Espoo Innovation Garden exists as both physical and communal concept, which was
created with one broad vision: to promote and foster networked innovation and
business, and to grow the sustainable and accessible society where all citizens
can participate in improving the quality of life in Espoo and the whole region.
The original attitude to innovation was adopted by the Finnish city of Espoo, that tries to combine different aspects of urban ecosystems and attempts to open innovation to public through its people-centred and complex approach. The goal is to establish an environment where different elements of smart infrastructure, be it housing, energy or security, are not just co-existing next to each other, but creating an interconnected and sustainable network.
Espoo Innovation Garden gathers diverse actors and partners, fosters their collaboration, joint research and above all enhances the sense of community through the intense cooperation with companies and residents living in the area. With recently introduced quadruple helix model, Innovation Garden now includes dozens of R&D units, research institutions, corporates, as well as accelerators, societies and start-ups such as EIT ICT Labs, Startup sauna or the campus of the Aalto university serving as the main hub for the start-up movement in Finland with Europe’s biggest student entrepreneurship organisation and the largest start-up event SLUSH. Moreover, there are over 600 individuals active and contributing to the project on social networks.
The uniqueness of the project lies in the position of local government within the initiative. No formal governance model is taking place in the Espoo Innovation Garden and the role of the Mayor’s Office is focused on acting as one of many from the ecosystem- by being a match-maker, advisor and facilitator, only very occasionally funding activities aimed at fostering the community sense. Yet, Espoo city council highly benefits from open platforms and processes despite not being actively engaged in governing some of the substantial Garden’s ecosystems.
This place, often being considered the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Finland, gathers over 44 000 citizens from more than 100 nationalities, who engage in the work for over 1000 companies, R&D organisations and innovation labs. In 2014, the City was one of the six finalists for European iCapital award that is given to the cities with the most innovative citizen-led experiments and initiatives. The Espoo Innovation Garden also achieved to be recognised as an open brand and generally notices higher foreign investment and growing number of start-ups in the area, all of this happening spontaneously as the result of networking and cooperation both locally and internationally