Helsinki comes to Singapore to boost collaborations, start-up exchange

As over 100 Finnish organisations and entrepreneurs are coming to Singapore in September to showcase their capabilities and innovations and to seek tie-ups with Singapore partners, the City of Helsinki is playing a big part. Led by the Mayor of Helsinki, the Finnish capital city is bringing an unprecedented high-profile delegation of iconic technoprenuers, government leaders and international experts in education, transport and innovation to Singapore.

New initiatives to engage the business community and to boost collaborations between Singapore and Finnish organisations will be rolled out from September 18 to 21, 2017 during SWITCH week (Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology), where a series of inspiring and engaging events organised by Helsinki and Finland 100 (or “Suomi Finland/SF100“) will take place.

These events will unveil some of the best-known global names in Finland – planned around four main themes: healthcare and wellbeing, education, innovation and design. Singapore’s business community will get an experiential insight to the “Helsinki Mindset” – to see, share and experience what makes Helsinki the “coolest tech and business hub in Europe”, Helsinki’s world renowned Slush (debuted in Singapore in 2016) being among these showcases.

Tech cool
Helsinki points to Slush, the annual start-up and tech event, organized annually in Helsinki, which gathered no less than 17,500 attendees in 2016 as a great example of its ‘tech cool’.

“Slush is a great example, its main event coming from Helsinki and having grown in few years into the world’s leading start-up event. We also bring many cool tech solutions with us, e.g. Tuup, Nightingale and Claned,” City of Helsinki told ScandAsia.

The focus sectors that were picked are the ones that best match Finland with Singapore; in particular, e.g. Marine ICT, Health Tech, Education and Smart Mobility. Both countries have interest and high level of results and solutions in these fields, according to the City of Helsinki.

Photo: Petri Anttila

“Both Slush and the other Helsinki-related events are platforms for cooperation where start-ups and corporations meet government organisations and other potential partners from Singapore and Helsinki. This enables corporations and governments to find new sources of innovation. For start-ups this is a great opportunity to communicate their innovations and find test beds and business potential for future.”

The reason for targeting Singapore Helsinki explained as follows: “Singapore is a gateway to the Southeast Asian markets and ranks high in technology. Helsinki and Finland offer high tech solutions in many fields that are of great interest for Singaporean.”

There is also a win-win purpose in this: “We want to learn from the best talents, organizations and ideas from around the world, and that is why we wanted to come to Singapore. We believe that when we solve challenges together we can design a better everyday life for everyone,” states Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.

“Helsinki is about people with impact, actions with impact and encounters with impact – the business cases brought to Singapore Switch Week are illustrating innovation, cutting edge attitude and creative thinking of the Helsinki business environment. There will be a set of expert seminars from 18 to 21 September covering the themes.”

“Additionally Helsinki and its hottest start-ups will be present at Slush Founders’ Day and Slush main event. Helsinki calls for co-operation, exchange of ideas and ambitious projects with the Singaporean community to make innovative things happen together.”

Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki

The Mayor states that Helsinki is a smart, safe and compact city, where modern urban life meets a beautiful diverse environment. The strengths of Helsinki are the talented people, a functional society, and the cooperation between businesses, universities and the public sector; boosted by a vibrant start-up community, which have resulted in Slush and numerous other success stories. The geographical location of Helsinki as the shortest route between Asia and Europe is central to their accessibility and position as leading transfer hub.

Helsinki Mindset
“The capital of Finland is one of the fastest transforming cities in Europe. The growth is not only physical. It is also in our minds. There is a new sense of purpose. It becomes evident through Helsinki’s civic initiatives, design excellence and disruptive innovations.”

Behind the “Helsinki Mindset” formula is that the capital city is a knowledge hub for people and companies that want to work towards a better world. For decades Finland has invested in education available for everyone and fostered the freedom to do and take the initiative. Helsinki has a compact concentration of talent where networking and accessing decision makers is easy. This makes it possible for the citizens to roll up their sleeves and make things happen. Problem solving, teamwork, design thinking, and technology are their tools.

Change requires actions. Doing instead of talking is central for the mind-set that drives the inclusive change towards a more sustainable and prosperous future.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area claims it is the best test bed in the world for smart and clean solutions. “New technologies and services are tested in different areas of the city. The best ones will be exported and will create thriving businesses. This will lead to a better quality of life and the growth of carbon positive solutions where they are adopted.”

“New services in mobility and living will increase quality of life and mitigate climate change. They will boost the circular economy and smart solutions will reduce food waste. Small and large actions build permanent changes. Citizens, cities and businesses are the doers. They are also the ones to benefit from the changes.”

All the stakeholders in the Helsinki Metropolitan Region – “a unique environment for getting things done” – are committed to achieving remarkable results. They bring all the visionaries together in the changes that matter, to build the solutions to cities’ challenges and create new business.

And not afraid of bold words the Helsinki residents will “be the leaders showing the way forward” as they implement changes across five sectors with significant impact. These are: 1) The world’s most attractive emission-free mobility (public transport is more appealing than private cars. Finnish service providers are leaders in mobility services in the world); 2) The world’s most resource wise citizens (enabled by unique Finnish consumer clean tech solutions); 3) The world’s smartest urban energy (Helsinki Metropolitan Area’s energy is produced efficiently and carbon-free. It enables the participation of citizens and directs them towards environmentally positive solutions); 4) The world’s leading circular economy city (circular economy, sharing economy, energy efficiency as well as the cooperation of companies and citizens to save resources is part of everyday life); 5) The world’s most sustainable built environment (where residential areas produce more energy than they consume and construction and renovations create wellbeing. Solutions are designed to the scale of the residential area, district or city. Solutions developed in the area are successfully exported globally.)

