Blog Nordic Business Forum 2017

Responsible Helsinki to Lead Disruption

Disruption is a word on everyone’s lips. To some, it’s a catastrophe, and to others, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. If managed, it can be used as a tool to turn climate change crises into opportunities. The result could create the momentum to build more sustainable cities and promote a better quality of life for citizens around the world.

The question is: can disruption be led? The term itself implies no, but it can be initiated. If its impact can be controlled with proper planning, society can even be resilient to it. Those who come out on top are usually the initiators; smart cities and companies are successful because they are willing to risk their own operations in order to lead the way to new behaviors or business opportunities. These trailblazers directly benefit from change rather than follow the crowd and work on someone else’s terms.

Disruption is an opportunity and risk. Cities, businesses, and companies need to prepare for it and lead it. It’s the responsible thing to do.

A Head Start in Finland

Something is brewing in Finland, especially in the Helsinki Metropolitan region. Finnish society is waking up to the need for responsible disruption, and there is a growing initiative to lead it.

Big changes are going to happen in the way we travel. Congestion in major cities and the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to be addressed. This can happen by making travel more expensive, inconvenient, or through the introduction of new services. Suppose we choose the last option; this can be achieved by making shared rides and public transport more attractive. To do this, entrepreneurs and disruptors can innovate new services and create new markets through regulations. Disruption can be caused by companies, such as Uber, or officials who use regulations to manage the change. Controlled development creates solutions that lead to new business opportunities.

Inbuilt environment distributed energy systems will make citizens energy producers with photovoltaic panels on every roof and e-cars as battery storage. This will require upgrades to current systems and technologies that allow for new capabilities, the result of which will likely infringe on the profit margins of existing energy companies. It is up to responsible businesses to lead the change. The price of disruption is the price of progress. Take the change from private cars to public transport, for example. The opportunities that this shift represents are vast, but from a practical perspective, space private cars would have occupied can be vacated from parking spaces and roads to enable new city development. If opportunities like this are the result of the disruption, then the concept itself could dramatically improve the lives of citizens.

Helsinki’s Drive to Success

Businesses, cities, research organizations, and other stakeholders have decided to make Helsinki Metropolitan a test bed for the latest smart and clean solutions. This is a phenomenal opportunity to break ground on innovative methods that could positively affect the lives of people around the world — and there’s no better place to start than in Finland. The City of Helsinki is proud to uphold a collective vision for the future that is united and strong, where everyone believes that we have all the tools to make real change happen. Helsinki is no stranger to disruption and is proud to lead the way forward, turning sustainability crises into opportunities. Combining a strong knowledge of smart and cleantech-cluster technology with Finnish culture will drive new global prosperity.

The city’s goals may be ambitious, but it is not alone; its plans have been set in place by the cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan, businesses, state and research organizations. All of these stakeholders are committed to making disruptive change happen. The results will change buying behaviors, generate new value for society, and lead to significant and permanent changes in the way cities operate.

Moving Forward

But where there is opportunity, there is also risk. As such, Helsinki’s plans involve testing new solutions and approaches to help inform the region, cities, businesses on what to expect when initiating disruption. This model allows for unique foresight into anticipated risks, challenges, and obstacles. The hope is that stakeholders not only react but learn to adapt in a way that benefits society — and this may even mean creating new services for new situations that we have not previously experienced, such as with living, mobility or consumer services and applications.

The solutions tested and created in Helsinki will be vetted and exported to the rest of the world to solve similar city challenges on a global scale.

It is time to turn your eyes to Helsinki. Disruption is real, it is happening, and it’s the way of the future. You can either get in front or get run over. So let’s get on with it!

Written by Eetu Helminen
Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation