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Estonia and Finland Work Together to Build a Model of Smart and Sustainable Twin Cities for Europe

December 30, 2019 by Luke James

Co-financed by the European Union and the Estonian government, €32 million in funding for research into smart cities has been handed to the Tallinn University (TalTech) of Estonia and the Aalto University of Finland.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), together with Aalto University, Forum Virium Helsinki, and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, has received a thumbs up in the form of €32 million in funding from the European Commission for the joint Finest Twin Teaming Project.

The grant, co-financed by the European Union and Estonian government, will help build the global center for excellence that focuses on the development of solutions for cross-border smart cities. It will first be tested and implemented in Tallinn and Helsinki before being scaled globally. 


Why Tallinn?

Tallinn, and indeed Estonia, is not the obvious first choice for many who think of smart cities, however, Tallinn is ahead of many European cities. 

The city of Tallinn provides excellent digital services through effective IT solutions, and its citizens are willing and easily able to use them. Using the latest technology, the provision of Wi-Fi coverage everywhere, and the provision of seamless e-services are what make Tallinn smart. 

Just a few examples of these services include mobile and web apps for public transport (timetables, online tracking, and journey planning), the city’s traffic camera service that covers the city’s major intersections and roads with real-time information, an e-licensing service for public event planning, and the city’s official web map.


Tallinn and Helsinki mayors signing memorandum for twin city programme.

Tallinn and Helsinki city mayors signing memorandum for implementing twin city programme. Image Credit: Tallinn official city website.


The Finest Twin Teaming Project

Due to last a duration of approximately seven years, the Finest Twin Teaming Project will focus on developing research and cross-border innovation networks in five different areas—data, governance, mobility, energy, and built environment—as well as on advancing the joint smart city environment and cross-border services between Tallinn and Helsinki. 

It is hoped that the project will create a center with high-level international research expertise in smart cities while simultaneously strengthening research cooperation between TalTech and Aalto University. 

Jaak Aaviksoo of TalTech said, “This is the largest ever-competitive R&D grant in Estonia. The Estonian Research Council has compared the Teaming Grant to receiving an R&D Oscar Award. The funding recognizes that TalTech and Aalto researchers can innovate modern cities towards more citizen-oriented and sustainable futures.”

The project’s leader, Dr. Ralf-Martin Soe from TalTech, explained that Finest Twins is a broad and multidisciplinary project that will cover several research areas. These will include user-orientated built environment design, smart transport, data and cybersecurity, and renewable energy solutions, among other things. 

He went on to say that, “We are very happy that we can boost the collaboration between two leading tech universities of Finland and Estonia, Aalto and TalTech. It is a bit surprising how little joint projects and activities these two partners have, although they are just around 100 kilometers apart. The Finest Twins CoE aims to take over best practices and expertise of Aalto researchers working on fields connected to smart city and replicate best parts in TalTech with the help of Forum Virium Helsinki, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia and also supported by cities of Tallinn and Helsinki,” 

Soe developed the concept for the project as part of his Ph.D. thesis at TalTech. Now, after five years’ worth of project design, three EU-wide evaluation rounds, and two rounds of panel pitches, all supported by more than 100 organizations and individuals from Estonia and Finland, Soe has the opportunity to lead the physical manifestation of his ideas and take them to a new level. 

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