will not solve large-scale climate issues, but they can promote carbon reduction and the objectives of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan. As we develop new solutions for reducing emissions and conduct related experiments in carbon reduction projects, we must also make sure that the best solutions are put to use and proliferated through investment decisions made by various parties, for example,” Heinonen reminds us.

Lessons learned from the Six City Strategy also being spread to other countries

Heinonen praises the fact the Six City Strategy has clearly improved cooperation between cities. Whereas at the start everyone focused on their own efforts in shared projects, now there is genuine cooperation taking place. Being the capital of Finland, Helsinki of course also engages in plenty of international cooperation, which the Six City Strategy has proven effective in supplementing.

“The word has spread and we receive inquiries about the Six City Strategy all the time. The international dimension has grown more pronounced in the latest Six City Strategy projects, and the Smart Learning Environments for the Future project has involved building cooperation with the UK and Silicon Valley, among others. For the participating teaching technology companies, this cooperation may result in major business opportunities and international networks.”

As regards the future, Heinonen hopes that projects will remain innovative and focused on the economic-policy perspective, as the primary aim is to seek new innovations and create high-expertise jobs. Development projects must be based on genuine needs and be interesting enough that people will commit to them.

The article was first published in summer 2019.

Read more on Six City Strategy in Helsinki

Main photo of the article: Helsinki Marketing/Maija Astikainen