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SmartClean – A collision is needed to create world-class trailblazers

Sitra is leading the search for world-class pioneers.


Be a psychologist. Make people collide. Act as a therapist.

The above are the London School of Economics’ key recipes for facilitating co-creation. These and other forms of co-creation have been used in the Smart & Clean partnership project led by Sitra, aimed at formulating new practices for creating smart and ecological solutions in the Helsinki capital region.

In the last twelve months, Sitra and a group of approximately 300 others comprising businesses, cities, research institutes, educational institutions, associations and organisations have been co-creating spearheads for developing the Helsinki capital region into a leading international reference area.

Together, we selected the spearheads: transport and mobility; energy; construction; water and waste management; and consumer cleantech. Two intersecting themes include digitisation and the circular economy. Individually and combined, these spearheads form the basis of Smart & Clean partnership projects on topics such as zero-carbon public transport, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) or smart home-delivery solutions (“last mile”). Other potential project topics include business concepts related to the living environment and smart alternative energy solutions in building renovations, or nutrient recycling and industrial symbioses.

Project development includes making use of open data and developing digital solutions in a user-oriented manner. Testing platforms and living lab areas can be designated within cities. Other potential tasks include developing new operating models for the convergence of small and large companies and establishing an accelerator for the international start-up arena. The goal is ambitious but realistic: to develop the Helsinki capital region into an internationally leading cleantech reference area by 2021.

The region has a strong common vision and major potential for building more systematic large-scale project entities, while ensuring their export potential. This also means changing the way things have been done in the past. We all need a wake-up call to break free of our old habits and start collaborating across sectoral boundaries, because sticking to old ways is not how world-class concepts are created. This also means introducing new forms of collaboration and co-ordination among businesses and public actors. A Smart & Clean foundation will be set up for this very purpose: creating a new approach to the promotion of smart and clean business activities. Furthermore, this will finally provide a way of harnessing public contracts to ease the market entry of new solutions.

Finland is slowly beginning to realise that non-material investments can also be a source of long-awaited economic growth. The purpose of cleantech services directed at consumers, in particular, is to create new markets and change consumer habits. Such changes can be realised through international ecosystems comprising various operators. A combination of strong leading companies, start-ups acting as implementers and cities acting as enablers represents a huge opportunity to develop the Helsinki capital region into a global consumer cleantech hub. The capital region could also serve as an example of how digitisation, the bioeconomy and the circular economy can help in providing low-carbon and climate-friendly services for both consumers and businesses.

The global race in the clean solution markets is fiercely competitive. With the conclusion of the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015, the pace of the transition towards a decarbonised economic system has picked up. The cleantech markets are expected to grow exponentially in forthcoming decades and it is estimated that the cleantech market in smart cities alone will be worth 1.5 trillion euros by 2020. This presents an amazing opportunity for Finnish companies to offer urgently needed low-carbon solutions to cities around the world.

Welcoming all trailblazers

A non-profit Smart & Clean foundation will be established for the Helsinki capital region in April 2016, tasked with acting as a driver of new growth and a designer of reference projects. New investments, business activities, R&D activities and jobs will also be generated in the capital region.

We are now inviting all pioneering companies engaged in R&D in Finland to join in the foundation’s activities. This is a chance to take part in promoting the creation of a new type of Finnish know-how and some major success stories.

The foundation’s activities are funded through donations. One third of such funding comes from the cities of the Helsinki capital region and Lahti, another from Sitra and the final third from businesses. The foundation will identify and carry out the preparations for projects to be co-funded by the Finnish state through the Ministry of Employment and the Economy under the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) agreement and, for spearhead projects, through the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes.

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