How smart energy companies benefit from partnerships with Helsinki

Cities and energy companies work together to develop solutions that address sustainability and climate issues. What brings these partnerships to the next level are ties to both local ecosystems and other cities.

Saija Laaksonen

The Cities of Helsinki and Fukuoka organised a webinar to share information about opportunities opened by city-to-city partnerships and invited companies to present their new projects and experiences. Read the highlights below.

Cities’ climate targets create opportunities for energy companies

Working with cities that are committed to sustainability and carbon neutrality can benefit smart energy companies. Both Helsinki and Fukuoka have profiled themselves as sustainable smart cities, and Finland and Japan alike have set ambitious climate targets.

“[Helsinki] has agreed to a very ambitious carbon neutral target to become carbon neutral by 2035 [now 2030 (ed.)]”, remarks Sonja Malin, Senior Business Advisor at Helsinki Partners. “This also pushes innovation, it enables companies to develop new solutions, brings them new opportunities, in creating the Helsinki of the future.”

Companies can concretely join the creation of carbon neutral Helsinki. Sumitomo SHI FW is one of the companies contributing to the transition by providing Helen, the energy company of the City of Helsinki, with a bioenergy plant. Maria Hartikainen, Innovation Manager, says, “We are especially proud to have our technology as one of the steps in Helen’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2035 [now 2030 (ed.)].”

Urban piloting supports the development of smart energy solutions

Major innovations are born in the public innovation and piloting platforms that bring city organizations and companies, both large and small, together. Helsinki supports urban piloting projects with open testbeds (find them all and apply at Testbed.Helsinki), and Fukuoka also has an institute for research and partnerships: Institute of Systems, Information Technologies and Nanotechnologies (ISIT)

Smart energy is a very timely theme. It’s a key element of cities building a sustainable future.

Markus Kühn, Chief Strategy Officer

Helsinki and Fukuoka invite companies and startups from all over the world to join their piloting and partnership programs. Especially, the city-to-city partnership invites companies  located in the either city to transfer to the other,  to test their solution in a different urban environment.

“As a platform, Helsinki is small enough to be very fast but large enough to test things on a global scale,” Markus Kühn, Chief Strategy Officer at City of Helsinki, remarks. “The characteristic feature of Helsinki is our strive for functional solutions, a certain kind of pragmatism. The functionality [–] covers many attributes of our city from safety to cleanliness, to transparency and a balanced well-being.”

Active and engaged cities spur innovation also by creating new incentives and opening calls for solutions to specific problems. Recently, Helsinki organised Helsinki Energy Challenge, an international competition with an attractive €1 million grand prize to find a new “future-proof” decarbonised heating method for the city.

Sonja Malin, Miikka Neuvonen interviewing Sonja Salo and Herkko Plit at Helsinki x Fukuoka Designing Better Life: Smart cities, smart energy event.
© Helsinki Partners

Smart energy is more than electricity bills or heating options

Working together in an environment that fosters optimism despite challenges and setbacks bears fruit in the form of great innovations. And if you ask Antti Vasara, CEO of VTT Finnish Technical Research Centre, it appears the scientific field in Helsinki excels at that.

“Every crisis is an opportunity for radical renewal”, Vasara claims. He’s certain that science and technology will help us bounce back from difficult times and improve the economy, sustainability and the well-being of people. New inventions have the potential to create a positive loop of accelerating progress. To kick-start the loop, “We can motivate the sense of urgency and actions the best by creating hope.”

And numerous people are acting, be they researchers or entrepreneurs or both. Three startups presented their technologies and business models at the event: Kapacity.io offers a solution for optimising energy consumption of buildings, Solar Foods revolutionises food production with an alternative protein produced utilising power-to-X technology, and P2X Solutions is working to produce hydrogen for commercial use and transportation. For them, smart energy is a tool to solve problems and create a better future.

Shuhei Ishimaru, Director General of Fukuoka Directive Council, invites companies from Finland and Japan to collaborate to develop better cities. “While the Japanese government declared in October last year that it would aim to realise zero greenhouse gas emissions and a carbon-free society in 2050, it is also a new normal including carbon neutral in the Fukuoka metropolitan area. We are aiming to create a new city, and we would like to connect this event to business matching and future collaboration between Helsinki and Fukuoka.”

Finland ranks 1st in Europe in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Europe Sustainable Development Report 2021
© Juhana Hurtig

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