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15 April 2021

While some cities may find it difficult to embrace a future full of digital platforms and futuristic companies, Finland’s six largest cities have decided to work together to ensure that they will all feel the benefits of this new reality, including thousands of jobs.

In the past six years, a total of 59 projects in sectors spanning from smart mobility, learning, health and wellbeing, to circular economy and energy efficiency have taken root in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu – all Eurocities members. This was thanks to the Six City Strategy, known as 6Aika in Finnish.

The programme is the first joint urban development strategy in Europe involving multiple, geographically separate cities. It has led to the involvement of almost 4,000 companies and 5,000 people in the 19 projects that were funded by the European Social Fund. The further 40 projects were enabled by the European Regional Development Fund.

“One of the most important results of the Six City Strategy is the way it has opened up urban environments as versatile development and experimentation platforms for companies,” said Harri Paananen, Chair of the 6Aika Management Group and Head of Economic Development at the City of Espoo.

The scheme enabled pilot projects for new or renewed products, services and operating models in different urban environments with real users, while also offering opportunities for training in fields such as robotics. And more companies are expected to benefit, according to Paananen: “More is still to come; currently, the activities are set to continue until summer 2022.”

Companies involved in projects also expressed their satisfaction. According to a survey, companies rated the initiative 4.4 on a scale of 1–5, and four out of five companies said they would be involved in the Six Cities initiative again.

City governments have found the initiative interesting for other reasons, the strategy has shown that it is possible to work together on common goals, such as carbon neutrality. “The Six Cities have cooperated closely at both strategic and operational levels in the strategy,” said Six City Strategy Office Programme Director Minna Torppa. “They have steered the strategy together and supported the preparation of new projects by providing applicants with joint feedback.”

A recent example of this coordination? The six cities recently worked together to submit three joint packages for the national Coronavirus recovery plans, on economic recovery for businesses, tourism and digitalisation.

Read more about the results of 6Aika cooperation in the publication ‘Era of Cities – The joint development of the Six Cities within the Six City Strategy’.

Main image: Autonomous buses piloted in Espoo’s neighbourhood of Kera. © City of Espoo

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Fraser Moore Eurocities Writer

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