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Great ideas make smart cities!

Fabulous idea from You. Up to 1.5 million euros from us.

2020 Smart City Challenge deadline has passed.
The 2nd round will take place in 2021.

The FinEst Twins Smart City Center of Excellence will invest up to 15 million euros to implement 10 large scale pilots to face the urban challenges in the fields of mobility, energy, built environment, data and governance. This idea competition is based on the challenges mapped with local governments in Estonia. Each idea has to address at least one of the challenges via research and innovation activities and direct involvement of cities.  The Smart City Challenge is in process and we received 71 ideas for the deadline on November 6.  12 best proposals have been selected to the finals.

Target group

The idea competition is fully open for everybody to participate whereas only the best ideas will be implemented. Nevertheless, due to the initial funding limitations, these are the focus target groups:

  • TalTech researchers 
  • Aalto researchers 
  • Local municipalities 
  • Individuals interested to become long term team members of the Smart City Centre of Excellence: 
    • Researchers & engineers  
    • Product developers & designers 
    • Entrepreneurs & project managers 

Companies, NGOs and other universities are also welcome to propose their ideas, but we cannot give them direct grants. See more information about the opportunities from the financing section.

Our offer

  • Globally unique concept of solving the future challenges of cities with the help of research and innovation activities 
  • Participation in the large-scale pilots with up to 1.5 million euros financing per project
  • Research and innovation know-how and team members from TalTech and Aalto universities
  • Collaboration with cities from Estonia, Finland and other countries to validate your ideas and test your solutions

Expected results

  • World-level research with empirical evidence from the actual urban environments 
  • Prototypes of products or services tested in urban environments 
  • Solutions with proved international growth potential 






Oct 6


The challenge is opened for applicants

Oct 6 - Nov 5

Shape your idea, talk to relevant researchers and/or towns that have got the need you are trying to solve. Fill in the idea submission form above.

Ready to help to match you with suitable researchers and/or towns

Nov 6

The submission deadline - 71 ideas have been proposed. 



The applicants have received one of the following answers: 
- No  
- Yes, get prepared for the presentation. We might also propose some changes or improvements.

- We will perform the eligibility check
- Experts evaluate feasibility and innovation

Nov 27

The deadline for revised applications from the teams chosen to the 2nd stage. Send your proposals to

The Evaluation Committee will evaluate the ideas according to the set criteria 

Dec 8

Presentations to the Evaluation Committee

The Evaluation Committee will decide on a consensus meeting which pilots to propose to start from January



FinEst Twins Steering Committee confirms the chosen pilots and their potential budgets


Large scale pilots 1st phase starts. 

Arranging tenders or innovation tenders if relevant. Additional team members recruited if needed.

Evaluation criteria

  • Research excellence
  • Innovation potential
  • Growth potential
  • Feasibility
  • Impact on urban environments


Success criteria:

  • The idea is solving pre-mapped urban challenges in the case of at least two cities involved, whereas at least one has to be from Estonia
  • This idea demonstrates research excellence, innovation and growth potential, is feasible and has a potential impact on urban environments 
  • Strong project team with the following capabilities: research and development, project management, product or service development, design, entrepreneurship 
  • Involvement of citizens into the process, using design thinking methodologies and following the principles of user-friendliness

Grant terms

The budget per one pilot project can be up to 1.5 million euros that will be divided between TalTech (75% of funding) and participating Estonian cities or city-like municipalities (25 % of funding). The funding can be allocated to both HR costs and procurement of products and services. The pilots will be financed by the European Regional Fund and the Estonian Government (Ministry of Education and Research). 

