19 Dec 2019   |   Network Updates   |   Update from Tallinn University of Technology
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TalTech launches €32M smart cities R&D centre


TalTech launched the Smart City Centre of Excellence FINEST TWINS with a starting budget of €32 million.

Ralf-Martin Soe, the Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence and Senior Research Fellow at TalTech, considers it important that the research and development activities reach people living in different Estonian cities through new solutions.

‘For example, the first major Smart City solutions will be prepared next year and then tested in Estonian cities from 2021 onward. No specific pilots have been selected yet, but our firm goal is to bring the brightest ideas, in terms of scientific potential, innovation level, and economic benefits, to the Estonian urban environments,’ said Soe.

The Centre of Excellence, together with its partners, will be exploring and testing new solutions in five areas: energy, transport, construction, data, and governance.

Next year, the researchers of the Centre of Excellence will also start building a Smart City environment on the TalTech campus, which includes equipment, new technologies, as well as custom solutions, as the Centre of Excellence itself must set an example of how to use the surrounding data.

The cooperation agreement to open the Centre of Excellence was signed by academician Jaak Aaviksoo, the Rector of TalTech, Mailis Reps, the Minister of Education and Research, and Taavi Aas, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure. In addition, top speakers from the cities of Tallinn and Helsinki, Aalto University, the European Commission, the Ministry of Education and Research, TalTech, and the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications will describe their hopes for the new Centre of Excellence.

According to Ralf-Martin Soe, the Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence, it is noteworthy that a centre of excellence is rising from the shrinking Estonian research and development landscape, attracting new researchers, and contributing to the competitiveness of Estonian research and development activities with new research articles, research grants, and doctoral students.

Soe adds: ‘Whereas the launch of the Centre of Excellence involves dozens of top-level scientists from TalTech and Aalto University right now, they will be joined by 40 highly qualified research and development professionals over the next five years. Our overall vision is to match Estonia’s flagship status in the field of e-governance with the same level in Smart City research and development in five years. This means that researchers and cities around the world would see Estonia as the flagship of Smart Cities. The goal of our Smart City Centre of Excellence is to further the success of the Estonian e-state, both locally and in close cooperation with Finnish partners.’

FINEST TWINS is Estonia’s largest competitive research and development grant, considering the budget of the coordinator, TalTech (€25 million. The establishment of the centre of excellence will be funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and by the Estonian government through the Ministry of Education and Research over the next seven years with a total of €32 million.

In addition to TalTech, the project partners include Aalto University, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and Forum Virium Helsinki, an innovation company in the city of Helsinki. The preparation of FINEST TWINS has taken a total of five years in intense Europe-wide competition, during which independent research and development experts carried out five rounds of evaluation.

This article was first published 16 December 2019 by Tallinn University of Technology.

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