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Jukka Mäkelä - Mayor of Europe – June '22 - Smart CityImage credits: Olli Urpela / City of Espoo

Citizen-oriented sustainable community makes sense only when we are doing it together

Jukka Mäkelä was born in 1960 in Espoo. He has an Executive MBA from Aalto University and a Master of Sciences in Engineering from Helsinki University of Technology.

He worked as a City Councillor in Espoo between 1997 and 2010 before being appointed mayor of the city in January 2011. Prior to this, he had also served as a Member of the Finnish Parliament (2007-2010) and had held several positions in the technology field.

Alongside his position as Mayor of Espoo, Mr Mäkelä is also Board Member of the Climate Leadership Coalition.

Smart Stories from Espoo

Mr Mäkelä, Espoo is rapidly establishing itself as one of Europe’s most innovative cities. Can you share some of the ‘smart city’ projects you are most proud of?

Otaniemi – a globally unique research and development environment for sustainable urban solutions based on 5G smart pole technology. Otaniemi is known worldwide as an innovation environment for science, art and the economy, whose key actors include Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Within this local innovation ecosystem, there are approximately 20,000 jobs, 15,000 students, 5,000 researchers and more than 30 research institutes. Otaniemi is also a significant growth company incubator and the biggest innovation hub in Northern Europe. It acts as the headquarters for companies like Kone, Fortum, Neste Oil and Rovio.

When talking about co-creation and testbeds, the world’s first complete urban area based on a 5G digital platform, circular economy and carbon neutrality is Kera, in Espoo. In the future, Kera, will offer homes to at least 14,000 residents and jobs for 10,000 people.

Kera is being built into a smart city of the future and a new kind of low carbon circular-economy environment for housing, services and entrepreneurship based on intelligent solutions. As part of the whole, a new 5G network platform for high-speed mobile connectivity will be developed, along with a new business model for managing and utilising open data.

The most effective pioneering solutions can be duplicated elsewhere in Espoo or outside the city. The data obtained from the urban environment offers endless opportunities for the benefit of residents, businesses and the environment.

Having shown you these examples of the city as a service approach, you might agree that citizen oriented sustainable community makes sense. But only when we are doing it together and focusing on a human-based, and not technology driven mindset.

Your municipality holds the annual “Mayor’s Innovation Competition”. What is the purpose of this competition and has the number of participants increased in recent years?

The Mayor's Innovation Competition seeks innovations and ideas on how we can improve the services we provide for Espoo residents and develop our practices in keeping with the Espoo Story. The competition is open to all City of Espoo employees and work teams together with their partners as well as Espoo-based companies. The home base of the company must be in Espoo.

We are paying particular attention on innovations that prioritise customers and city residents − either as recipients of improved services or even as cooperation partners in the development work. The purpose of the competition is to highlight the continuous, innovative development work that is being carried out in Espoo.

Applications will also automatically take part in Excellence Finland’s national Quality Innovation Award competition, and the winners of the award will also compete in an international competition.

The Mayor’s Innovation Competition has been organised in cooperation with Excellence Finland since 2012.

In Espoo the number of participants has been about the same during these years.

Multiple tech companies (including Microsoft) have recently been drawn to Espoo. What, in your opinion, is attracting these corporations and how will their presence impact the municipality?

The starting point is that Espoo is one of the most concentrated areas globally where systematic, science and research-based innovations are created. Espoo also focuses on its strengths — the clusters of sustainability, smart city, new space, AI and big data, and health and biotech.

The business and research players in Espoo have realised decades ago that the best way to draw international companies here and take the best innovations to the world is to work closely together. This togetherness gives international companies fast access to a diverse pool of talent and business infrastructure that can move quickly. Our residents are also well educated.

The culture of close togetherness and trust has forged a shared sense of values. The players believe that we need radical, multidisciplinary creativity to solve global problems and create revolutionary innovations that have global demand. They believe that the best and the only way to do business is to do it sustainably — to develop sustainable innovations and foster the well-being of employees and people in general.

Finally, what are some of the biggest local challenges faced by your municipality today and how are you addressing them?

Espoo’s population has grown ten-fold during my lifetime, faster than in any other major city in Finland. The population is growing by 5,000 new residents every year. To keep this growth sustainable is a key priority for us.

As a network city with five city centres, we have invested heavily on good public transport connections. Directing the city's growth along the railway and metro lines helps in keeping the whole city vibrant and also brings it closer to nature. The nature is always near in Espoo and is part of the high quality of life.

Globally, the main challenge is to find ways to tackle climate change and to make cities enablers and regional innovation ecosystems. This is also a priority in Espoo. We have a great deal of expertise that can contribute to the green transition in Finland and in the EU.

As a community, we want to have a significant carbon handprint, meaning that the new innovations developed in Espoo reduce emissions also outside of our city boundaries. We are part of the new EU Mission on “100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030” and are looking forward to working in close cooperation with the European Commission and as an experimentation and innovation hub for all European cities to follow suit by 2050.

Author: Svilena Iotkovska

About Mayor of Europe™

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