Eligible costs

The participating partners (TalTech and cities) can be remunerated for the following costs:

  • Salaries 
  • Direct costs of products and services
  • Travelling costs
  • Overhead is 15% of the salaries

Approval and payment of expenditure

  • The budgets will be approved in 3-6 months steps
  • Only the costs necessary for the pilot projects will be approved
  • The costs have to be documented according to the set rules 
  • The costs will be reimbursed to the partners (cities and municipalities) after the report has been approved by the financier and paid to Taltech 

Explanations and special cases

  • We are open to employ external authors to the FinEst Twins Smart City Centre of Excellence to execute these large-scale pilot projects, incl. people from other countries.
  • Researchers from Aalto University can employ researchers to the FinEst Twins Smart City Centre of Excellence.
  • We can purchase services or products from other universities or private companies if needed for specific pilot activities. 
  • In a case of a company, NGO or another university presents a competitive idea to the idea challenge, it may be executed via the innovation procurement.  Also private co-investment into pilots is welcomed, which means that the FinEst Twins Smart City Center of Excellence and the private sector will both invest into the pilot.


Urban challenges

The FinEst Twins Smart City of Excellence has mapped the urban challenges together with Estonian cities and city-like municipalities in the following domains: transport, energy, built environment, governance and data. For the 2020 idea competition we have chosen 10 challenges through the process of a questionnaire, interviews and workshops with these local municipalities.

Read more from HERE.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Harku, Keila, Lääne-Harju, Maardu, Pärnu, Paide, Rae, Rakvere, Saaremaa, Saue, Tallinn, Valga, Viimsi, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • How to develop a network of roads and streets, so that it encourages mobility by walking, using different two, three and four wheel bicycles, as well as micromobility devices (incl. with electric motors); public transport (bus, train, etc.) and in the future also with self-driving vehicles. It is important to increase the share of sustainable modes of mobility and allow people to have healthy and safe modes of mobility.
  • What is a network of roads and streets like that forms a joint part of the entire remaining public space, where there are attractive connecting stations and convenient access ways to shopping centres, also for pedestrians that allow inhabitants to reach the required destination in less than 15 minutes, without using their own car etc. 
  • What is the transport management system that takes into consideration the needs of inhabitants that live outside the city, but commute on a daily basis to the city to work or go to school.
  • How to manage traffic operationally and flexibly, as well as increase road capacity, while at the same time calm the traffic and increase safety. 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Harku, Kohtla-Järve, Lääne-Harju, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rae, Rakvere, Saue,
Tallinn, Tartu, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Vormsi

