The programme for Agile piloting is a proven way to support and accelerate urban development and to engage a wider stakeholder network to co-create new services.

During 2015–2018 the Smart Kalasatama Agile Piloting Programme, coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki, has facilitated 21 innovative agile pilots in real life environment. The pilot themes have represented different areas of smart city development ranging from resource wise and energy efficient solutions to smart living and innovative local services and wellbeing.

Engaging the Urban Community

How to integrate design thinking in the development of smarter cities? In Smart Kalasatama, we have been developing methods to engage the users and other stakeholders. Our goal has been to co-create a smart district, with a common vision – one more hour a day. Smart Kalasatama, a brownfield district in Helsinki, is a vivid Smart City experimental innovation platform and urban lab to co-create smart sustainable urban infrastructure and services. The district is developed flexibly and through piloting, in co-operation with 200+ stakeholders including residents, companies, city officials and researchers.

During the past two years, we have piloted and developed a model for Agile Piloting inspired by design thinking. The model offers tools to innovate, co-create and experiment new services and products together with the startups, the city and other stakeholders. Learning is in the heart of the process. One third of the residents in Kalasatama, 1000+ people, have participated in the pilots and different activities provided by Smart Kalasatama Urban Lab.

Value Creation Throughout The Process

We have learnt that agile piloting is a powerful tool to engage the wider community to the co-creation of a smart and sustainable district. At a facilitated co-creation process, it uses methods from service design, lean development, user research and fast prototyping and adopting these to the needs of urban development. The agile pilots have proven to provide a neutral platform, or safe space for co-creation and collaboration. The format helps to frame the right challenges together with the city representatives and relevant networks. The objective is always solutions-focused and the iterative process can also provide alternative new starting points along the way.

The process for co-development and experimentation offers startups, SME’s and other innovators a chance to get the first learnings from the user feedback. The first market references and integrating somehow to the city infrastructure is also invaluable. Our experience shows that the programme format, instead of individual pilots, provides synergies when several pilots are carried out simultaneously. This also boosts new collaboration beyond the pilots. A good pilot always provides value for the end user, uses technology in an innovative way, and is truly novel. Furthermore, the pilots offer valuable insights for the decision makers on user cases of the future. The greatest value is provided by the learnings from the process; even good failures can offer valuable insight to develop smart services of the future.

Scaling Up

Agile piloting is one of the best ways to gain insight into problems related to urban development and smart and sustainable lifestyles. It makes the challenges visible and involves a good range of stakeholders. Furthermore, the experiences from the startups confirm that agile piloting speeds up service development. During the past two years, the model of agile piloting has been widely adopted in the City of Helsinki and in a number of other major cities in Finland. Over 60 agile pilots have been run in Finnish cities following the model created in Kalasatama. And indeed, we have learnt a lot! To share our experiences, we have documented our learnings in the cookbook for Agile Piloting, now available in English on Smart Kalasatama web pages. Go on and pilot your way!


Download the Cookbook for Agile Piloting here!

The author Kaisa Spilling is an urban interventionist, innovation accelerator with a passion for smarter cities. She works as Development Manager in Forum Virium Helsinki, the innovation unit of the City of Helsinki.

Photo credit: Vesa Laitinen / MyHelsinki material bank

Further information

Kaisa Spilling


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#livinglab #co-creation
Mobile: +358 40 744 8831
kaisa.spilling(at)forumvirium.fi