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Establishment of Smart City Center of Excellence

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FINEST TWINS (Establishment of Smart City Center of Excellence)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-02-28

The FinEst Twins builds a Smart City Centre of Excellence (FT-CoE) based in Estonia focusing on mobility, energy and built environment glued together by governance and urban analytics & data and aims to match leading smart city research centers globally. The FinEst Twins develops the cross-border knowledge transfer infrastructure (Urban Open Platform) through real-life pilots capable of attracting international expertise and investment. It is a partnership between Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Forum Virium Helsinki (Innovation company of the Helsinki City), Aalto University and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia.

Conceptually the FinEst Twins looks into how to achieve digital single market in the urban context. By fact, most digital services are local and by large, most of them are developed in isolation from the neighbouring local governments, either national or international. In the digital area, this is a huge problem, as independently developed digital services tend to be locked-in to specific standards making future cross-border services challenging. The FinEst Twins plans to change this by effectively designing ubiquitous urban services and effectively testing them in cities both locally and globally.

Currently, globally leading smart city solutions follow two distinct patterns: first, building entire cities or parts of cities from the ground up based on smart city technologies; or, second, incrementally adding layers of sensors, opening up data for existing services. For regions aiming to catch up, neither alternative is satisfactory: the former demands enormous resources not available and the latter follows too slow a pace to advance public service reforms, digital common market and competitiveness.

The key point to understand a winning smart city is to understand that this is not a one-city nor one-country game. No matter how big a city, any local government is too small to create a real ecosystem of cutting-edge agile and adaptive governance solutions. The first installments have led to inflexible “smart cities in a box” or “smart countries in a box,” which are ageing fast, and from which solutions do not scale elsewhere. There is a need to start from simple and widespread urban services through collaborative joint cross-border hands-on pilots. The real threat is that if local municipalities do not manage to innovate from bottom-up jointly with neighbouring cities (both national and international), then all the cross-border solution will be enforced top-down or aggressively linked to global business vendors.

This set up of a FinEst Twins Smart City Centre of Excellence (Ft-CoE) is supported by the European Commission (H2020 grant 856602 and ERDF grant 2014-2020.4.01.20-0289) and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
During the first project period, the following results were archived:

1. Set up of the new Centre:
Establishment of Management Structures (Steering Committee, Executive Board)
Establishment of Office Space (doors opened early 2021)
Introduction of the Affiliation Model with 40 researchers from TalTech and Aalto involved

2. Collaborative Research activities:
Approximately 100 research papers published in the field of smart city
Approximately 30 competitive grant proposals submitted with at least two new H2020 smart city grants funded (CityScape and IRIS)
The PhD school involving approx 20 TalTech-Aalto smart city PhD students started.

3. Piloting Programme
Four large-scale pilots have been selected in an open call according to the pre-mapped urban challenges of local governments:
• Conceptual ecosystem solution to transport system management. One of the main outcomes of the pilot project is a user-friendly data exchange platform for all required services by interconnecting existing and new solutions over unified data exchange-platform. In addition to the existing means of transport, self-driving shuttles and micro mobility solutions are going to play an important role in this pilot.
• Tallinn-Helsinki dynamic green information model. This project develops green elements for the digital twins of Tallinn and Helsinki, and additionally creates a permanent hub for city planning in Tallinn centre. The world-class novelty of the project is the dynamic digital modelling of the green environment, a “green information model”.
• Real-time building performance audit. This pilot aims to improve operational energy performance and indoor climate through digitalization of facility management in large real estate portfolios. Continuous monitoring of energy, ventilation and indoor air quality in hundreds of buildings results in a big data for which performance analytics capable for benchmarking and identification of faults and malfunctions in building technical systems as well as in building operation will be developed.
• Reducing energy supply requirements using microgrids and energy storage. This project aims to reduce the need for electricity supply through optimized consumption and to decrease carbon-intensive electricity production by simplifying the uptake of renewable energy. Instead of consuming electricity based on real-time demand, the use of energy storage and control systems enables to alter the electricity consumption profile and compensate for the intermittent output of generators utilizing renewable energy. The objective is achieved by using electric microgrids, which are formed by a digital low voltage substation with an integrated energy storage system and a dedicated software platform.
The FT-CoE’s mission is to bring the knowledge about novel and replicable urban services to city developers to ensure more sustainable, liveable and efficient environment to citizens. Our aim is to distribute the knowledge we have gained with urban services in Finnish and Estonian cities across Europe and beyond. In the long-term the FT-CoE targets to become the key research and project partner for Smart City developers. The ambition is to become by 2026 the most preferred Centre of Excellence for Smart City developers. This requires a deep scientific and practical knowledge, successful implementation of pilot projects for reference, and building of trust among city developers in Europe.

Key milestones for the future period:

1. Set up of the new Centre:
FT-CoE setup period finalised by end of 2022 with more acitivities transferred to the autonomous unit based in Tallinn
FT-CoE is sustainable in the long run from 2027 onwards

2. Collaborative Research
Approximately 100 research papers published annually in the field of smart city
Approximately 30 competitive grant proposals submitted annually
First smart city PhD students graduate starting from 2025

3. Piloting Programme:
Kickstart smart city agile and mid-size pilots in 2021 and 2022
Six large-scale pilots will be launched in 2023-2025
From the societal perspective, the project aims to improve the scientific and economic capabilities of Estonia through increased Research and Innovation volume in terms of people and funding. This will be achieved via a collaborative knowledge transfer infrastructure from Finland to Estonia.
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Signe Ratso, European Commission)
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Janne Laine, Aalto University)
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Ministers Taavi Aas, Mailis Reps and TalTech's Rector Jaak Aaviksoo)
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Ralf-Martin Soe, Taltech and Marko Niemenen, Aalto)
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Federica Roffi, European Commission)
FinEst Twins Kick-Off (Tallinn City Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart and Rector Jaak Aaviksoo)