  • It is difficult especially for children, to come to the centre, from the outskirts of the municipality. The transport within rural municipalities, including connections to small islands, is inadequate. There is not sufficient people to create a profitable bus traffic with sufficient frequency. What possibilities are there for creating a transport solution, based on demand based public transport or on transport sharing services (social transport, school transport, transport to work for larger companies etc.), thereby also taking into consideration the needs of inhabitants with special needs. 
  • The problem facing cities is daily commuting – how to create an integrated and with sufficient frequency public transport connections, as well as a convenient compatibility between cars and public transport, on the outskirts of cities. How to ensure a public transport that functions comfortably and at relevant times, according to the needs of different age groups (for work, school, to the centre for using services: store, medical care, hairdresser etc.). 
  • Companies are in succession closing long distance bus routes, due to free public transport and a shortage of passengers, wherefore municipal governments need to increasingly organize transport within the rural municipality, as well as county transportation and find opportunities for ensuring a sufficient frequency of routes and establish new routes.
  • The municipal government increasingly needs to contribute into organizing social transport, due to the ageing of the population and the chronic shortage of family doctors (due to the distancing and centralization of primary health care services). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rae, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Valga, 
Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • There is no unified public transport system for cities and the county, not to mention the national one. Ticket systems are also different. It would be important to have combined planning of different mobility means: bus, train, bicycle, car, micromobility devices etc. 
  • The possibility of working in public transport is an important advantage over driving private cars. How to create as comfortable as possible conditions for this (a desk for supporting a computer, high speed and stable Internet connection, possibility for privacy – working quietly or making calls, without disturbing others). 
  • What studies and data analysis must be performed, so that county and regional public transport can be brought into conformity with actual mobility needs. 
  • It is important to even allow for working in larger cities, up to 100 km away, such that it would be time and energy efficient, as well as comfortable. 
  • What is the mobility of goods and location of logistics centres that takes into consideration the production and industrial needs, of smaller settlements.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Maardu, Paide, Rakvere, Tallinn, Valga, Viimsi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • How to smartly create structural plans that encompass many detailed plans, to ensure a more unified detailed planning and utilisation of resources, as well as a better urban space that creates prerequisites for sustainable construction and using sustainable energy carriers. How to effectively include the inhabitants?
  • The development of blue-green infrastructure in smart cities – what are the environment friendly and smart (rain)water systems like, smart spatial planning solutions that improve the quality of life and assist in improving the environmental condition (e.g. improve management of rainstorms, storms, floods, mitigate the effect of a thermal island etc.)?
  • How to take into use the possibilities of geoinformation applications for managing the infrastructure objects, managed by the city (for example street lighting, snow removal, landscaping etc.), as well as spatial analysis (public transport, waste management etc.).
  • What opportunities are offered, by using remote sensing and positioning in urban planning (application of innovative solutions from the field of space, in urban space planning).
  • How to take into consideration in planning that a person can perform the activities required, for his/her life within the vicinity of the home, ideally on foot, by bike or public transport. How to comfortably organise the mobility of people living in the suburbs, to institutions in the city centre (e.g. kindergartens and schools). How to ensure access to attractive sites, using cycle and pedestrian tracks.. What to do with existing large shopping centres that do not allow for being reached on foot? How to plan the space surrounding centres as compact and pedestrian friendly?
  • How to smartly use sensors to collect data, in a way that maximumly improves the well-being of the citizen, so that based on measurement results, it would be possible to conduct simulations and projects that improve the quality of life. The creation of future simulations based on data to predict trends and model people's needs (for example kindergarten places). 
  • The indicators of water, heat, electricity consumption and production of buildings should be visible in real time, to efficiently plan and forecast energy production, identify high consumption buildings and share consumption, in order to avoid a surge in growth. 
  • How to further integrate contemporary technologies into urban planning (for example incorporating a model design centred process (BIM), that would allow for a unified processing, during the entire life cycle of the project, as well as information capacity for creating models of landscape, planning, surface and existing buildings). How would such developments also allow for improving the compatibility of possible infrastructure project models (InfraBIM) and use of local urban models (CIM). How is it possible to determine, based on data, the profitability of projects for the rural municipality? A new developer with 3 000 new residents – predict through data analysis the costs and benefits for the rural municipality, as an example.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Jõgeva, Kohtla-Järve, Jääne-Harju, Maardu, Narva, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, 
Saaremaa, Saue, Sillamäe, Tallinn, Tartu, Valga, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • The biggest challenge is the increasing of energy efficiency of buildings – in apartment buildings, as well as in buildings managed by the municipality and in small houses. It is necessary to construct new buildings with low energy consumption and reconstruct existing buildings. How to solve the entire whole economically – light, ventilation, cooling, heat.
  • The profitability of offered energy solutions is not easily discernible. There is a lack of knowledge in which buildings it is reasonable to perform projects and the demolition of which would be more appropriate, as they would be depreciated before the solutions have paid off. There is a lack of a unified collection of knowledge, based on which municipalities can make decisions.
  • The usable solutions should also be diverse from an architectural aspect. How to ensure the preservation of local peculiarities and traditional architectural heritage, when construction volumes are increasing and in the context of development needs, of the contemporary urban space? 
  • Investments into buildings of areas of heritage protection are difficult to make – resource intensive, demanding conditions and knowledge of possible usable solutions are fragmented, difficult to find. 
  • How to efficiently switch from local cooling devices of a building, to environment friendly remote cooling. 
  • The efficiency and reasonability of district heating in smaller municipalities is low, what could be the solution, the alternative?
  • With what to motivate inhabitants to create energy cooperatives that would assist in speeding the taking into use of alternative methods of energy production. 
  • The withstandability to emergencies of buildings (the supply of heat into the building for example functions, but the internal circulation within the building does not work, during a power failure).
  • How to solve the real time availability of information on resource consumption (electricity, heat, CO2, noise etc.), of public buildings. The analysis of these data would be necessary, possibility for simulation that would allow the operational management of the buildings.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Elva, Haapsalu, Jõgeva, Keila, Lääneranna, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saaremaa,
Saue, Sillamäe, Tallinn, Viru-Nigula, Vormsi, Võru

