The Six City Strategy as a developer and reformer of Tampere

Photo: Marko Kallio

A good operating model. An impressive overall approach. Functional cooperation. A comprehensive urban development programme that has advanced the development of the Six Cities, supported Tampere’s strategic objectives and created a good basis for future partnership projects. – This is how the development of the Six City Strategy in Tampere is characterised by Jukka Järvinen, Area Development Manager, and Teppo Rantanen, Executive Director for Growth, Competitiveness and Innovation, from the City of Tampere, as well as Seppo Haataja, Programme Director, from Business Tampere.

Will the outcome be competition between the Cities? This was considered when the activities of the Six City Strategy were launched in practice amongst the six largest cities in Finland. However, the closer cooperation between the Cities is a key accomplishment of the Six City Strategy – a result that will remain after the projects have ended. The ability of the Six Cities to cooperate has also aroused interest internationally, especially at the EU level.

Naturally, the objective of all of the Six Cities is to be the most popular and attractive city in Finland, but it does not prevent them from looking for solutions together, regarding problems that are common to all large city regions. The innovations and good practices have been shared amongst the Six Cities – that is also obliged by the terms and conditions for the EU funding.

– The cooperation and networks between the Cities are now very good. It will be easier to participate in future partnership projects, as we now know each other and understand the value of shared activities on the global market, Rantanen says.

The Cities’ shared activities are an efficient tool for steering EU funding

The Six City Strategy activities have shown that the shared activities of the large Cities are an efficient tool for steering EU funding in a sensible way. The cooperation was carried out for such a long time that the practical patterns became smooth and produced high-quality planning.

This knowledge is a good basis for the implementation of future ecosystem agreements. The experience gained in the Six City Strategy is worthwhile utilising in the targeting of the funding from the EU recovery instrument as efficiently as possible from the perspective of the Finnish national economy.

– In the large Cities and city regions, there are more people, companies, higher education institutions and development institutions, which is why the funding is more effective there than in the other parts of Finland, Järvinen summarises.

The development of vitality has been a central objective throughout the Six City Strategy. In recent years, the Cities’ attraction and pull factors have become familiar concepts, and the type of cooperation that is carried out in the Six City Strategy is a suitable tool for cherishing these factors. Tampere is looking at the future, which will probably bring large transformations.

– From the perspective of vitality, it is very important that we are still able to – in an ever tougher international competition – attract people to local educational institutions and companies, Haataja says.

The Six City Strategy supports Tampere’s strategy: a sustainable and open city

From the perspective of Tampere, the Six City Strategy set off, right away, in a suitable direction, as the three comprehensive spearhead projects of the strategy were of key importance for Tampere. The practices of open data – for example, the opening of the City of Tampere’s data resources – were already started in the Open Tampere project, which began in 2012. In Tampere City Region, the structural change in the Nokia company had aroused a need for strengthening open innovation platforms, as this way, the know-how that existed in the city region could be transformed into new products, services, businesses and jobs. In the Tesoma district in Tampere, experiments dealing with open participation had begun.

– Later, the Six City Strategy also picked up other themes that are important to Tampere’s strategy, such as low-carbon mobility and circular economy. This way, the Six City Strategy has supported Tampere’s strategic objectives in notable way, Haataja says.

The development of mobility in Kauppi is a good example of how successfully the Six City Strategy has been integrated with the objectives of Tampere’s sustainable urban development. In Kauppi, such services are tested that encourage people to reduce the use of their cars and shift towards the use of bus, tram, carpooling, cycling, or, later, even robobus.

In Tampere, there will be a continuum for a smart city in the themes dealing with smart mobility, guidance and the use of open data. In any case, they are important emphases of the City of Tampere, and Rantanen estimates that the Six City Strategy has brought more strength, practical resources and funding for their development. On the other hand, new operating methods have been created for employment management, for example, that will remain in use after the projects have ended.

