30.6. 2017 Blogi

Smart River

In his blog entry Sami Uusitalo contemplates and envisions the opportunities offered by the River Aura as a message and way to distinguish for Turku’s spearhead projects. Smart River Aura could be an innovation platform on which companies can develop and pilot their solutions together with the City.

The River Aura is an important part of the City of Turku’s image. The history and success of the River Aura and Turku are inseparably intertwined. The river has been the lifeline for Turku since the beginning and the reason why Finland’s first city was originally established in this place. As an important traffic route it has generated international trade and wealth, but also provided well-being and culture to the inhabitants of the city. And even though the role of the river has changed over the centuries, its importance has not diminished.

Support for the City strategy

In urban development, smart has replaced green and clean as the new buzzword. There is much talk about smart cities and making functions and services intelligent, but what does smart city actually mean?

Turku’s smart city strategy and goals are being sharpened within the City’s spearhead project which also involves Turku Science Park Ltd. The City is strongly committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040, and digital and smart functions and services play an important role in reaching that goal. The sharpening of the strategy also allows for the use and display of the expertise originating in Turku and Southwest Finland.

Cities often play a key role in the development of smart city solutions. In addition to being an important customer, cities can provide enterprises with opportunities to pilot and test their products in a real environment and thus act as valuable references. Furthermore, co-development between cities and enterprises is increasing especially as a result of new, innovative purchasing methods and increasing market dialogue. Turku Science Park Ltd aims at supporting enterprises by offering such opportunities and developing the co-operation between the city and enterprises.

Competition and co-operation in the Baltic Sea region

Many cities in the Baltic Sea region attempt to be profiled as a leading smart city. Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tallinn, Tampere, Oulu – all of them carry out positive and impressive development work in this sector. Co-operation and exchanging of best practices are being conducted in many different forums, but at the same time there exists competition for experts and resources, and the aim to highlight the know-how in your own region.

In my opinion, the River Aura gives Turku a unique opportunity to distinguish among the smart city players. We have multinational companies, SMEs and start-ups with expertise and solutions that meet international standards. If you follow the river from the science and campus area to the city centre and all the way to the shipyard, you notice that the River Aura flows through a huge quantity of expertise, projects and companies that are linked to smart city. A new innovation and visitor centre is being built in Kupittaa district. Smart ferry and smart quay are being developed in the Älyvesi project on the Smart River Aura. In the autumn, the riverbank and the campus area will host a new development project in which companies can carry out quick tests and pilots relating to the challenges of guidance together with the City. And the cruise liners built in Turku are like floating cities.

Smart river as a spearhead for Turku

With the Smart River Aura concept I refer to the entity that gathers this expertise together and makes it the communication spearhead of Turku’s smart city know-how. Smart River Aura is:

  • The spearhead of actions lifted from Turku’s smart city project which communicates Turku’s original, singular and unique approach.
  • The communication and marketing focus of Turku’s smart city project.
  • An integral, clearly managed entity in which the River Aura and its surroundings act as an innovation platform for different smart city solutions.
  • An entity with emphasis on co-development by the City and enterprises, quick trials, innovative purchases, and the City’s co-operation with large companies and business consortiums.
  • An internationally marketable entity in which Turku can genuinely and realistically aim at being among the very best in Europe.

The purpose of the Smart River Aura concept is above all to highlight the expertise in the region as well as the smart services and solutions provided by companies. Smart River Aura acts as an innovation platform on which companies can develop and pilot their solutions together with the City. So the companies and their products lie at the centre of the activities. Different solutions related to attraction factors, such as guidance, will encourage people more efficiently to use the local services.

So the Smart River Aura concept does not aim at being the City’s only smart city function and will not replace the City’s activities in developing its own functions. Instead, it is the communication and project spearhead lifted from the smart city functions which helps to position Turku as the leading Nordic city within the chosen concept (smart river).

The river has been the lifeline and a source of trade and well-being for Turku since the beginning. With the Smart River Aura concept it will continue to be that far into the future.

Sami Uusitalo
The writer works as a Senior Advisor in Turku Science Park Ltd. He has participated in the preparation of the Six City Strategy guidance ecosystems project of Finland’s six largest cities that will start in September.