The availability of electricity to industrial areas is critical. The population of most rural municipalities is decreasing, partially due to a shortage of places for work. How to ensure good conditions for industry, both from the point of view of energy supply and freight transport (railway connection). What would be a sensible development model (currently energy producers do not invest because of a lack of consumers, while industry does not come, because of a lack of conditions). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Keila, Kohtla-Järve, Lääne-Harju, Maardu, Paide, Rae, Rakvere, Saaremaa, Tartu, Viljandi, Viru-

  • The production of electricity and heat based on non-renewable energy sources is problematic. Thermal energy is the energy type with the largest volume, in terms of consumption, but currently still natural gas and peat are partly used for the production of district heating. How to ford local renewable energy production and consumption.
  • What are the possibilities for switching the production of district heating to renewable energy sources, to exploit low temperature possibilities in district heating. How to detect and realize projects based on contemporary solutions (production of electricity from waste water, underground or water body based solutions of heat pumps, combined with solar panels)? How to link these projects, with urban architecture and planning (for example constructing city greenhouses, in areas of heat pumps). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Elva, Harku, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi, Võru

  • The need and extent for data collection has not been precisely determined, i.e. which data and what for, needs to be collected. Certain data, at the same time is collected and their volume is constantly increasing.
  • The technical capacities and competences for data processing, analyzing and using for management decisions, are currently low. How to improve the general architecture of the city information system (incl. compatibility between local and national registers) and in the longer term, also move toward the direction of a so called functioning of a smart city that would better allow for an analysis of the situation of Estonia, through data of cities. 
  • An increasing contribution to IT security (ISKE) and data protection, is required in the contemporary information society. The navigation currently in data protection, GDPR, cyber security regulations, is difficult for local governments.
  • The data currently available from Statistics Estonia, for example, are not based on regions nor often in real time.
  • The data from different databases are not compatible with other databases. Many need based own systems have been created that are centred on a single local government. What should the software be like that is capable of making data from different databases, to communicate with each other? How to create data bridges with neighbouring municipalities, including those of neighbouring countries, to integrate data based management, cooperation and services. 
  • There is a lack of digital real time urban space monitoring or how to make management of city assets smart, systematic: traffic load on the streets, free parking places, CO2 and noise level on the streets, air quality, real time consumption and monitoring of resources of public buildings; electricity, heat etc., monitoring of waste management.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi, Viljandi, Võru

Municipalities have quite a bit of databases, but they are not used or displayed. Private companies desire and can develop smart, necessary and useful solutions based on open data. How to give data to citizens, organizations and private companies, for free use and the creation of new services, while at the same time ensuring their legitimate and secure management.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Maardu, Paide, Rakvere, Saue, Tartu, Viimsi, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • Communication with inhabitants is often slow and inefficient. Inhabitants continuously have an increasingly difficult time to manage their daily lives and obtaining information on services important to them, due to continuously increasing volumes of information. What would be the correct channels of communication that would take into consideration the capabilities and interests of different age groups. 
  • How to increase the quantity and quality of e-services, how to propagate their use, among the population? The population, in greater parts of Estonia, in cities is decreasing. It is required to find solutions, to ensure the quality of services. 
  • The document management system does not allow for monitoring the procedures of applications etc. The creation of such capacities would significantly increase efficiency, transparency and quality.
  • Emotional ageing and illness are among one of the biggest problems facing older people in Estonia. Social welfare needs to be upgraded and improved. How to develop nursing homes, organize communication, so that people would not hold on to their real estate, but would have a desire to go to a nursing home, where all living conditions are better (health, social life). Find ways for optimizing the work of support personnel, in conditions of decreasing personnel, in caring for ageing people.

