F1 and C21 = A successful Finland is a network of successful city regions

A gathering of Finland’s largest cities, the C21 meeting, received extensive coverage in the media. Mayors from Finland’s 21 largest cities were invited to the event, with the mayors from the six largest cities led by Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori acting as conveners.

Finnish cities already benefit from a number of four that provide opportunities for discussion and joint working. The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities has an urban policy working group comprising representatives from Finland’s twenty largest cities, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has an urban policy stakeholder group, a dedicated formal committee and the six largest cities also have a proud tradition of working together. Despite the excellent structures already in place, the C21 meeting was a welcome and necessary addition.

The C21 mayors were remarkably united in their view that the process of urbanization in Finland is now so significant that ever closer collaboration between the cities is called for. Another priority is to ensure that Finnish cities have opportunities for working closely with central government. Finland’s burgeoning urbanism will drive up city population sizes, increase the density of the urban fabric and deliver greater numbers of jobs too. It is associated with a number of new elements, including increasing diversity and multiculturalism, digitalization and the need for user-centered services and amenities. The fashionable thing to do is to refer to this as “disruption”.

At the present moment, there is limited research into urban matters in Finland, particularly when compared with the extensive research carried out on rural areas and their economies. We face a situation where our politicians, ministers, parliamentary committees and civil servants do not have access to data and high-quality analyses on the Finnish urbanization process to inform the legislative process and to support reform. There is a particular shortage of user-centered information. This state of affairs goes a long way towards explaining why recent attempts at wide ranging reform such as the regional government and health and social services reform programmes have fallen short of meeting the challenges presented by Finland’s urban regions. There is also little in the way of truly informed parliamentary debate on urbanization and a near total absence of vision.

By contrast, there is a thriving research community focusing on rural matters, including economic development issues, which has succeeded in bringing together all relevant stakeholders, including landowners and others in the private sector. It is precisely this sort of urban research and development that Finland’s cities are calling out for, involving Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences,

The mayors all agreed that a successful Finland is a network of successful city regions. The city regions must have the tools to promote economic activity, entrepreneurialism and employment and the capacity to respond to global growth and urbanization in an economically, environmentally, socially and culturally sustainable manner.

F1 means Finland first – success for C21 means success for all of Finland.

Mayor Jukka Mäkelä

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The City of Espoo

 

The making of a metro

Six years ago, when I had just been appointed as the Director for Economic and Business Development in Espoo the Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper came to interview me at the Keilaniemi metro construction site. Since that day, the Tapiola metro tunnel has served as the venue for Slush, Europe’s largest growth company event that specialises in bringing together startups and international investors and the metro stop at Aalto University has been used as the inspiration for a new augmented reality concept created by a group of international students that allows people to enjoy a virtual art gallery experience while waiting for their train. On Espoo Day, the acoustics at Otaniemi station were put to the test and given a seal of approval by legendary Finnish band Retuperän WBK, while cyclists have also enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to make use of these underground cycle super highways.

Tuulametro1Investors meeting startups in the as yet unfinished metro tunnel during Slush 2013.

It has been great to witness how the metro has already proved so inspiring for so many and been put to good use as the physical backdrop for such a huge number of events, encounters and experiences. That said, I could not agree more with Arja Miller, Chief Curator at Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA), who in an interview in the August issue of Kauppalehti Optio magazine said: ”West Metro, please come, we need you,” before adding: ”We are delighted at the number of people who have discovered Emma already, but for tourists in particular, direct metro access will make a huge difference.” The metro expansion will herald a new sense of dynamism for the entire capital region. International tourists will definitely feel the benefits, but so will local visitors, for whom the new rail map will be an excellent and convenient way to get to know the area better.

At Tapiola metro station, a brand new landmark awaits travellers. Emma jättää jäljen (Emma leaves a trace) by the artist Kim Simonsson is an enormous white sculpture that also incorporates a digital dimension. As the name already suggests, Emma really does leave a trace – her handprint and the character featured in a series of videos will lead visitors to explore the art on display in EMMA and elsewhere in Tapiola.