The Six City Strategy has promoted the reputation of Tampere as one of the smart city pioneers and as a popular international partner for companies and cities. The Smart Urban Security and Event Resilience (SURE) project is an example of this reputation and how it produces new partnerships. Tampere’s SURE was the only one in Finland to obtain large and severely competed EU funding.

Agile experiments – practical gains for companies

6Aika has imbedded practices dealing with agile experiments in the urban development of Tampere. The model – which was taken into use in the Kalasatama district in Helsinki – is being actively utilised in Tampere.

With the help of agile experiments, small businesses, in particular, have received more opportunities for testing their products and services in an urban environment – if they are able to function in Tampere, they will be able to function in all smart cities in the world. Haataja reminds that business and its multiplicative effects are created from the scalability of solutions for a larger market.

From the City of Tampere’s perspective, the agile experiments can be regarded as part of the creation of a new procurement culture. A more conventional city chiefly orders precisely defined services and products, but a more modern approach deals with the achieving of results. The City of Tampere points out what it wants to achieve and what the maximum cost may be, but the most efficient operating methods are specified together with the producers. Agile experiments are experiments and not procurement, but they also develop the dialogue between the private and public sectors.

Innovation platforms – open development work is useful for all

Thanks to the Six City Strategy, a platform-like operating method and co-creation have evolved and they have come to Tampere to stay. Models and actors may change, but the key idea remains: when you share something with others, you will gain from it – it is worthwhile opening up the development of products and services for future users and subcontractors.

Openness is a benefit for everyone. The views of residents are listened to and they receive services that better respond to their needs, companies are able to develop their business operations, and research institutions are able to bring their results for utilisation in practice. In addition, the City of Tampere receives better services for its use, and the increasing economic energy can be seen as new jobs and tax revenue.

Open participation – engaging the residents in the development of their surroundings

The engagement of the citizens and the promotion of digital participation have been important emphases for Tampere in the Six City Strategy. This new path of development continues in Tampere in participatory budgeting – it had a strong start – which combines many key objectives (co-creation, easy participation of residents, the use of an open digital platform as a tool for citizen democracy).

The development of the Tesoma district in Tampere opened up opportunities for engaging residents in the planning of districts and experiments, together with companies and communities. This knowledge is now being adapted to other districts, and the goal is to increase vitality, which is a key objective of the Six City Strategy.

The 6Aika projects have also influenced the development of the City of Tampere’s customer service. It is visible in the everyday life of each citizen, as the objective has been to achieve smoother, easily understandable and timely services. On the basis of surveys, it can be said that today, this means – for an increasing number of people – the use of digital services from one’s sofa at home at the most suitable time.

Participation of companies – what was learned for the future?

On the basis of numerical data, a large number of companies have participated in the co-creation of the Six City Strategy. Based on the feedback, the opportunities for experiments in an urban environment – provided by the City of Tampere – have been useful. Experiments and projects have created ideas that continue existing, but it appears that there is no clear path running from experiments to completed products.

This often deals with a lack of funding: with the EU funding, it has been possible to support the initial development of ideas of companies, but there was no link to further funding on the scale of the Six City Strategy.

– In the future, we must ensure that the entity is large enough. This is the reason why it is important for us to have sufficiently large and ambitious projects for the EU recovery instrument, Rantanen explains.

Knowledge exists in people

Funding, projects, experiments… Statistics and reports are compiled on the activities of 6Aika, but it has many effects that cannot directly be expressed in numbers, completed products, services or operating models.

A large number of people have participated in the 6Aika work. They have gathered a vast amount of observations, knowledge and insights on the way. The longer time passes, the more of this knowledge can be seen in Tampere – in places where the 6Aika participants are active. In the City of Tampere’s organisation, in the higher education community, at companies…


Seppo Haataja, Programme Director of the Smart Tampere Ecosystem Programme from Business Tampere, a member of the 6Aika steering group.

Jukka Järvinen, Area Development Manager of the City of Tampere, Tampere’s 6Aika City Coordinator.

Teppo Rantanen, Executive Director for Growth, Competitiveness and Innovation, Tampere’s representative in the 6Aika executive group.

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