Research streams and teams

The FinEst Smart City of Excellence has got the following five research streams. You are welcome to consult with them and also invite them to join your ideas. Several research stream members are also interested to participate in the idea competition with their ideas and/or they may be involved as experts into the evaluation. Also all other TalTech and Aalto researchers are invited to propose their ideas and you can prepare joint proposal for the challenge with them.

Key research areas: 
In order to operate future transport systems safely and efficiently, there is need of designing and implementing a collaborative system, where (automated) vehicles and infrastructure exchange information and coordinate their actions. This vision requires numerous and significant advances in multiple areas, including traffic flow, control systems, and communication networks.
1. Smart Urban Mobility: Development of smart mobility strategies and applications for cities and urban regions based on data analysis, solutions and cyber-physical systems, aiming at efficient and sustainable mobility systems.
2. Twin City infrastructure: Further multi-faceted evaluation of twin cities’ integration and direct and indirect impact assessment for digital and physical infrastructure.
3. Smart Mobility Lab: Creating mobility-specific set of living lab activities within the UOP.Lab that allows for testing future technologies, transport solutions, business and innovation models, monitoring systems for social processes, with the goal of building an efficient ecosystem that allows also for large-scale pilots.

Research team lead: Ass. Prof. Claudio Roncoli (Aalto, Transport and Traffic Modelling and Management) 

Claudio Roncoli

Key research contributors: 

  • Assistant Prof. Milos Mladenovic (Aalto, Transport Planning)  
  • Assistant Prof. Themistoklis Charalambous (Aalto, Large Scale Traffic Control)
  • Prof. Dago Antov (TalTech, Transport Planning) 
  • Senior University Lecturer Jaakko Hollmen (Aalto, Computer Science)
  • Post-doctoral Researcher Vladimir Kuzmanovski (Aalto, Computer Science)
  • Senior Researcher Raivo Sell (TalTech, Self-driving Vehicles and Autonomous Systems) 
  • PhD Student Serio Agriesti (Aalto, Transport Planning) 
  • PhD Student Kaur Sarv (TalTech, Transport Planning)

Preparing energy plans is important. Smart grids which involve how areas of the city as well as individual buildings are heated are areas where the centre has an important role to play in coordinating different initiatives in the energy sector, and in bringing information about all these activities to the attention of the population in general.

1.    Integration of smart nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB) with energy networks – to find smart control, storage, low energy and demand side management solutions for future smart zero energy buildings and smart grids.
2.    Operation of smart electricity and district heat markets – operation and business models, control, communication and algorithm development for electricity and heating markets benefiting from buildings with smart electricity, automation, storage, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting systems; connected meters and sensors. 
3.    Identification of cost-effective actions, instruments and measures for energy efficiency and energy market policies and action plans, sharing of best policy practices e.g. optimisation of energy demand to avoid peaks. 

Research team lead: Professor Jarek Kurnitski (Professor at TalTech; Adjunct professor at Aalto in Nearly-zero energy buildings) 

Jarek Kurnitski

Key research contributors: 

  • Prof. Argo Rosin (TalTech, Smart Grids) 
  • Prof. Targo Kalamees (TALTECH, Building physics)  
  • Prof. Sanna Syri (Aalto, Energy technology and energy economics) 
  • Research Professor Dmitri Vinnikov (TalTech, Power Electronics)
  • Associate Professor Risto Kosonen (Aalto, Mechanical Engineering)
  • Senior Scientists Juha Jokisalo (Aalto, Mechanical Engineering)
  • Post-doctoral Researcher Ville Olkkonen (Aalto, Mechanical Engineering)
  • Post-Doc. Roya Ahmadiahangar (TalTech, Electrical Power Engineering and Mechatronics)
  • PhD Student Hatef Hajian (Aalto, Civil Engineering)
  • PhD Student Tero Koivunen (Aalto, Energy technology and energy economics)
  • PhD Student Pauli Hiltunen (Aalto, Energy technology and energy economics)
  • PhD Student Yuchen Ju (Aalto, Mechanical Engineering)
  • PhD Student Andrii Chub (TalTech, Power Electronics)