Kokoelmat EMMA -Espoon modernin taiteen museon kokoelmaThe eponymous Emma seen at Tapiola metro station and at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art. She also appears to visitors in a digital guise. Photo: Yehia Eweis / EMMA

Espoo is the city of sustainable growth. Other cultures are part of the fabric of everyday life here. There is huge demand in our area for new highly skilled jobs and new and innovative services. Together, they will act as a driver for a renewed sense of urban dynamism and provide a full range of employment opportunities for Espoo residents. The metro will play a key role in making this a reality.

The metro gets people moving. I’ve been so pleased to hear about the positive effect it is having on the recruitment prospects of a business based just a few hundred metres from the Urheilupuisto station. The business now attracts candidates from all over Helsinki, with many citing the excellent public transport provision as an inducement to applying.

Very soon, all that Espoo has to offer will be just a short metro ride away.

Tuula Antola

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Tuula Antola is the Director of Business and Economic Development in the City of Espoo.  She is an innovation gardener, who is ambitious to help creating new, not only in Espoo but in Finland also.

 

New West Metro line – like building an ocean liner inside a glass bottle

The scope of the West Metro project is almost unprecedented in Finland. The end product will be vastly different from the metro service that was first created 40 years ago. The initial project plan, completed in 2008, failed to look forward towards the future and assess the sort of technologies that were likely to be available now, notably in the areas of fire safety but also in terms of wider building services. The safety features incorporated into the new metro are on a completely different level of sophistication, even by international standards.

Phase one of the project kicked off in 2009. Over the years, the technical specifications were revised, and the cities served by the metro line evolved and grew. For the project, this has meant having to adapt to a changing urban environment, it has brought multiple re-writes of the plan as well as a variety of extensions and expansions, particularly with regard to the technical aspects and close collaborations with other construction projects. The land above the metro line now houses a university campus, shopping centres and even the tallest building in Espoo. The West Metro is set up to enable so-called integrated journey chains that allow people to leave work, visit the supermarket, head home and take their children to after-school activities using public transport only. This will become a reality when you ensure that people can access the metro when and where they need it.

When you ask the contractors to comment on what the greatest challenge has been, they will invariably cite below-ground logistics. The planning that has gone into the project has largely involved ensuring that the logistics run smoothly. The process of constructing a 21st century metros service with all the technical sophistication it entails is akin to building an ocean liner inside a glass bottle, with no storage space. The project must follow the plan exactly and move seamlessly from phase to phase.

As we embarked on phase one, we did not have much previous experience of metro construction to draw on. Today, Finland has a whole team of people with a full range of up-to-date specialist skills in this area. Their expertise will be put to good use as we embark on phase two to construct the Matinkylä-Kivenlahti line. This phase comprises 14 kilometres of track, five stations and an underground depot at Sammalvuori. More than 90 per cent of the earthworks are already completed. In line with the lessons learned during phase one, the scope of the projects will be carefully scrutinised and particular attention will be given to ensuring that the work is well managed and information is effectively disseminated to the relevant teams.

We know what makes a good metro service, what technical facilities it requires, what the fire safety needs are and what sort of IT systems are called for. A metro construction project is a multi-disciplinary effort and effective information sharing is the critical success factor. This is what will deliver an end product that ideally matches user expectations.

Project management play a key role in mega projects of this scope. They are responsible for keeping an eye on the big picture, which will allow for effective decision-making, particularly towards the end of the project’s run. Large projects invariably involve huge amounts of detail and there are always vast numbers of staff on board. A precise overview allows the team to spot any issues and problems before they lead to bottlenecks. Everyone involved in delivering the project must take ownership of a clearly defined role and all must keep their eye on the big picture at all times.

Ville Saksi

Ville Saksi

Ville Saksi is the CEO of Länsimetro Oy

Which are the potential challenges Chinese students commonly experience?

In 2015, representatives of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA ry) from Aalto University and University of Helsinki conducted a survey to identify potential challenges, which Chinese students commonly experience while seeking employment in Finland. Recommendations from the CSSA ry survey were presented to the representatives of the City of Espoo. The survey acts as a grounding for dialog between the City of Espoo and Chinese representatives from CSSA ry on what could be done to improve employment opportunities for Chinese talents in Finland.

