The Eco Urban Living project was orchestrated by Synocus. This initiative began as a collaboration between the founding partners the City of Espoo, Fortum, Nokia, Valmet Automotive in 2010 and was expanded further during spring 2011 as part of the national EVE program. The original founders agreed to apply for financing from Finland’s innovation funding agency Tekes (now Business Finland) under the EVE program for the period of 2011-2015.
The EUL initiative focused on the development of passenger vehicles and services in an urban context, exploring elements ranging from battery technology and charging infrastructure to consumer behavior. The project also formalized the collaboration between the project partners and Tsinghua University in the formation of the World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities, establishing a platform for the continued effort to improve sustainability in society.
Over the course of the EVE program’s five-year duration, the contributing consortia made a considerable impact on the development of the electric vehicle industry. The program report, published by Tekes, found that the EVE program resulted in the foundation of some ten start-up firms and contributed to the growth of existing companies on international markets.
In June 2010, the City of Espoo, Fortum, Nokia, Valmet Automotive, and Synocus launched the Eco Urban Living initiative. As the first activity, the founding partners organized a participatory future mapping process, carried out during the second half of 2010, the result of which was a scenario report entitled Eco Urban Living 2020. This report offered a source of information regarding the impact of eco-conscious urban development on citizens. It also raised awareness of these issues and inspiring officials and citizens to put these principles to use in their own cities.
Eco-Urban Living scenario report
The scenario report served as a basis when formulating the outline for the next phase of the initiative, the focus of which is how to make the City of Espoo a front runner in implementing new low carbon measures. A decision was made to establish a sizeable demonstration project to rapidly implement the ambitions identified during the scenario work.
In spring 2011, Eco Urban Living became a key project in the national EVE program, a national five-year program supported by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The EVE program funded five testing and pilot projects in various cities around the country. The programs €100 million budget was comprised of €9.5 million of funding from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in addition to €30 million of funding from Tekes and individual contributions from over 50 participants in the program’s various projects.
The Eco Urban Living demonstration program ran from the beginning of May 2011 through the end of April 2015 and consisted of three parts:
- technology research and development,
- building the platform for international leveraging of the demonstration results,
- establishing the test fleet.
The research was organized into six streams (3 core areas of EV technology, Customer dialogue, Market making ecosystems, and World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities). Alongside the original founders, a number of additional technology partners, as well as leading universities and research institutes, were engaged (see partners below)
The objectives of the Eco Urban Living initiative were:
- Jointly establish a demonstration platform for the development, testing and commercialization of electric vehicles and related technologies.
- Build the ecosystem capabilities necessary to enable the rapid international utilization of the demonstration results from Finland.
- Strengthen international networking with leading cities and universities that may support the rapid commercialization of the demonstration results.
The initiative aimed to benefit participating enterprises in at least three ways:
- Define individual objectives for their respective research streams and gain access to leading research on topics integral to the development of electric vehicle strategy, smart grids, and low carbon urban infrastructures.
- Act as a leading party in the most significant Finnish electric vehicle demonstration initiative, thereby strengthening relationships with key players in the electric vehicle industry nationally and internationally.
- Reduce the cost of purchasing equipment through joint acquisitions for use in the Eco Urban Living initiative together with other testbed partners.
Each company participated through the contributions of their leading experts in electric vehicle technology who worked in collaboration with world class scientists in the fields of EV technology and the development of a supportive business ecosystem that enabled the rapid internationalization of the demonstration results.
As the leading corporate member of the EUL consortium, Valmet Automotive, a leading service provider for the global automotive industry with a wide range of services that cover engineering, manufacturing, roof systems, and consulting—used the opportunity provided by the EUL initiative to develop its expertise in electric vehicle engineering. During the initiative, Valmet Automotive tested a new Framecar platform which would speed up product development through a combination of laboratory testing and practical experience. This platform has since come to be an essential aspect of the company’s product development process, used in battery system development, the integration of control systems, and the development of mechanical solutions. Enabling Valmet Automotive to verify the viability of new technologies at an early stage, the platform has allowed the company to apply for a number of patents in electric drive train and battery technology.
Alongside the development of market-leading approaches and technologies for the private sector, the EUL initiative also contributed to noteworthy academic research. The EV-Acte research project (Acting Effectively in Emerging Ecosystems), carried out by Robin Gustafsson and Timo Vuori of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at Aalto University, strived to advance understanding of the birth of new business ecosystems and the role which firms play in spurring them. The researchers continued their work following their participation in the EUL initiative, ultimately forming significant insights into how firms use soft-strategic methods to influence the development of corporate partnerships and ecosystems.
The EUL initiative also served as a platform for the early development of the World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities, a non-profit alliance of cities, academic institutions, and corporations united in the pursuit of a low-carbon future.
The Eco Urban Living project is a highly collaborative effort benefiting from the research and technical expertise of several industry-leading businesses as well as world-class research institutes and universities. As a pioneering force in the electric vehicle market, Valmet Automotive serves as one of the project’s key technical partners. In addition to the invaluable contributions of the businesses and research institutes participating in the project, the city’s active involvement is Integral to the success of the project. For in order to achieve the project’s goal of forming an urban eco-system conducive to a more sustainable way of life the results of the project’s research must ultimately be put into practice by local authorities.