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The First Smart City Exchange Forum and Smart City Reception

The First Smart City Exchange Forum was held on 21.01.2021 and was the culmination of one year of work and progress by the members of the FinEst Twins research streams. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were forced to revisit the Smart City Conference originally planned for the 5th of November of 2020 in Tallinn and transform it into the current First Smart City Exchange Forum.

The Forum was an online one-day event for the researchers and cities and other stakeholders involved or interested in FinEst  Centre for Smart Cities activities, as well as the ones interested in applying and testing smart city approach through agile piloting in urban context.

During the Forum selected city representatives from Estonia and Finland and FinEst Centre's research stream leaders communicated their ideas and plans in the smart city field, shared their research and experiences as well as visions for collaboration with other relevant stakeholders.

The aim of the Forum was to communicate the research content of FinEst Centre's and to enhance cooperation and networking between researchers from Estonia and Finland, between cities, policy makers, citizens, NGO-s, SMES and other relevant stakeholders for developing sustainable, resilient and smarter urban environment.

Program of the First Smart City Reception was following:

first exchange forum.PNG

All recording from the Forum are available in our YouTube channel HERE


Smart City Reception

Smart City Reception was the following event for the First Smart City Exchange Forum. It was held on 22.01.2021 for 1 hour as an online event. The Smart City reception was an informal chat between cities, researchers and other relevant stakeholders to discuss three city challenges proposed by the Forum presenters from Tartu, Võru and Lääne-Harju.

 In the three zoom rooms where discussed the following topics:

  1. How to make good use of energy data and how can the cities contribute to the establishment of energy communities? Topic proposed by the city of Tartu and lead by Jaanus Tamm, project manager at the city of Tartu

  2. How to support Circular Economy by certain ecosystems in small towns? Topic proposed by the city of Võru and lead by development manager Tiina Hallimäe, vice-mayor Toomas Sarapuu.

  3. Would MaaS concept work in sparse population density areas? Topic proposed by Lääne-Harju county, represented by development manager Asso Nettan.

In all three rooms discussions were very exciting and topics were well picked. Here are short overviews of these discussions:

Energy community’s discussion

The discussion about enhancement of energy communities was quite lively. Representatives of local government research institutions and also the ministry participated in the discussion. The main focus of the discussion was that although the main preconditions for the formation of energy communities have been created legally and technically, the creation of communities in Estonia has not gained momentum. Possible causes and barriers were discussed. As a result, it was realized that one of the main driving forces in this process could be local governments, which could initiate the creation of the first communities. A good example is contagious, and it is quite likely that a private initiative would be a positive inspiration. The city of Tartu is planning the first pilot projects, and the FinEst Twins smart city project Microgrids, which deals with the development of smart local networks and energy trading solutions, is a great help here. Representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure expressed full support for Tartu and encouraged Tartu to be a pioneer in promoting the field.


Applying Circular Economy in small town

The discussion about applying Circular Economy (CE) systems in small town was very lively. Among the participants were the city representors, researchers from Estonia and Finland and representors of NGO-s.

One of the challenges for applying CE in small town that was pointed out by the Võru city, was that in order to be able to re-use the materials, a more thorough analyses is needed about the consistence of the materials to understand better what can be reused and what can´t and what kind of business models could be applied, but currently the small towns do not have enough resources to order the needed analyses as the analyses should involve besides the small town itself also the surrounding area. Besides the lack of knowledge there is also a lack of companies or entrepreneurs who would be interested in using the materials saved from the waste to produce something new.   

Kristiina Kerge, leader of the map application that informs people about the reuse and recycling options of what to do with the things they do not need anymore, suggested Võru to start with defining what CE means for the city government and share this notion with the residents through city communication channels, as CE principles are often misunderstood and people tend to talk only about waist and not so much of reuse and repair when discussing CE. Another interesting suggestion was that in the case that the small towns are giving out grants for citizens, NGOs and companies, e.g. in case of Võru for renovating the houses in the old town, one of the conditions that the city could add to the application process could be that the applicants need to follow CE principles while renovating.

Võru also had already applied several CE approaches – e.g. the city collects leaves from citizen gardens and bring it to the compost station and re-uses the compost for the green areas in town. Besides that, Võru has applied for a grant from Estonian Environmental Investment Centre to organise courses for citizens about how to compost their biowaste.

The discussion was interesting and it was clear that the CE topic in the context of small towns, is an intriguing one and worth further looking into.


Discussion about applying MaaS concept in sparse population density areas


In the third discussion group, the conversation focused on the possibilities of MaaS in low density rural areas and possible bottlenecks for it. The legal, financial, logistical and platform aspects and local government responsibilities and role in transportation were discussed. Considering the possibilities of an average Estonian municipality and current public transportation framework changing something is a challenge. The needs and interest to modernizing public transport are almost universal in Estonia, but municipalities alone can do very little, therefore a wider collaboration among relevant stakeholders and citizens is needed.


After these events we asked feedback from participants and results were that The First Smart City Exchange Forum rate was 4,3 / 5 and the Smart City Reception was a perfect 5 / 5. 

If you would like to get more information about The First Smart City Exchange Forum and Smart City Reception please contact Lill Sarv, Lill.sarv(at), +372 5627 3322

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