Helsinki Metro­politan Smart & Clean Foundation

The Smart & Clean Foundation orchestrates impactful climate solutions for systemic urban challenges in transport, energy, construction, and the waste and water sector. The solutions enable a good and climate-positive life for urban residents.

Smart & Clean is a shared tool for the Helsinki Region’s cities, businesses, universities and research institutes as well as the Finnish Government for creating impactful climate solutions. Emission-reducing solutions also generate new types of business and create export references for businesses. The best solutions developed in the Helsinki Region are exported to the world, where they will reduce emissions and improve people’s quality of life. 

The Foundation’s partners include the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Vantaa, Lahti and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, AFRY, Caverion, Fortum, Gaia, Gasum, Helen, KONE, Lassila & Tikanoja, Neste, Ramirent, Siemens, St1, Vaisala, YIT, Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, LUT University, VTT, Sitra, Business Finland, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and the Ministry of the Environment. The Foundation’s operating period is 2016–2021. The Foundation’s activities are financed by donations and contributions from its partners.


How we build impactful 1.5°C solutions

Stopping global warming below 1.5°C requires urgent and extensive emission reductions as well as lifestyle changes. The changes required are so comprehensive that individual actions or projects are not sufficient to change societal structures quickly enough. Change requires several simultaneous actions from smart regulation to technology solutions and behaviour change. Achieving impact in solving climate challenges requires better management of the big picture. 

The foundation uses a “donut” tool for building ecosystems and the set of climate solutions being aimed at. It helps illustrate the complexity of change and describe all the actions required for achieving the stated goal. When responsible parties for actions are defined, the basis is simultaneously formed for a demand-driven ecosystem where all parties have a clear role to play.

The first step is to consider what should be addressed in order to maximise the impact.



The key is to first determine what kind of emission reduction could be achievable through systemic change. For example, before the project started, the Closed Plastic Circle estimated that the closed circulation of plastic could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the amount of annual emissions produced by 80,000 people. Then, the necessary actors and businesses are brought together to form an understanding of what comprehensive change requires. 

At the centre of the model is a target, for example a 1.5°C city. The first ring contains the actions that must at least be taken into account in order to create change. These range from building a solution and development ecosystem and identifying roles for actors to testbeds and collecting data on testing activities. After that, the foundation evaluates the activities using its own criteria. That is, every project must 1) create emission reductions, 2) improve people’s quality of life, 3) the solutions must have the potential for new business, 4) they must be so advanced that the solutions create references for businesses, 5) the change processes must always involve public and private actors.



Once the data has been collected and the potential impact has been calculated and estimated, new tools for systemic change can be built with a more specific goal at the centre, such as the Closed Plastic Circle. After that, the most important elements for the first ring are determined according to the pie above. Concrete change actions or projects related to the entity in question are introduced to the second circle. In addition, potential actors can also be added further.


The Smart & Clean community builds impact

Concrete projects during 2016–2019 have provided valuable lessons on how the emergence of functional ecosystems can be accelerated, how the impact of the solutions developed by them can be increased, and how ecosystems and /or solutions can be scaled to export markets:

1. The creation of impactful 1.5 degree climate solutions begins with identifying systemic challenges in the urban environment that require solutions.

2. The common goal of new change projects is substantiated by an impact assessment (e.g. emission reduction and business potential).

3. Projects need to be initiated by an orchestrator who can bring together all the actors required to achieve the desired end result.

4. The best end result is achieved if each participant in the project joins with their core business and understands that each actor in the ecosystem needs each other.

5. The test platforms (infrastructure and service activities) provided by cities bring projects into a real operating environment from the start, and real references for businesses are created at the same time.

6. Regulation is a good tool for accelerating climate-related innovation.

7. Better financial or international business support measures have to be developed for ecosystem activities and international ecosystem scaling.

A world-class reference area

The Smart & Clean project was launched because the world needs solutions for mitigating climate change and using resources sustainably. Finland needs a world-class reference area and display window to boost the business and export of smart solutions and clean technology. To achieve these goals, the Helsinki Region is being collaboratively made into a place where business accelerates the mitigation of climate change and helps cities create a better quality of life for their residents. At the same time, new skills accumulate in the cities and they are developed together in new ways.

1.5°C solutions for cities around the world

Smart & Clean change actions have to meet five impact criteria. These actions reduce emissions, improve urban residents’ quality of life and promote more efficient use of resources. The actors come from both the public and private sector, across city and sector boundaries. The change projects create new business and internationally interesting references for businesses that have been tested in the Helsinki metropolitan area. This increases well-being and makes sustainable solutions more widespread worldwide.

Emission reductions

Change projects reduce carbon dioxide emissions and/or promote the circular economy. For example, the Renovation Leap project is making old buildings smart and energy efficient through new kinds of renovation concepts.

Quality of life

Change projects enable urban residents to make sustainable choices and improve their quality of life. For instance, microplastics are being removed from lake waters in the Stormwater Quality Management project, and the denser air quality measurement network enables more efficient air quality improvement measures.

Business potential

Change projects develop sustainable business for companies and the starting point is scaling them from pilots into successful solutions and services, both in Finland and globally.


Smart & Clean changes have to create home market references for businesses. they must therefore be of international interest.


Change projects always involve both private and public actors.

Aiming for permanent change

The goal of doing things together in a new way is a permanent operating model in which impactful climate and circular economy solutions, new innovations, sustainable growth and jobs are born in the Helsinki Region through PPPP (Public-Private-People-Partnership) collaboration between the public and private sector. There is great demand for such collaboration models around the world, because the challenges created by climate change and the global sustainability crisis can only be met through cross-border collaboration.