As part of the FINEST Twins project for establishing Smart City Centres, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) and Aalto University, along with Forum Virium Helsinki and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, have received funding of €15 million from the Horizon 2020 programme in addition to €17 million of co-financing from the Government of Estonia for Smart Cities Centre of Excellence in Tallinn. This will be the first global centre of excellence focusing on developing top-level research and innovative solutions for cross-border smart cities. The Finest Twins project is coordinated by TalTech. The project will last 7 years and aims to create a centre with top-level international research expertise in smart cities while also strengthening research cooperation between the two universities.
Emphasising on the importance of developing smart cities, Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector 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 a R&D Oscar Award. The funding recognises that TalTech and Aalto researchers can innovate modern cities towards more citizen-oriented and sustainable futures.”
FINEST Twins is a broad and multidisciplinary project covering a number of research areas, including user-orientated built environment design; smart transport; digital services; data and cyber security; and renewable energy solutions explained The initiator of the project, Dr Ralf-Martin Soe from the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance at TalTech .The concept of the Centre was developed as part of his PhD thesis at Nurkse Department.
“We are very happy that we can boost the collaboration between two leading tech universities of Finland and 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 Helisnki,” said Dr Soe
Aalto University Professor of Usability and User Interfaces, Marko Nieminen further added, “Helsinki and Tallinn will start building together and researching smart city digital services which span borders and works together seamlessly.”
An Urban Open Platform and Lab for connecting Talsinki
The Urban Open Platform and Lab, to be co-designed by Forum Virium Helsinki, TalTech and Aalto, will build on the Centre’s research outputs to design and trial joint pilot-projects for the two smart cities. For example, robot cars, smart street lighting for achieving energy-saving goals along with aesthetic and safety considerations too.
“The platform can be used to try out ideas in real-life environments. For example, digital micro-payments enable whole new business models for the Internet of Things, but we don’t yet know what consumer behaviour will actually be like. Therefore, real-life testing environments will open up interesting research possibilities,” Professor Nieminen continues. The project will also involve research of local renewable energy production and smart electricity distribution solutions. The project will require data analysis and data security expertise as well.
The goal is to develop an open research and development ecosystem that combines research and services and product development both for public administration and commercial business activities while remaining open to innovation collaborations with Estonian and Finnish companies interested in smart city development and innovation projects.