Key Research Areas: 
Smart communicative city planning:    Combining participatory and collaborative approach to urban planning with computational planning methods and tools.   It focuses on usable digital tools and methods (e.g. PPGIS and 3D city models). 

Smart human living data: multi-perspective, participatory data collection and analysis from the uses and users of urban space utilizing a variety of digital tools.

Smart support systems: co-developed planning and decision support systems for smart city planning and visioning including smart planning room.
Qualities of built environment: Smart communicative city planning enables rethinking and integrating the diverse qualities of urban spaces and makes these quality perspectives visible and debatable. 

Bio-digital architecture and urban design (including circular bioeconomy): Offering an experimental approach to designing the built environment from a simultaneously biological and digital perspective. 

Smart urban space solutions: human-centred solutions for a smart, liveable city and its service.

Research team lead: Professor Marketta Kyttä (Aalto, Built Environment 

Marketta Kyttä


Key research contributors: 

  • Prof. Kimmo Lylykangas (TalTech, Landscape Architecture) 
  • Senior Research Fellow Aija Staffans (Aalto, Architecture and Urban Studies)  
  • Post-doctoral researcher Pramod Bhusal (Aalto, Electrical Engineering and Automation) 
  • Post-doctoral researcher Pilvi Nummi (Aalto, Built Environment)
  • University Lecturer Paulo Pinho (Aalto, Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation)
  • Researcher Veronika Valk-Siska (TalTech, Architecture and Urban Studies)
  • Research Fellow Kristi Grišakov (TalTech, Landscape Architecture) 
  • PhD Student Pedro Laguardia Tavares (Aalto, Industrial and Power Electronics)
  • PhD Student Petri Kangassalo (Aalto, Built Environment)

Key Research Areas: 
The following will structure and contextualize smart city developments in the coming decade.
1.    Economics and innovation capacities of smart cities: How can cities become smart in the sense of supporting technological development, innovation and employment in local communities as part of smart city initiatives?  
2.    Sustainability and governance of smart cities: How can cities become smart in the sense of sustainable development, including goals of climate neutrality, environmental and technological self-sufficiency? 
3.    Politics and public policies in smart cities: How can cities become smart in the sense of providing functional citizen-participation platforms for public policy and service co-design and co-delivery as the basis for legitimacy and happiness? 
4.    Internationalization and integration of smart cities: How can cities become smart in the sense of political, policy, service and technological integration, collaboration and/or interoperability while maintaining local development concerns from innovation capacities and sustainability to participation and legitimacy? 

Research team lead: Professor Erkki Karo (TalTech, Governance)  

Erkki Karo

Key research contributors: 

  • Prof. Wolfgang Drechsler (TalTech, Governance) 
  • Prof. Vasilis Kostakis (TalTech, P2P Governance) 
  • Prof. Marko Nieminen (Aalto, Computer science) 
  • Prof. Jarno Limnéll (Aalto, Cyber Security) 
  • Senior Research Fellow Veiko Lember (TalTech, Governance) 

Key Research Areas: 

  • Urban Analytics & Data stream develops and promotes standards and systems that make it technically possible and economically feasible to publish Open Services through standardized interfaces. This approach signifies that for-profit companies can publish their services openly, without publishing their confidential or business-sensitive data. The solutions will be based on the use of open standards.
  • IoT, Digital twins and Open Services are the cornerstone technologies for implementing what we call the System of systems (SoS). SoS is a set of standards, recommendations and services implemented as so-called micro-services that can be easily integrated with existing IoT platforms and other relevant systems, also supporting the concept of serverless computing.
  • Many of the non-technical challenges are in reality business challenges.
  • Adding value to big data and other more conventional data sets by including different socio-economic and sensor-based built-environment data-streams into existing data pools is another core research topic of this stream.