Through joint project preparation work between non-profit organizations and the City of Espoo, Sino-Talent Finland ry was founded in April 2016. The aim of the association is to enhance employment and networking opportunities for Chinese talents in Finland. The project organizes activities such as Talent and Business workshops which enables talents to be face to face with potential employers. Through successful partnership work, the project has already assisted six Chinese talents in finding employment.

The role of the City of Espoo is to open its networks to Sino-Talent Finland ry enabling them to build partnerships with the business world and provide an insight into the remits and framework under which the public organization is operating. The aim of the City of Espoo’s project is to assist the association to cultivate and strengthen their networks so that it can continue as an independent body to support employment opportunities of the Chinese talents at the end of the project in August 2018.

Virve Hutchinson

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Virve Hutchinson works as a Planner of Immigration Affairs and Employment in the City of Espoo. 

New service concept brings added value to customers and retailers

Making public services available in convenient public locations and in close proximity to the commercial services people use regularly is crucial if we are to make people’s everyday lives easier and generate a range of practical and economic synergies in the process. In Espoo, a new multi-service hub located within the Iso Omena shopping centre has been successful in doing just that, bringing added value to both local service users and businesses, through a relatively simple yet bold solution.

In August 2016, the City of Espoo launched a brand new public service hub at the Iso Omena shopping centre. Unique not just in Finland but across the Nordic countries, the Service Centre provides a home for ten different services; a library lending service, a maternity and child health clinic, youth services, a mental health and substance abuse service, cultural services, Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District’s laboratory and imaging services, a Kela benefits service as well as healthcare services provided by Mehiläinen, a private healthcare provider contracted by the local authority. In its first year, the Iso Omena Service Centre attracted a total of 1.3 million visitors. Other notable successes include new plans for joint working initiatives involving local residents, businesses and other organisations and a busy programme of more than 200 events ranging from lectures to tea dances and theatre performances. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in its first 12 months, the Service Centre has established itself as a lively and dynamic part of Espoo life.

The Service Centre concept is designed to make everyday life easier and more convenient for local residents and to add value to public service provision by improving cost efficiency, usage levels, customer service quality and workplace health and safety. The aim is to also promote new forms of collaboration between the services on offer at the Service Centre and local residents, businesses, societies and retailers based at the shopping centre. The feedback so far along with the results of a recent customer survey suggest that the initiative has been a resounding success; users are happy with the service they are receiving and the idea of public services being provided in public areas like shopping centres is seen as convenient. With regard to the financial impact, the initiative has allowed us to identify structures and working practices within the city’s economy, which we can reform in order to generate future cost savings.

The decision to make public services available in locations that members of the local community visit regularly has shown itself to have been an excellent one. The shopping centre’s owner and the local service providers enjoy a fantastic and highly effective working relationship, with all those involved conscious and appreciative of the potential the others offer. The shopping centre location has made it possible for the Service Centre to offer an improved service for users. In return, both the shopping centre and local residents benefit from the brand new added value the Service Centre generates, including services and events that no private sector business would be in a position to offer on their own. The results of a user survey carried out in April show that each visit to one of the public sector service providers based at the Service Centre generates two additional visits to local retail outlets. It is clear that well-sited public services can boost commercial activity and generate significant economic synergies, too.

The Service Centre is a public service success story for our local area, and we believe that our experiences could be useful in the wider debate on health and social service reform in Finland. The creation of a new high-quality customer service offering calls for genuine commitment to joint working, a willingness to listen to the opinions and experiences of service users and partners, the ability to reflect on your own experiences and the readiness to experiment, even when faced with the risk of occasional frustration – it is the small failures that tend to lead to the big successes, after all.

Juha-Pekka Strömberg

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Juha-Pekka Strömberg is the Manager of Iso Omena’s Service Center. Strömberg’s aim in his work is to streamline customer’s everyday life, while visiting Service Center.

 

 

Fall in love with Espoo’s waterfront

Ask any Espoo resident what comes to their mind when they think of their hometown and they will tell you about the sea and the surrounding nature. Both are also important pull factors for visitors to the area even if we have so far not made full use of the potential they offer.

