Smart City Seminar, arranged by the City of Oulu and University of Oulu, gathers this week (May 4–6th) together academia, public sector and companies to discuss about intelligent cities around the world. The event’s second day was also an important meeting point for region’s municipal leaders, as the Mayors of six biggest Finnish cities (Oulu, Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Turku and Tampere), Mayor of Tromsø and Mayor of Luleå gathered to discuss at the seminar.

But what is an intelligent city or community? A place where people want to live and where companies want to be? Is it super techy or something that serves better the needs of the citizens? Either a globally competitive entity or a platform that enables people and companies to flourish?

Well one thing is for sure – it requires cooperation.

While various aspects on smart cities were shared at the seminar, one significant potential innovative actor (that we tend to emphasize) seemed to lack at times from the conversation of the city leaders: the startups. On the other hand, based on the communicated needs of the municipalities, there seemed to be a lot of potential for developing more intelligent solutions together – Especially when the cities aim to be innovative platforms for the people and the companies.

The message of the Mayors was that the public sector wants to become more open especially with sharing their data, and this creates interesting opportunities to develop innovative services for the municipalities which could be scaled up to regional, country or global level.

To become smarter cities, the municipalities should be encouraged to lean more on the innovative people and networks in developing intelligent solutions – There’s certainly a great potential in the community (and not only as a user or customer). Maybe those needs for development haven’t been communicated clearly to the startups yet?

We are continuing this discussion around smart cities next week on Arctic Startup, and we’ll certainly start to search for more opportunities to bring together the Scandinavian municipalities and startups.

In the seminar, I also had the chance to chat with Yvonne Stålnacke (Mayor of Luleå, Sweden), Jens-Johan Hjort (Mayor of Tromsø, Norway) and Matti Pennanen (Mayor of Oulu, Finland), who will provide a Northern Scandinavian perspective on the discussion about smart cities.