Research team lead: Adjunct Professor Kary Främling (Aalto, Computer Science)  

Kary Främling

Key research contributors: 

  • Prof. Robert Krimmer (TalTech, e-Governance) 
  • Prof. Anu Masso (TalTech, Data Governance)
  • Associate Prof. Matti Rossi (Aalto, ICT)
  • Post-doc Hadi Ghanbari (Aalto, ICT) 
  • Post-doc Avleen Malhi (Aalto, Computer Science) 
  • PhD Student Matti Huotari (Aalto, Computer Science)

About FinEst Twins

These smart city pilot projects will be carried out in close collaboration with the Horizon2020 project: FinEst Twins. The partners of this project are TalTech (the coordinator), Aalto University, Forum Virium Helsinki, and Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication.

Project homepage

Public webinar

Inspiration webinar:

11:00-11:15 FinEst Twins Smart City Challenge by Mrs Külle Tärnov, Head of Innovation 
11:15-11:45 Vienna Smart City by Mag. Nikolaus Summer, Urban Innovation Vienna, Smart City Agency, Senior Expert 
11:45-12:15 Jelgava Smart City by Gints Reinsons, Head of Operational Information Centre of Jelgava city 
12:15-12:20 Closing words by Külle Tärnov

The webinar took place on Oct 19 and you are warmly welcome to listen the webinar recording from HERE.

Smart City Wien defines Smart City as a city that assigns priority to, and interlinks, the issues of energy, mobility, buildings and infrastructure. In developing these fields, an emphasis is given to radical resource preservation, development and productive use of innovations/new technologies and high and socially balanced quality of living.  Smart City should be therefore able to safeguard the city’s ability to withstand future challenges in a comprehensive fashion. The elementary trait of Smart City Wien lies in the holistic approach pursued, which comprises novel mechanisms of action and co-ordination in politics and administration as well as a wider leeway of action assigned to citizens.

Gints Reinsons in 2010 co-founded first and only Operative Information Centre operated by City Municipality in the whole Baltic and Scandinavian region. What others call a job, he calls amazing journey, which with combination of agile and hardworking team, proactive Jelgava City management encouragement has paid off with great recognition and results. Now Jelgava is recognized as Smart City worldwide (especially in Europe).

Jelgava Municipal Operational Information Centre (JPOIC) uses comprehensive communication, information exchange and analysis mechanisms that provide direct communication between residents of Jelgava city, infrastructure maintenance, operational services, state and local government institutions, commercial companies and the Civil Protection Commission.


Frequently Asked Questions

1.    Can companies participate in the challenge?
Companies, NGOs and other universities are welcome to participate in the idea challenge although we cannot give them grants. We can launch co-invested pilots together with companies. In the framework of the pilot projects products and services can be purchased from companies, NGOs and other universities using the tender procedure. In case we receive a strong idea proposal then we can announce innovation tenders based in one or based on a set of combined ideas. The tenders will be compiled and announced according to the plans of the pilot projects that will be chosen for financing. This concerns companies, NGOs and other universities from Estonia and from any other country.

2.    Should the local authorities add a 25% own financing to the pilot projects?
No, we will finance the participating Estonian local authorities with maximum 25% of the budget of a concrete pilot project. We cannot still finance cities from other countries. But the cities from other countries are very welcome to participate and get all other benefits from the project.

3.    Can we involve a foundation owned 51% by a local authority and can they receive this up to 25% of financing?
We can finance only local authorities and not to the foundations owned by them. A foundation can nicely be an additional partner in the project but we cannot finance their costs. 

4.    How big part of the budget can be for personnel costs and how big for products and services?
We can be flexible here, so not concrete set percentage. The budget has to be reasonable and cost efficient.

