Veera Mustonen: reinventing smart cities after the pandemic

Veera Mustonen recently joined Spinverse as a Senior Manager. She leads an experienced and international Smart Cities and Mobility team with a wide variety of technology, industry and city management capabilities. Veera and her team support Spinverse customers in building and running complex mobility and city ecosystems and international consortia across organisations of all types. We had a chat with Veera about the future insights of this sector, which has been close to her heart for almost a decade.

Veera has always been interested in the development of cities and urban environments and was in the 90’s a member of the city council of Helsinki. When she worked at Nokia, planning how smart phones could introduce new technologies to market, she often came to think how innovations should in fact be developed within open innovation ecosystems together with the actual users.

Open innovation as a basis to develop smarter urban environments

Veera also thought how the development and design of new urban districts could benefit from open innovation ecosystems. Her leadership experience and fascination with matters related to smart cities led her to work as the Head of Smart Kalasatama project at Forum Virum in 2013. The project focused on co-designing smart city solutions with companies and piloting with citizens in Kalasatama district, a new urban area being born in Helsinki.

Working in the internationally acclaimed Smart Kalasatama project offered Veera an excellent insight into many aspects related to smart city development. There were hundreds of Finnish and international companies involved in the project and she also became familiar with the complexities of applying national and EU funding.

Challenges of urban development for smart cities

The Smart Kalasatama project was a piloting platform for all kinds of solutions which are now being developed in larger contexts. The biggest challenge in the development work became quite clear: When introducing new technologies to infrastructure with has many owners (land, services, legacy tech, built environments etc.), the adaptation of the innovations can be painstakingly slow.

Changing the traditional ways of using services and data related to them, to move around etc. is not that simple. Veera points out that this is an area where Spinverse can bridge the gap for innovative companies who develop products and services, which they aim to offer as a part of the city’s infrastructure. Spinverse can also help accelerate the implementation of sustainable new technologies for such companies.

How will urban life develop post-pandemic?

Veera thinks that to some extent, the smart city concept may have been put on hold due to the pandemic, but it is sure to make a comeback in one way or another, perhaps under a different name.
The need for cities to mitigate climate change and target for low-carbon technologies, energy-efficiency and comfortable living has not changed. What may be different when approaching the post-pandemic era, however, is the stronger need to develop solutions for remote working, feel closer to nature and green environments and above all, feel safe from health and security point of view.

These new requirements will not only challenge the current urban development and mobility but introduce new opportunities to companies who want to get involved in the design of smarter, safer and more attractive urban environments. Veera sums up: “We will need to reinvent smart cities after the pandemic to meet the new kinds of requirements in the rapidly changing world.”

Veera sees that in the future, human-centric development of urban environments is in a very important role. Cities are seeking ways to get people to participate in the development of their own neighbourhoods. New ways to use, collect and provide data play an important role for a more comfortable and lively living environment.

Spinverse’s valuable experience on managing complex projects and ecosystems

The LuxTurrim5G ecosystem, driven by Nokia and where Spinverse has been playing an important role as the ecosystem coordinator, has been true pioneering work in the development of smart cities. Such a complex project requires an ecosystem of actors from many different sectors and new business models.

Veera sees Spinverse’s experience in coordinating such a complex project extremely valuable. It takes special experience to be able to build new kinds of ecosystems and data platforms. Spinverse’s extensive and international network offers a great basis to find partners and develop rules for ecosystems and data platforms.

Public funding offers many opportunities for actors in the smart city sector

For example, the Horizon Europe programme has a lot of opportunities for actors in this sector, launching various calls for proposals to develop technologies that promote climate neutrality and sustainability. Companies that create resource-efficient solutions to help the citizens’ daily living environment, can find enormous growth opportunities in public funding. Municipalities should also keep an eye on the opportunities as they are being set stricter targets for sustainability and carbon neutrality.

Identifying the right funding calls can sometimes be quite cumbersome. Spinverse experts can help the actors that develop innovations for smart cities, mobility and built environments in project proposal planning, find partners and orchestrate the project when launched. Veera’s prior experience and understanding of working with municipalities will be very useful for companies who want to integrate their products or services to existing technologies and structures, for example in the public sector.

Stay tuned for more news on this topic! 

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