These bold and visionary solutions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area – projects, technologies, services and concepts – can be exported to world cities. Businesses making the changes can use the solutions as their references globally. Thus, coming to Singapore is really about turning intentions into practice.

“Both Singapore and Helsinki share the challenges related to the four most powerful drivers of change in today’s world: climate change, digitalization, globalization and urbanization. Helsinki wants to create the most advanced everyday life in the world and focus on finding solutions to global challenges; to be a city full of people, actions and encounters that make an impact,” stated the Helsinki Mayor.


Photo: Mika Lappalainen/City of Helsinki

Regional Headquarters
Helsinki will also launch of a new Regional Headquarters scheme for Helsinki to pull in investments and businesses. “For Singaporean corporates, Finland has a lot to offer. First of all, Helsinki is an excellent gateway to Europe as we have the shortest route from Asia to Europe. Secondly, in Finland the public and private sector has close relationship and active dialogue and we have attractive R&D grants and support. Compared to other European cities Helsinki can offer great talent, ecosystem and network possibilities. Also our cost level of European headquarter operations is very competitive. For instance the corporate tax is one of the lowest in Europe,” replied Marja-Liisa Niinikoski of the Helsinki Business Hub (HBH).

They presented some quotes from their clients and stakeholders:
“Finland is not only a technology hot spot in terms of its digital expertise, but it also combines technology and engineering knowledge, thereby bringing software and hardware together in a single eco-system and a thriving start-up community.” – Michael Haralson, Deputy General Manager, Techcode Accelerator

“Finland is an amazing gateway to enter the EU. Typically, when Chinese companies come to Europe they blindly think: London, Frankfurt, etc. Now it is the right time to do the right thing. Finland has rich resources for R&D; but you have to hunt out the right people, do so straight away, and make the most of the Finnish market which is both transparent and not as small as he first thought.” – Huber Hu, Powervision

“Thanks to its strategic location, strong universities and a firmly established mobile sector, Helsinki provides the best possible environment for our international tech hub. Furthermore, we want to become an established part of the Finnish tech community and partner up with local start-ups in the future.” – Philipp Erler, SVP Technology, Zalando (German electronic commerce company seated in Berlin)

Smart City
As for ‘Smart City’ Helsinki is well on its way, with several initiatives to support this. The most important ones are the Smart & Clean project and the use of open data in developing the city. Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation’s goal is to make the Metropolitan Area and Lahti the world’s best test bed for smart and clean solutions by 2021. The ambitious projects aim to create growth and world class breakthroughs that improve the international image of the capital city region and Lahti.

Smart & Clean operates together with cities, governmental operators, companies and research and educational institutes. These initiatives can be technologies, solutions or services for citizens in for example the built environment, energy system and transportation.

Currently there are two ongoing projects and four very close to realization. The first two are Bio100 that will change all the busses and work machines to waste based biofuels and Helsinki region Air Quality IoT network, which will enable comprehensive air quality data and prediction of air quality developments. Both can easily be scaled around the world and the Air quality network is also presented at the Emerging Smart & Clean City solutions event.

Helsinki is also a forerunner in open date and its Helsinki Region Infoshare platform provides citizens and businesses the data cities collect. Cities continuously collect and produce large quantities of data, which are utilised in the planning, production and decision-making processes. It is also utilised in the evaluation of municipal activities. Traditionally, this data has only been in the city’s internal use but since 2011 metropolitan cities have been opening this data.

The Helsinki region has over 70 identified test beds for new solutions ranging from complete schools to a dedicated street areas for new mobility solutions. These will be further developed in the near future.

”Most of the smart mobility developments in the Helsinki region are business based. This is enabled with close cooperation with the public operator Helsinki Regional Transport. Helsinki city is working hard on reducing car traffic in the area. This is being done by making public and shared transport more desirable.”

Photo: Sami Välikangas

“One interesting development is electrification of public transport. This is supported by the Living Lab Bus (LLB) environment, whose goal is to enable the development, testing and demonstration of various services and technologies by using innovative electric buses as a concrete platform in a real use environment. The innovation environment is implemented in co-operation with private companies and research organizations together with the support of the public sector. In addition to those involved from the beginning, the objective is to open up the development environment for use of third parties. This includes Finnish electric busses charging systems and also pay solutions.”

Noteworthy, the Mayor of Helsinki, Mr Jan Vapaavuori said: “Helsinki is a city in constant transformation – in fact, Helsinki is one of the fastest growing and developing cities in Europe. Helsinki may be known for design, its quirky charm, beautiful Baltic shoreline and world-class education, but above all it is a safe and highly functional city.

“These are values we are committed to, and ones we have to deliver on, in order to become the best possible place to live, visit and do business. At the same time, we want life in Helsinki to be increasingly smooth, comfortable and fun.”

The Mayor also added that Helsinki had been voted the top place for Millennials to live in in 2017 (Millennial Cities Ranking) as well as the Economist’s top 10 list of best cities to live in.”

Founded in 1550 Helsinki continued as the capital after Finland gained its independence in 1917. Helsinki is a modern city, with half a million residents, nicely situated by the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is the center of Finland’s administrative, educational and cultural life. It is also the finance and business center of the country.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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