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Establishment of Smart City Center of Excellence

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - FINEST TWINS (Establishment of Smart City Center of Excellence)

Reporting period: 2022-06-01 to 2023-11-30

The FinEst Centre for Smart (FinEst Centre) is an international research and development centre based in Estonia and is driven by the passion to enhance the quality of life in urban areas. In the FinEst Centre, we believe that the future of cities lies in creating smart, human-centric, and sustainable environments that empower people to lead happy, fulfilling lives. FinEst Centre’s mission is to bring this vision to life through cutting-edge research and development, as well as by implementing intelligent solutions in real-world urban environments.

The FinEst Centre for Smart Cities is an independent organization under Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), founded late 2019 by TalTech, Aalto University, Forum Virium Helsinki and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (MKM). Starting from July 1, 2023, the Estonian Ministry of Climate joined FinEst Centre as a partner by replacing the MKM.

The key insight to grasp about a successful smart city is that it's not a game confined to a single city or country. Regardless of a city's size, any local government is too small to establish a comprehensive ecosystem of cutting-edge, agile, and adaptive governance solutions. The initial attempts have resulted in rigid "smart cities in a box" or "smart countries in a box" that quickly become outdated, and their solutions don't scale well elsewhere. There's a need to begin with simple and widespread urban services through collaborative cross-border hands-on pilots. The real risk is that if local municipalities fail to innovate collaboratively with neighboring cities (both national and international), cross-border solutions may be imposed top-down or aggressively tied to global business vendors.

The setup of the FinEst Centre for Smart Cities is funded the European Union´s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, under the grant agreement No. 856602, and the European Regional Development Fund (grant agreements No 2014-2020.4.01.20-0289 and 2021-2027.1.01.24-0446) and is co-funded by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
1. The FinEst Centre has effectively transformed into more autonomous structure as opposed to a partnership model that it was during initial set up

2. Collaborative Research activities:

• Over 300 research papers published in the field of smart city
• The FinEst Centre is funded by 20+ grants, mainly international.
• Affiliation Model with 40+ researchers from TalTech and Aalto
• The interdisciplinary TalTech-Aalto smart city PhD school

3. Piloting Programme

Six smart city solutions have been developed and piloted in the Estonian cities:

• The pilot tested an open-source Mobility as a Service platform (MaaS XT) connected to autonomous shuttle service in Rae parish and in Port of Tallinn. At the same time autonomous shuttles were collecting massive data with its high-end sensors and to make it available for advanced public service developments. Now the autonomous vehicle safety toolkit is offered by the FinEst Centre for further cities.
• GreenTwins brings forward the importance of urban vegetation for the well-being of citizens, forecasts and visualizes the temporal and seasonal changes in urban vegetation, as well as involves citizens into designing urban green areas. GreenTwins software applications and services are taken over by spin-off company. The company offers tools entitled “Herbarium”, “Synchroniser” and “Mapper”, platforms “Virtual Green Planner” and “Spacetime”, and advisory.
• DigiAudit's solution enables a data-based and real-time overview of the energy use, energy cost, carbon footprint of energy use, and indoor climate parameters on the building level or portfolio of buildings. The solution is licenced to Thinnect OÜ and part of it provided as a service to the clients of R8 Technologies. DigiAudit solution offers real-time energy use and indoor climate overview of buildings to property owners, including: Energy labels and energy use analyses, Carbon footprint from energy use (input of the ESG report), Automatic indoor climate labels (internal climate classes), Monitoring actual energy savings when implementing energy-saving measures.
• The pilot project demonstrates how power system digitalisation through open and modular software and the integration of energy storage can enable increased use of locally available energy resources. Now the spin-off company is in preparation and the team is working of automatization of the energy management platform.
• Well-being Score pilot bridges the gap between urban planners and citizens with a diagnostic tool for measuring citizens’ well-being. This is an innovative method to integrate quantitative physiological and spatial, but also subjective psychological indicators for assessing environments objectively. Now the urban well-being diagnostics service is offered by the FinEst Centre for further cities.
• Software developed in RESTO (Renovation Strategy Tool) pilot aims to support the city planners in preparation of renovation strategies of city districts as a whole – to define the priority buildings, assess the investment volumes, saved energy and reduced carbon footprint of buildings. The software is ready and the service is offered by the FinEst Centre for further cities. We are also actively looking for a commercialisation partner for the tool for wider user groups.

The Smart City Challenge Round 3 is taking place in Sept 23 – Sept 24, 2024 and the new pilot projects will start from Nov 2024 that will be piloted both in Estonian and international cities. The Smart City Challenge Round 4 will take place in May 24 – May 25, 2024.
The FinEst Centre's mission is to ensure that as cities grow and evolve, they remain centred on the needs and well-being of their residents. We aim to create innovative, practical solutions to complex urban challenges. Our ambition is to develop and implement 10 smart city solutions in at least 30 cities by 2030.

Although it is too early to state about macro-level impacts, we have witnessed a global interest towards our piloting programme. During 2023 we have received tens of delegations from all over the globe who have been interested in different software that were developed for cities. Also the new round of pilot programme has witnessed international interest from cities around Europe. New approach to piloting and increased visibility of the centre has put the FinEst Centre to the position of a flagship project in Estonia and has boosted also interest from different international stakeholders. It has also triggered an interest towards similar interdisciplinary research centres in Estonia, as the FinEst Centre has been also a successful role model in engaging financing.

Key milestones:

1. Set up of the new Centre:
FinEst Centre's setup period finalised by the end of 2023
FinEst Centre 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 150 competitive grant proposals submitted throughout the project
First smart city PhD students graduate starting from 2025

3. Piloting Programme:
New large-scale pilots will start in 2024
Smart City Expo World Congress 08.11.2023 Einari Kisel in discussion
3rd Smart City Exchange Forum 26.01.2023
Smart City Expo World Congress 07.11.2023 Laura Mrosla in discussion
Review meeting 04.10.22
Andrew Grotto lecture and visit from Stanford Uni 12.09.2023
PhD school 25.01.2023
Smart Cities Demo Day 02.06.2023
Winter team event 20.01.2023
FinEst Seminar 03.10.22
President of Estonia visit 13.02.2023
Smart City Expo World Congress 09.11.2023 Külle Tärmov in discussion
3rd Smart City Exchange Forum 26.01.2023 (mayors of Tallinn and Helsinki)
EU Regions Week Workshop 10.10.2023
Visit to Bolt HQ_Community event 29.11.2023
Pilots finalising celebration 05.06.2023