5.    By what time the projects starting in January 2021 have to reach their goals and be terminated?
It would be great if the pilot project’s duration is 1.5-2.5 years but we can still accept also somewhat longer ones based on the specifics of the concrete project. 

6.    Should we involve the local municipality into the piloting phase?
Close cooperation with two local authorities should start from the very beginning, including involvement of potential end users. Of-course in the piloting phase the role of a local authority will be more intensive. 


7. Is the number of towns involved limited?
No, you can involve as many local authorities to your pilot project as you find necessary for the best results. You can for example involve two towns for piloting and some additional towns for additional input and scaling after the end of this project to demonstrate further interest and need.

8. Contacts with interested city authorities must be found by the applicant, is that right? Any matchmaking foreseen from the program?
Please ask us for the contacts of the Estonian local authorities and please also see information about them from the homepage. Also towns and counties not listed at the homepage can participate if they are interested. We can also help somewhat with finding Finnish towns and also with some larger cities in Europe.

9. If you have involved a city outside Estonian, they need to cover their own costs and you can't really spend funds there (beyond travelling over), right?
Yes, they need to cover their own related costs but we can cover your costs for travelling there and needs materials etc. for piloting there.

10. How should we prove the involvement of local authorities in the proposal?
Please use the two related questions in the application for that. In the answer about cities involved, please explain which cities are involved and how, what is their role in the project. Add one concrete contact from each involved city or county into the team paragraph. Please also include the cities/counties into the action plan and budget.
You can add a confirmation letter from the local authority if you wish but it is not a must at all. You can still add the second or third etc. local authority to your project in  between Nov 6 and Nov 27. But the initial application should include minimum one local authority involved and the idea about the second one.

11.    We cannot make a proper work plan and budget in such an early phase. How to handle that?
The pilot projects will be carried out in 3- or 6-month sprints and so also the detailed action plans, milestones and budget will be approved for each sprint. By the application 1st phase deadline, November 6, the draft total budget and action plan has to be presented. By the application 2nd phase deadline, November 27, a more detailed action plan with milestones and budget has to be added for the 1st sprint. In close cooperation with a coach from the Smart City of Excellence and domain expert the needed changes to the action plan and budget will be made during the project. We can terminate a project or make considerable changes on the way if needed. Our common goal is to achieve the goals, which is ideally a successful solution but can also be the discovery that this kind of solution does not make sense, does not work, etc. 

12. What technology readiness level are you expecting?
It could ideally start from level 3 and reach level 5-7.

13. What is the expected size of a pilot project team?
The team has to be optimal to make the proposed project successful , i.e. include all needed competencies but compact enough to be smoothly manageable and economically reasonable. The team should definitely have its research sub-team and cities sub-team and somebody has to take the project manager's role. The latter can also be recruited in Nov-Dec by the Smart City Centre of Excellence. If you are developing a product and/or service then you should also have product and/or service development and design skills in your team. Also legal competencies may be needed. The smaller roles can be used as purchased services. Part of the research can also be purchased from other universities and part of development from private companies. The official tendering rules should be followed while doing so during the projects execution.

14. How will the evaluation committee make the decision about which projects to propose for financing?
They will read and evaluate the sent proposal with the score of 1-10 in 5 evaluation criteria. The final decision which projects to finance is not a mathematical exercise to sum the points but it should be a discussion that leads to consensus about the best of the best, i.e. the ideas that we really believe in and see great potential. The points given and their sums are to be of help in this process.

15. In case a local authority would like to propose an idea should it have TalTech researchers in the team by Nov 6? If yes, who can help us to find the right researchers?
Ideally it would be great if you have the researchers already in the team and Ralf-Martin Soe, Head of Research of the Smart City of Excellence will help you to  find relevant researchers. Please find his e-mail and phone under contacts. Still it is not yet a must by Nov 6 and we can find the research team together in between Nov 6 and Nov 27.