Helsinki’s approach to integrating GovTech into the city can be best characterised by viewing the city as a testbed for experimentation for the world’s cities.
Helsinki consistently ranks as one of the smartest cities in Europe, with the Eden Strategy Institute recently placing Helsinki fifth worldwide for its smart city governance. Such successes are driven by both local and national innovation programmes. This includes the Six City Strategy, an open innovation platform between six Finnish cities that has funded €45m of projects launched since 2014. Meanwhile, Business Finland, the innovation and internationalisation agency provides support to accelerate Finnish startups. Locally, Forum Virium Helsinki, the city’s innovation unit, implements a range of digital initiatives aimed at boosting urban innovation. One such initiative is Helsinki Loves Developers – an open source software platform that allows developers to access council data via a public API.
Helsinki’s strongest GovTech vertical is smart mobility. Citizen City is a programme that seeks to open public sector data to create new digital solutions, including MaaS Global, the world’s first mobility-as-a-service provider (operating in Helsinki, and recently launched in the West Midlands, UK). Similarly, the Jätkäsaari Smart Mobility Lab brings together companies, universities and residents to test new mobility solutions and technologies through agile-piloting and co-creation. Finally, the city supported startup Virta in developing its charging platform for electric cars.
More generally, the city has positioned itself as Europe’s testbed for urban innovation. This includes its urban CleanTech initiative, which develops high-density air quality monitoring, before scaling to larger European cities. These testbed efforts are led by the Programme for Agile Piloting, which enables local startups, SME’s and developers to prototype new services in the city with real users. This policy of local small-scale piloting is a key strategic strength for innovation in Helsinki. As Tiina Kähö, Director of the Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation, puts it:
The city is famous globally for Slush, the global startup conference that draws founders and investors in from over 130 countries. In 2017, Finnish startups and early stage ventures raised the fourth highest amount of VC funding in Europe, raising €349m, up from €318m the year before. Although these efforts are led by foreign investments funds, local VC firms are catching up with Butterfly Ventures (€24m), Icebreaker (€20m), Inventure (€135m), Wave Ventures (€1.5m) and Vendep Capital (€40m) all launching in 2017.
Top 10 GovTech Startups
OURA produces smart rings that monitors sleep quality, physical activity, and other key health biometrics.
MaaS Global is a mobility startup that offers users the ability to fulfill their transportation needs on demand, to enable seamless, efficient, and sustainable urban mobility.
Enevo uses IoT technology to provide analytics around waste generation and disposal to help companies and cities better manage their waste output.
Blueprint Genetics combines genetic testing with actionable genetic knowledge to support healthcare professionals and patients with rare inherited diseases.
Beddit IoT has developed a solution to monitor sleep patterns and diagnose sleep related health issues.
Chaos Architects provides a city planning tool that allows governments, citizens, and third-parties to jointly produce smart city solutions.
Huoleti is a crowdsourcing care platform that allows patients who have just been diagnosed with a severe illness to set up community support networks.
nauticAI is a maritime awareness platform for uses IoT sensors to track ship location, Roll/Trim motion, accelerations, and surrounding AIS-traffic.
Iceye launches microsatellites into orbit to provide access to timely and reliable radar satellite imaging data, with applications in maritime, agriculture, and inspections.
Bout is the ‘Uber’ for shared boat services, allowing small boat owners to operate offer on-demand boat services between 50 predefined pickup and drop-off locations.
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