Startups and new innovations are extremely important to Vantaa. 6Aika projects have made agile experimentation and piloting part of the cooperative tool kit for companies, educational institutions, the city and other RDI operators.
In Vantaa, 6Aika means experimenting with new ideas and development projects in and with the city. Experiments can provide experience in, for example, new mobility services, energy-saving innovations for buildings, new ways to serve citizens or technologies that benefit companies.
For example, in the robotics and automation boosting Roboreel project, educational institutions tailor robotics and automation experiments and pilots for SMEs.
“Companies can easily experiment with new technologies. For example, a production company tested how a cobot and a welding machine would work together. After the experiment, the company decided that they should continue developing the idea and allocate resources to it,” says project manager Laila Bröcker from the Roboreel project.
Joint projects create trust
Experimenting is a frequently used way for many companies to test new business models and develop products and services. They want to make decision fast. 6Aika projects have shown that concrete shared goals and agile implementation are the key to creating a culture of trust and openness.
“The starting point for all experiments and co-creation is that all parties benefit from the work. It benefits the city to cooperate with companies, for example, by offering assistance in various ways or allocating spaces and environments for carrying out experiments. Close cooperation between the city’s own operators is also important,” project manager Ronny Rantamäki from the ILPO – Climate Positive Business Parks and Value Chains project reiterates.
Experiments can offer companies a chance to work in environments they otherwise could not access. For example, in the social and health sector, experiments have brought together care professionals, companies developing social, welfare and health services and the actual end users of those services. Feedback from the actual end users of the service or product is invaluable for the experimenters.
“We start our experiments by identifying needs. The experiments are then geared to solve these actual existing problems, which is highly motivating for everyone involved,” explains project manager Sari Helenius from the Co-Created Health and Wellbeing (CoHeWe) project.
New business ideas
The ultimate purpose of experimenting is to find new business models. Ideally, an experiment offers answers and information that can be used for further development.
“At the very start of an experiment, you have to think about who will pay for the service you are developing, how much will it cost and how can the results from the experiment be used to create a profitable business,” says project manager Henri Laine from the CircularHoodFood project that explores circular economy solutions around food.
If an experiment leads to something new with a potential market, the next step is piloting and sales. If the experiment was a collaboration with the city, the city can be a potential future customer.
“The 6Aika projects also provide opportunities for rapid scaling because several cities are involved. In the CoHeWe project, experiments in Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu and Helsinki were harmonised so that the companies involved could expand their operations to other cities as well,” says Helenius.
Participants can also see the value of experimenting in their growing networks. At its best, an experiment can produce a platform that enables more and more new ideas to be tested using the same tried and true process and methodology. There is already a practical template that can be used in the future.
6Aika is a joint sustainable urban development strategy of the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu. This strategy centres on co-creation and cross-sector collaboration between cities, companies and other organisations and sectors and offers platforms and environments for experimenting and development. In Vantaa, 6Aika means experimenting with new ideas and development projects in and with the city.