The Espoo Waterfront Walkway offers ideal development potential. Importantly, it is well loved by the people who already use it. Development taking place here will need to deliver positive and attractive outcomes that offer genuine benefits to users. The city plays a key role in making sure that the development creates a positive feedback loop for the area. With the launch of Länsimetro, the new western extension of the capital region’s metro service, the Espoo waterfront will become more accessible to visitors, while the significant new residential housing along the metro corridor will drive demand for new services at the waterfront.

The Espoo Waterfront Walkway development project will attract the best talent to the area. The project manager, also known as the Waterfront Walkway Host, acts as a one-stop partner for locals, businesses and other organizations and is responsible for ensuring that genuine progress is made to benefit the local area. As part of the development project, we will create the ideal conditions for the delivery of a modern and sustainable leisure and visitor offering and ensure that the area’s cultural and natural heritage remains protected. The Espoo Waterfront Walkway offers excellent business and employment potential and enhances the coastal area’s wider appeal as a visitor destination.

Visiting the waterfront

Even in later summer, the seawater is still warm, offering an irresistible opportunity to try out new water sports. The Laguuni water sports center in Keilalahti has a solar-powered wakeboarding park, as well as SUP boards and kayaks for hire. After a good session in the water, you can retreat to the Blägä restaurant for some tasty, and well-deserved, burgers and drinks. Kayaking is also on offer at Otsolahti Canoe Center, in Tapiola. Finish off your aquatic exploits with a visit to the newly refurbished Cafe Otsolahti, an excellent seafront café known for its warm and friendly customer service.

There is also plenty to do in the Haukilahti beach and marina. The SUP Station offers SUP board hire and tuition, while Cafe Mellsten, Haukilahden Paviljonki and Haukilahden ranta serve up delicious food and drink in a truly beautiful setting.

The Matinkylä district has experienced rapid development in recently years. At Nokkalan Majakka, visitors can enjoy spectacular sea views all year round, while the nearby Cafe Merenneito, the mermaid café, has a long heritage and a large and dedicated following.

If you have a boat, whether your own or hired, exploring Espoo’s wonderful archipelago islands is a must. To hire a boat locally, check out the new Skipperi online boat hire service.

Visitors can also stay overnight at the Espoo Waterfront Walkway. The newly refurbished Hanasaari has all the amenities you would expect from a modern hotel and conference venue whilst also offering a stunning seaside setting, wonderful art and design and even a Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre. The hotel’s restaurant, Johannes, serves up fantastic Nordic fair capable of impressing even the most discerning of diners. In Otaniemi, the Radisson Blu Hotel Espoo enjoys a wonderful seafront location with excellent leisure opportunities and first rate transport links. The hotel also boasts its own restaurant, the laid back Ravintola Ranta.

The Espoo Waterfront Marathon is set to take place on 16–17 September 2017. The majority of the route follows pavements and cycle paths, giving runners an excellent tour of the Espoo waterfront.

When you’re done exploring the coast, you can head inland to Nuuksio. Nuuksio National Park is a true wilderness in the heart of the capital region with dramatic valleys and gorges, verdant marshes and woodlands and more than 80 secluded lakes and ponds. At the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia visitors have the opportunity to explore flora and fauna from across Finland. With everything from hiking, skiing, swimming, fishing, biking and climbing to horse riding and wild wood foraging on offer, Nuuksio truly has something for everyone.

The Espoo Waterfront Walkway is all about enjoyment, offering visitors an enhanced sense of well-being and a real connection with nature. Exciting fun-filled activities in a beautiful and inspiring setting are a true luxury./Exciting fun-filled activities in an inspiring setting close to home are a true everyday luxury.

Lennart Pettersson

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Lennart Pettersson works as the Project Manager of Espoo Rantaraitti Development Project which is part of  Espoo Marketing oy ‘s mission to develop Rantaraitti.

 

A startup perspective: Accelerators and co-working spaces

Our startup’s story began one evening in a small student apartment in Matinkylä. Taru, my friend and future co-founder, had invited me over to discuss a business idea. A glass of wine, a short discussion and four hours later we finally got through all the required online forms to incorporate our business. Four months and two new co-founders later Lääkärihinta.fi i.e. “doctorprice” was launched to help consumers compare private healthcare prices.

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