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€32 million funding boost for Smart Cities Research to TalTech and Aalto University

Iseauto - self-driving car. Source: TalTech and Aalto University
Iseauto - self-driving car. Source: TalTech and Aalto University

The Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation Governance of Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) has received, together with Aalto University, Forum Virum Helsinki and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, a thumbs up from the European Commission for the Finest Twin Teaming Project.

The 32 Million Euros grant, co-financed by the EU and the Estonian government, will build the first global centre of excellence focusing on developing solutions for cross-border smart cities to be tested and implemented first in Tallinn and Helsinki and then scaled globally.

Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector of TalTech, emphasises: ‘This is the largest ever competitive R&D grant in Estonia. The Estonian Research Council has compared the Teaming Grant to receiving a R&D Oscar Award. The funding recognises that TalTech and Aalto researchers can innovate modern cities towards more citizen-oriented and sustainable futures.’ The project will last 7 years and aims to create a centre with top-level international research expertise in smart cities while also strengthening research cooperation between the two universities.

The initiator of the project, Dr Ralf-Martin Soe from the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance at TalTech, explains that Finest Twins is a broad and multidisciplinary project covering a number of research areas, including user-orientated built environment design; smart transport; digital services; data and cybersecurity; and renewable energy solutions.The concept of the Centre was developed as part of his PhD thesis at Nurkse Department.

“We are very happy that we can boost the collaboration between two leading tech universities of Finland and Estonia, Aalto and TalTech. It is a bit surprising how little joint projects and activities these two partners have, although they are just around 100 kilometres apart. The Finest Twins CoE aims to take over best practices and expertise of Aalto researchers working on fields connected to smart city and replicate best parts in TalTech with the help of Forum Virium Helsinki, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia and also supported by cities of Tallinn and Helsinki,” said Dr Soe.

‘Helsinki and Tallinn will start building together and researching smart city digital services which span borders and work together seamlessly,’ explains Aalto university Professor of Usability and User Interfaces, Marko Nieminen.

An Urban Open Platform and Lab for connecting Talsinki

The Urban Open Platform and Lab, to be co-designed by Forum Virium Helsinki, TalTech and Aalto, will build on the Centre’s research outputs to design and trial joint pilot-projects for the two smart cities. For example, robot cars are a typical example of smart transport, and smart street lighting seeks to improve not only energy-saving goals but aesthetic and safety considerations as well.

Among other things, the project will also involve research of local renewable energy production and smart electricity distribution solutions. Also, because smart cities make use of a huge amount of data, the project will require data analysis and data security expertise as well.

The goal is to develop an open research and development ecosystem that combines research and services and product development both for public administration and commercial business activities. The Finest Twins project is coordinated by TalTech. The project partners are Aalto University, the City of Helsinki innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication. The project is also open to innovation collaborations with dozens of Estonian and Finnish of companies interested in smart city development and innovation projects.

Ralf-Martin Soe, Finest Twins coordinator, TalTech,, Phone +372 523 9520; Erkki Karo, TalTech Professor,, Phone +372 515 6795

This news release was compiled by Erkki Karo, TalTech

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