Smart Cities Centre of Excellence to be established as a joint project between Tallinn University of Technology, Aalto University and Forum Virium Helsinki.
Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), FINEST Twins’ coordinator, along with Aalto University, Forum Virium Helsinki and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, have obtained €15 Millions of funding from the EU Horizon 2020 in addition to €17 million in co-financing earmarked by the Government of Estonia. This means a total of €32 million for the project, which runs from 2019 to 2026.
Capitalising on regional potential
The FINEST Twins project will build a multidisciplinary Smart City Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Tallinn. The CoE will mobilise all leading Smart City actors and stakeholders in Estonia and establish solid long-term high-level research, knowledge-transfer and innovation partnerships with counterparts from the Helsinki region. This joined-up approach will allow the region to capitalise on its scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship potential.
Part of the ‘Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation’ Horizon 2020 Work Programme, Centres of Excellence are set up in countries which are underperforming in terms of excellence in research. Aalto University and Forum Virium Helsinki, leading scientific and innovation institutions, will work together to create the new Tallinn-based centre.
The CoE will match existing leading Smart City research centres around the world by focusing on five key domains for clean and sustainable Smart City development: mobility, energy and the built environment combined with governance, urban analytics and data management.
The ‘Spreading Excellence’ programme has 2 phases. In the first phase, funding is provided to develop a business plan for the future centre, in line with the host region’s smart specialisation strategy. In phase 2, proposals selected from the first phrase receive financial support to start implementation.
“FINEST Twins is the largest ever competitive R&D grant in Estonia”, says Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector of TalTech university. “The funding recognises that TalTech and Aalto researchers can innovate modern cities towards more citizen-oriented and sustainable futures.”
TalTech is the project coordinator, and will have overall responsibility for the CoE.
Dr Ralf-Martin Soe from TalTech university added: “We are very happy that we can boost the collaboration between two leading tech universities of Finland and Estonia, Aalto and TalTech. The Finest Twins CoE aims to take over best practices and expertise of Aalto researchers working on fields connected to Smart City and replicate its best parts in TalTech.”
An urban open platform
Besides the world class Smart Cities research programme, the CoE will also work with companies to develop user-driven Smart City solutions that are “cross-border-by-default” in the context of emerging Twin City model between Tallinn and Helsinki. This will be done via an Urban Open Platform and Lab (UOP.Lab) which will build on the Centre’s research outputs to design and trial joint cross-border pilot-projects for the two smart cities.
Mr. Hugo Tamagnini Gonçalves from Forum Virium Helsinki – which is leading the creation of the UOP.Lab – highlights the lab’s role as a cross-border platform for innovation collaborations with dozens of Estonian and Finnish of companies interested in Smart City development and innovation projects.
“The main goals are to ensure the CoE research directly impacts the economy and public sector services across the macro-region, to attract international expertise and investment, and to act as a springboard for exporting Finnish-Estonian knowledge and high-tech solutions globally,” he explains.
The UOP.Lab will be used to translate research results into concrete innovations, testing new concepts in real-life scenarios. The result will be an open research and development ecosystem that combines research and services and product development both for public administration and commercial business activities.
Combining the CoE and the new open platform lab makes for exciting possibilities. As Pr. Nieminen from Aalto University says, “Digital micro-payments, for example, enable whole new business models for the Internet of Things, but we don’t yet know what consumer behaviour will actually be like.” Real-world testing will open up many chances for new research angles.
Photo: Mikko Raskinen