For the second year running, the City of Espoo has reached the top six in the European Capital of Innovation competition (iCapital). The winner will be announced at the European Research and Innovation Days on 24 September 2020.
One of the cornerstones of Espoo’s application in the competition is the work on sustainable development to create sustainable solutions for the future in cooperation with residents and partners. In accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the work covers social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability.
Another key cornerstone of the application is the networked Make with Espoo co-creation. In practice, this means that Espoo develops digital and face-to-face solutions by experimentation, together with companies, educational and research institutions, organisations and residents. For example, services supporting learning have been developed for years now at schools by bringing companies to schools to innovate together with children and teachers.
“We aim for a safe, healthy and functional everyday life in a carbon neutral city. Together with our innovation network we strengthen Espoo’s power to attract and keep international experts,” says Mayor Jukka Mäkelä.
Innovation work building a carbon-neutral city
The Espoo innovation network includes Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, among other participants. The City of Espoo has recently agreed on strategic cooperation with both Aalto and VTT.
Companies including Fortum, Neste, Gasum and ST1 participate in innovation work. Fortum’s goals with Espoo are the city’s carbon neutrality objective by 2030 and ending the use of coal by 2025. Neste has been developing a renewable fuel with a carbon footprint of 90% smaller than normal diesel. Gasum produces renewable and low-emission biogas for the needs of over 80 companies in Espoo. ST1 is starting geothermal heat production at the world’s deepest drilled power plant, which will produce up to 10% of Espoo’s heating needs in future.
“These ventures are examples of how the best innovations are created in cooperation with businesses and research institutes. They benefit the whole community: When we cut emissions from transport and heating for example, we take care of the clean air and nature appreciated by Espoo residents, we create new business and jobs and we are involved in solving global challenges such as climate change,” says Director for Sustainable Development Pasi Laitala.
People first: residents involved in developing their daily life
In order to achieve the carbon neutrality goal, it is key that a large number of Espoo residents are involved in the development of new sustainable solutions. The City of Espoo invites residents to join in developing everyday services that are important to them. Involvement is a critical part of the city’s strategy, the Espoo Story, which is currently being updated through resident surveys.
“When everyone has an opportunity to use their potential and be an active part of the community, life is meaningful. For example, the Youth Council and students together with their parents from all upper secondary schools have participated in preparing the upper secondary school curriculum. The voice of young people is heard at all central levels of decision-making now, with the Youth Council getting a representative on the City Board,” says Director for City as a Service Development Päivi Sutinen.
Espoo is growing fast and becoming ever more multicultural, which is why the services of foreign-language residents have also been developed for a long time already. When the coronavirus crisis hit in the spring, the functioning cooperation network with the city’s various services and non-governmental organisations was of great benefit: it made it possible for Espoo to launch multilingual coronavirus telephone counselling promptly, which has already been awarded with Mayor Jukka Mäkelä’s innovation prize.