Which strategies and methods do cities need in the changing world? Find out what the city of Salo is doing.

A famous story tells about burning platform and a lonely man trying to decide if he chooses to burn or to drown to death. Doing decisions in a situation like that is awful but at least one sees the need to do something – and the consequences if doing nothing. The real-life decision-making situations are – in developed countries at least – seldom as visible severe. That is why we need SHIFT: to realize the need of action and the courage for transformation.

Modern businesses and cities are different from the lonely man in the burning platform in at least three significant ways. One I mentioned already; the decision drivers seem less imperative. The other is that we are not deciding on which way to die but which way to transform and to succeed. The third is that we are not alone.

The shift is done together

I would like to stress the importance on the third difference: we are not alone, neither should we seek solitude. Take a moment to consider: how would the situation at the edge of the burning platform have been different if there were several people looking down to the stormy waves of North Sea. There could have been hysteric screaming, divergent opinions, even voting. There could have been people who knew how to swim, or where the lifeboats were. Would you rather have been there alone or with others?

We bureaucrats of the City of Salo believe that the future must be faced open minded and determinedly. The motivation for determination comes from the law: Local Government Act of Finland, § 1 “Municipalities shall advance the well-being of their residents and the vitality of their respective areas, and shall arrange services for their residents in a way that is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable.” What better way to advance the well-being than being in the forefront of utilizing smart technology in service production! Well, actually there is a better way: being in the forefront with companies developing smart solutions.

The shift needs piloting

The city collaborating with companies developing better products can be called by many names, as all loved ones are. It is called innovation platform, piloting platform, innovative procurement, public-private-partnership (PPP), or, as in Salo, product development partnership. It does sound a bit bureaucratic, doesn’t it? Everything is not as it appears, though. If you have thought that Salo is too small city to be interesting, think again. (For those not so familiar with Finnish geographic, Salo is a city of 54 000 inhabitants 50 km from Turku towards Helsinki.) Salo is agile, flexible and quick to respond because of its perfect size and its eagerness to promote growth and job creation.

The shift in Salo is in IoT

SHIFT Business Festival is for business and technology. If you wonder why a city is interested, take a closer look at the themes: health, learning and energy. These themes are in the core of public sector services, the ones cities deliver for you, my fellow citizen. Cities are finding ways to be wise and to deliver smart services which requires smart technology. The cities are shifting as well as the businesses.

In Salo we have seen both better and worse times caused by the global market. At the moment we are seeing the better times. Perhaps not living them yet, but definitively visioning them and doing them. Since the times of radio and TV-set development and production to more recent Nokia Mobile Phones and Microsoft Mobile R&D and manufacturing times Salo has gathered talents, skills, people, and companies with expertise in wireless communication. The famous “härpäke-osaaminen” (exclusive skills to produce smart gadgets) is now being gathered under one topic: Internet of Things, Salo IoT.

The City of Salo was also an attendee at the SHIFT Business festival 2016, with startups.

The writer Anita Silanterä works as programme manager at the City of Salo. Her job is to invite new companies to locate in Salo.