Helsinki Living Lab - Forum Virium Helsinki

Information doc: 

Forum Virium Helsinki


Unioninkatu 24, 00130 Helsinki, Finland


Veera Mustonen



Forum Virium Helsinki is an innovation unit within the Helsinki City organization playing a key role in implementing Helsinki’s Smart and Open City strategy. The main goal of Forum Virium Helsinki is to develop the essential building blocks for smart, and open cities of the future. Innovation initiatives such as Smart Kalasatama, Helsinki Region Infoshare, Open Ahjo, Helsinki Loves Developers, Apps4Finland, CitySDK, and Code for Europe are examples of Smart City initiatives advancing Helsinki’s Smart City Strategy. 

“For Helsinki, Smart City means more than advanced infrastructure and state-of-the art technological solutions. For Helsinki, Smart City signifies also advancing open engagement of the citizens and the rest of the city community, pioneering in open data and transparency of city governance, as well as promoting agile service development.” Jarmo Eskelinen, CEO of Forum Virium Helsinki.

Examples of Smart City Initiatives

  • Open Data and Increased Transparency: Helsinki Region Infoshare and Open Ahjo 
  • Model District of Smart Urban Development: Smart Kalasatama 
  • Empowering Innovation: Helsinki Loves Developers and Apps4Finland
  • Boosting and scaling up city innovations via harmonization and collaboration: CitySDK
  • Managing technological change: Code Fellows  

Open Data and Increased Transparency: Helsinki Region Infoshare and Open Ahjo 

Forum Virium Helsinki has been at the forefront of the open data movement over the last years, most obviously through the Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) project and its mission to open up public data from the Helsinki region to everyone. The Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) project has received many innovation prizes, for example the 100.000 € European Prize for Innovation in Public Administration from European Commission in 2013.

The HRI project is a joint initiative by four cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and it was operated by City of Helsinki Urban Facts and Forum Virium Helsinki during 2010-2013. Since 2014, the HRI project has been integrated as a part of the City of Helsinki’s daily operations and functions. In, one can find already more than 1.000 open datasets, ranging e.g., from statistics and estimates, geospatial data, financial data, public transportation data, to for instance public decision-making data. During the entire evolution of HRI, the city of Helsinki has been highly committed to advancing the initiative and this commitment has been crucial for the initiative’s success.

In addition to advancing the Open Data movement, the City of Helsinki has also been committed to increase the transparency of city’s decisision making. Since 2013, Open Ahjo API has made City of Helsinki’s decision making system’s public documents and all of their attachments available from one source in a machine-readable format. Ahjo system comprises all agendas and minutes of Helsinki’s City Council, City Board and other boards, and its content is produced by about 5,000 Helsinki City officers and persons of trust.

“Through the Open Ahjo interface, the decision-making data is accessible 24/7. The 100.000 € prize sum of the European Commission’s Innovation Prize for the HRI project has bee allocated to improve the compatibility of Helsinki’s decision making data with other city data including financial and location information, as well as statistics”. 


Model District of Smart Urban Development: Smart Kalasatama 

Smart Kalasatama initiative developes Helsinki’s Kalasatama area into a worldclass model district of smart urban development. Smart Kalasatama doesn’t rely on a single technology or scheme, such as a smart power grid or renewable energy. Instead, the area will be developed via a holistic approach to Smart City. In addition to intelligent infrastructure, other essential ingredients of smart urban development are viewed to include e.g., agile service development, open inclusion of various stakeholders, as well as innovative utilization of open data. 

Various smart development activities have already been started in Kalasatama. Among them is a smart energy system, as well as the smart vacuum waste removal system. The development of the Kalasatama district will continue to the 2030’s. Forum Virium Helsinki manages the Smart Kalasatama project as a subcontractor of the city. The unit in charge is the Urban Development Economic and Planning Centre of the City of Helsinki. 


Empowering Innovation: Apps4Finland and Helsinki Loves Developers

One key goal of Helsinki’s Smart City activities is to harness the innovative capabilities of the entire urban community by promoting cooperation between application developers, and the rest of the city’s ICT ecosystem. To achieve this goal, Forum Virium Helsinki has actively supporting the City of Helsinki in offering e.g., API’s for developers, as well as in organizing developer events and competitions, e.g., Apps4Finland and Open Helsinki - Hack at Home Program in 2013. 

The yearly Apps4Finland competition has been organized since 2009 and is thus Europe’s oldest open data competition. Apps4Finland has over the years resulted in more than 600 competition entries, including e.g., mobile applications, and data visualizations. In 2014, the Mayor of Helsinki awarded the competition with Pro Urbe Digitale prize, for advancing the development of digital innovations in Finland.


Boosting and scaling up city innovations via harmonization and collaboration 

The international CitySDK initiative, involving eight European cities, develops open and mutually compatible digital service interfaces, processes, guidelines, and usability standards: this is, a toolkit for creating digital city services. By unifying open digital city interfaces, for instance city API’s (Application Programming Interfaces), as well as by harmonising cooperation processes between different cities, unnecessary barriers to innovation transfer can be broken down. Unified city API’s enable developers to scale up an app developed to one city to another. Thus, the potential market for a new city app becomes larger, more lucrative and appealing, with the help of harmonization. 

In Helsinki, within the CitySDK project, the theme of smart participation has been piloted, seen as one key component of an open, smart, and citizen-friendly city. One key benefit of the initiative has been the creation of innovative apps and services that are changing the way citizens interact with their city.


Managing technological change: Code Fellows

In addition to the presented Smart City initiatives, also new agents for change, the Code Fellows have been introduced to the city organization, via Code for Europe program. The aim is to bring new crucial tech talent to the city organization via the talented Code Fellowa. The Code Fellows promote e.g., making new public datasets open, building new online services for the city residents, as well as to advancing the utilization of freely accessible development tools within the city organization. The Code Fellows, have given cities new ways to manage constant technological change.  


Joint Smart City strategy of Finland’s six largest cities: 6AIKA

The Six City Strategy – Open and smart services is a strategy is a joint strategy of the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Oulu, Tampere, and Turku. The cities are joining their forces to enable better services and new business. They will enable and test new innovations and services together, utilizing a region larger than one city. The total budget of the strategy is approximately 79 M€.  The strategy will be implemented between 2014 and 2020. Forum Virium Helsinki was the key partner of the cities in advancing the joint 6Aika strategy.


Forum Virium Helsinki: Cultivating urban innovations