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The Six City Strategy has opened up urban environments as innovation platforms

Cocreation at a school in Espoo, photo: City of Espoo, Pasi Hornamo/Summit Media.

The Six City Strategy has opened up urban environments as versatile development and experimentation platforms for companies. Almost 2,400 companies have cooperated with the cities on the open innovation platforms. More than 800 new products or services have been developed on the platforms.

In the Six City Strategy, the development of innovation platforms started with the ‘Open innovation platforms’ spearhead project launched in 2015. Jari Jokisalo from BusinessOulu worked as the spearhead project’s project manager. He says that there had been some studies and a few implementations carried out on platform-based development and open data when the project started.

“However, the world soon changed. At the time, no one guessed how quickly it would happen,” Jokisalo says.

Jokisalo continues by relating that the transition took place in 2017–2018, when the value of cooperation in urban development was understood more deeply. This gave rise to a trend in which the key was for interfaces to be open and for products and services to interoperate with the products and services of other developers.

At present, platform-based development and openness are basic factors in the development of cities. They have become an established part of the Six Cities’ own strategies and operations, examples of which include Espoo’s City as a Service model, Turku’s Smart and Wise programme, Testbed Helsinki and Digital Oulu.

The establishment of platform-based development also affected the formation of a new working method.

“Today, cities, companies and higher education institutions work in close cooperation,” says Jokisalo.

In a dark seminar room, the audience is watching to the stage, where people are presenting. The text 'Culture of experimentation' is shown on the screen.
In the final seminar of ‘Open innovation platforms’ spearhead project in Oulu, 6th of June, 2018. Photo: City of Oulu

Clear processes to support co-creation

During the Six City Strategy, schools and public services such as social and health care services have been opened up to companies as platforms for development and experimentation.

Katja Hagman, who worked as the City of Espoo’s project manager in the ‘Open innovation platforms’ spearhead project, says that the companies that had digital solutions supporting learning were knocking on the doors of schools. The companies had the technical expertise but required pedagogical insight to develop their product.

“Schools have traditionally been closed to external developers. We had to create a safe and clear process that allowed co-creation to be carried out with pupils and teachers,” Hagman says.

This resulted in an operating model called KYKY, i.e. accelerated co-creation by schools and companies. After the spearhead project, co-creation at schools and efforts to refine the operating model continued in the Six City Strategy project ‘Smart learning environments of the future’.

BusinessAsema is dedicated to platform-based development

BusinessAsema was opened in Oulu a year ago in continuum with the ‘Open innovation platforms’ spearhead project. It is a smart property situated in a central location and forms one large development and experimentation environment for innovations. BusinessAsema also takes advantage of the lessons learned from Six City Strategy projects in the employment sector.

BusinessAsema brings together business development, education and employment services and open workspaces. The property serves as a testing platform for companies’ products and services, in addition to being a meeting place for companies, job seekers and students.

Jari Jokisalo currently works at BusinessAsema, which he is very excited about, even though BusinessAsema’s events are currently on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jokisalo points out, however, that sharing of the expertise gained in the Six City Strategy continues all the time.

“Thanks to the cooperation carried out in the Six City Strategy, we have forerunners in urban development all around Finland. They continue the platform-based development work in several sectors in different cities,” he adds.

The Make with Espoo platform invites you to co-create

Katja Hagman believes that, through the Six City Strategy, the cities have matured and faced the fact that they do not have the capacity to carry out all development work by themselves.

“But by operating as part of an innovation ecosystem, the cities have the opportunity to gain a significant amount of new skills for development,” Hagman continues.

Thanks to the work carried out in the Six City Strategy, the co-creation efforts by the cities on innovation platforms draw from clear practices and strategic frameworks.

Espoo now wants to expand the co-creation efforts to all sectors.

The Make with Espoo innovation platform is an invitation for all city residents to come and work with the city,” says Hagman.

This article is part of a series of articles in which we present the main results of the Six City Strategy this winter and interview experienced members of the network who have followed up the development of 6Aika cooperation closely.