Helsinki is a home for a wide range of innovation and experimentation activities – incubators are creating new success stories in the startup field worth billions already

Dec 1, 2021

The value of startups in the Helsinki region is already measured in billions, and the City of Helsinki has something to do with that.

“The City of Helsinki wants to offer businesses the best possible environment for innovation and growth and simultaneously support the creation and growth of new companies,” says Santtu von Bruun, Head of the Innovations and New Experiments unit of the Economic Development department.

Slush, the annual growth and technology sector event, is just around the corner, so now is a good time to peek behind the curtain at the heart of the City’s business incubator, experimentation and accelerator activities.

The City of Helsinki facilitates experimentation, incubation and acceleration in cooperation with the businesses

Helsinki as testbed means that the City offers opportunities for and encourages experimentation by different businesses in genuine urban environments. The experimentation activities aim to help the developed solutions to break into the open markets. Read more here.

“At best, experimentation activities spawn successful companies by helping them to create products that serve their specific customer target groups. The experiments are useful from the City’s point of view because they offer solutions to real urban life challenges,” says Kimmo Heinonen, Team Leader of the City of Helsinki’s City Innovations team.

Various companies from many different sectors already make use of the City’s experimental platforms, or testbeds. Testbed activities are run by the City’s Economic Development department, and they include all City divisions. The City of Helsinki also has its own incubator and accelerator activities. Incubators develop business ideas into businesses and help entrepreneurs across the board by, for example, providing them with physical workspaces and a support network. Accelerators focus on the services and growth of existing companies, often on a global level.

Business incubators and accelerators generate success stories and create communities

Through business incubator and accelerator services, the City provides entrepreneurs with concrete support on-site. Incubators and accelerators include close cooperation with partners and networks. The City’s role is often to provide expert advice and a platform for encounters and the emergence of new communities.

“Providing services for potential growth companies is at the core of the business incubator and accelerator activities. Incubators and accelerators produce customised business development coaching based on the needs of the companies, creating new success stories in various sectors,” says Timo Helenius, NewCo Helsinki’s Service Manager.

Together with its partners, the City supports entrepreneurs with the following business incubator and accelerator services:

Maria-01 is a not-for-profit startup hub established by the City of Helsinki, the Startup Foundation and the Helsinki Enterprise Agency. Maria-01 premises house startups and growth companies, venture capital funds and other actors in the startup ecosystem, such as the Finnish Business Angel Network and the talent accelerator The Shortcut. Maria-01 is the leading startup campus in the Nordics. Read more.

NewCo Accelerator supports startups and teams in the incubation and acceleration phases, particularly those aiming to enter international markets and have progressed beyond the conceptual development of a product or service. Personalised coaching is also offered to startups that are yet to meet the criteria for actual acceleration coaching. The accelerator’s services are free, and companies can access them at any time. Read more.

Urban Tech Helsinki is an incubator for clean and sustainable urban solutions, focusing on clean energy, mobility, sustainable construction, circular economy/waste management and urban food production. The incubator aims to attract experts and businesses to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and support and accelerate the creation and early growth of new startups, especially research-driven ones. Read more.

Health Incubator Helsinki is an incubator programme that supports the development of health innovations, research projects and expertise into an international business and attracts experts and businesses to Helsinki. Health Incubator Helsinki is the only long-term incubator programme focusing on health in Nordic countries. It offers customised mentoring, coaching, business development support and extensive networking opportunities for up to three years. Read more.

Helsinki Education Hub promotes growth entrepreneurship and new business in learning and education technology. The incubation activities of the Helsinki Education Hub are the latest addition to the incubation services of the City of Helsinki. The first ten teams of the 20-week incubator started in November 2021. The programme provides workshops, mentoring, weekly assignments and opinions by experts in the field – and strong network support along the way. Read more.

Campus incubator activities will start at the end of 2021. Campus incubators, implemented in cooperation with educational institutions, support business activities that arise from higher education campuses, in particular, through various pre-incubators, incubators and other services to stimulate entrepreneurship. The campus incubator activities aim to develop the campuses into innovation and business activity hubs that increase the attractiveness of Helsinki in the eyes of international companies and experts.

“The incubators are places where top Finnish research, entrepreneurial students and the entire innovation and business community in Helsinki meet,” says Heidi Humala, Head of the Ecosystem team.

The value of startups in the Helsinki region is already measured in billions

The incubator activities of the City of Helsinki have already yielded results. The startup ecosystem in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is booming and also attracts international attention. The value of the ecosystem has tripled since 2015, with the total value of startups already exceeding EUR 25 billion. In the Global Startup Ecosystem 2021 (GSER) report published in September, the Helsinki region was ranked among the top 20 urban regions in the world for emerging startup ecosystems.

News photo: Slush is the flagship of Helsinki and Finland’s startup field. Europe’s leading growth business and technology sector event brings industry players around the world to Helsinki. Slush is here again from 1–2 December. Photo: Jussi Hellsten/Helsinki Marketing

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