World Cities Day China Observance / Shanghai Award

Espoo, Finland |  Updated:2023-11-08

Espoo, located on Finland's south coast, is the country's second-largest city and part of its capital region. Over the past half-century, its population has surged from 100,000 residents to over 300,000, evolving from a rural township to a leading sustainable innovation hub in Europe.

Espoo has garnered several accolades, including Europe's most sustainable city and a pioneer in global learning cities by UNESCO. It has been named the world's most intelligent community, recognized for its energy solutions, and was a finalist thrice in the European Capital of Innovation competition.

The success is due to a unique innovation culture characterized by four key tenets: radical cross-disciplinary collaboration; serving people and the planet; closeness and trust; and focuses on people’s well-being and inclusion.

For sustainable development, the Espoo Story, a strategic plan, was created in 2012 by Mayor Jukka Mäkelä, with the participation of city employees, residents, communities and companies. It aims to make Espoo a forerunner city in achieving the SDGs and developing innovative solutions related to the 2030 Agenda by 2025.

In addition, the Sustainable Espoo, Healthy Espoo and Dynamic Espoo programs have made outstanding contributions to the city’s carbon reduction, public health and job creation, and demonstrated the innovative examples of a globally leading sustainable development city. Espoo also uses waste heat and other renewable energy sources to provide a world-leading solution for urban heating.

Specifically, the Future Workshop for Sustainable Development (TUPA), for example, is a project under the Finnish Ministry of the Environment’s Sustainable City program. It encourages residents to become active participants in sustainable development and equips them as change agents. Throughout its first year (June 2022-2023), eight workshops were conducted where residents and city employees engaged in open dialogues as equals.

Under another project, 100 partners, ranging from startups to global companies and research institutions, collaborate to forge paths to sustainable growth ecosystems, such as promoting use of renewable energy in residential areas and alternative fuels in transport, and establishing a local biogas ecosystem and prioritizing valuable building materials for carbon neutrality.

Smart City Innovation Cluster (2018-2025) is a project aimed at accelerating the green and digital transformation of city ecosystems in Finland and beyond by fostering collaborations among companies, cities, and research entities. The cluster's international reach is established through partnerships with entities in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and various networks in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and the United States.

These efforts have led to economic vitality and urban prosperity. Espoo has become Finland's innovation hub, contributing to 60% of Finland's patents and 47% of the Helsinki Stock Exchange's turnover. Start-ups funding jumped from €62 million in 2019 to €445 million in 2020 and has stayed above €410 million since. Companies are provided with high-quality business services, ranging from internationalization to early start support and sustainability expertise.

Espoo is actively localizing the United Nations' 2030 SDGs, striving to achieve these goals through the Espoo Story 2021-2025 strategy and the Sustainable Espoo 2021-2025 program, in the spirit of “leave no one behind”.

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