Faster results in R&D&I through joining an ecosystem

LuxTurrim5G is developing and demonstrating a fast 5G network based on smart light poles with integrated antennas, base stations, sensors, cameras and other devices. This ecosystem project led by Nokia and facilitated by Spinverse opens new digital services and business opportunities for a real smart city. One of the companies providing solutions for the ecosystem is Orbis from Vantaa, Finland. They manufacture radio frequency and optical fibre assemblies and take care of the assembly and device integration for the smart light poles. Orbis has experienced tangible benefits in the commercialisation process of their technical solutions after having joined the consortium a year ago.

In May 2020, Orbis had good reasons to celebrate when the setting up of 15 LuxTurrim5G smart poles was completed in Espoo in the area between Nokia Campus and Kera railway station. Orbis joined the project about a year ago when the activities moved on to the next phase. Plans to kick off the manufacturing and productization was then started in earnest and the consortium needed an industry expert to help with the large number of connections and cabling solutions in the poles.

Infrastructure for a smart city

The smart pole is not your average streetlight. The smart pole pilot network built by Nokia and its partners have over 250 interconnected devices ranging from 5G base stations, WiFi devices, video cameras, radars, lidars and a variety of sensors to monitor for example weather and air quality, to mention a few examples on what these smart poles can do.

The new smart pole network forms a testbed in the Nokia-led innovation ecosystem boosting the research and development aiming to provide digital infrastructure and data-driven services to smart cities. The large joint projects with over 20 partners targets significant global markets.

The project has not been following the traditional top-down project management models. Instead, it adheres to the principles of an ecosystem model. “This was most likely the only possibility to be able to finalise the technical development of the pole within such a short time,” Orbis CEO Jani Linna-Aro says. Jani continues to point out that the benefits of having joined the ecosystem are showing all the time. “LuxTurrim5G has had a lot of publicity and the visibility has raised our profile as well. We are constantly getting new queries from current and new customers.” 

Spinverse as the facilitator for the LuxTurrim5G ecosystem

Spinverse is also in key role in the LuxTurrim5G consortium as an expert organisation to facilitate the collaboration between the partners in this pioneering smart city project. Principal Consultant and Ecosystem Leader Markku Heino is a seasoned expert with years of experience on building and leading ecosystems. According to Markku, the number of ecosystem partners often needs to be expanded as the project progresses to onboard more expertise to solve the joint development challenges and boost business, but this must be done upon need and for well-defined purpose. Mutual trust and enthusiasm are very important prerequisites for open collaboration and expanding too fast may work against this principle.

Based on his long experience, Markku states that having a neutral facilitator in the ecosystem is very beneficial for the consortium. This task could be taken care of by one of the ecosystem partners but having a neutral facilitator who focuses only on this role in the ecosystem enhances the openness and balance in the collaboration between partners. The facilitator needs to make sure that the targets of the project are clear and well understood and this is why communication skills are more important than the actual technology expertise. All this builds trust which is the core element for successful collaboration.

Markku sums up: “In the ecosystem approach, it is essential to acknowledge that even the biggest companies cannot be the best at everything. Nokia could have created the smart pole on their own, but engaging motivated partners to work together on a joint goal, everything has taken place more efficiently. Now as the topic has grown from smart poles to building the digital backbone for a smart city, the increased degree of complexity calls for even a wider group of experts in many fields. Here, the ecosystem approach and role of a neutral facilitator are emphasised.”

Public funding for large projects

The success of ecosystems is not based on one factor only. Spinverse’s Managing Director Laura Koponen says that public funding organisations have started to welcome the ecosystem approach. Both Business Finland and European Union’s development programs have openly expressed their support for ecosystem building and are happy to fund ecosystem projects especially within industries.

The European Union has grand plans to provide billions of euros in funding for ecosystems in the upcoming seven years. Similarly, Business Finland recently arranged a competition for leading companies to start ecosystem projects. Three were already chosen and they were provided with a total funding of 60 M€. There are plans to choose more leading companies for ecosystem funding in the future.

This naturally boosts the ecosystem building, but according to Laura, it will not increase the expertise required to build ecosystems. It is very unlikely to succeed by quickly putting an ecosystem together by inviting in a large group of candidates one thinks are good. Markku concludes: ”It is actually the opposite. A successful ecosystem often starts small with a few key persons and a few key projects, and then expands like a tree. It is important to keep in mind that it is the people who collaborate, not the organisations. Another important aspect is that in an ecosystem, the partners are highly linked with each other. That is what differentiates intensive ecosystem collaboration from platforms or loose clusters."

Adapted and summarised from the original articles published in Tekniikka&Talous in Finnish: Alihankinnasta ekosysteemeiksi, 4.12.2020 (print) and Julkista rahaa virtaa nyt teollisuuden ekosysteemehin, 10.12.2020 (online).

Would you like to learn more about the future-looking solutions developed within the LuxTurrim5G ecosystem? The Aalto design factory is organising a virtual event to present the final outcomes of the Smart Urban Furniture work in the LuxTurrim5G+ project. This event will take place on 16th 2020, 04:15pm - 05:30pm.

Register to the event here!