The activities carried out within the Eco Urban Living initiative during 2009 and 2010 aimed at establishing the common ground for an effort to seriously develop the area around Aalto University, the Aalto Campus, into a leading international innovation hub. This area consists of the research activities in the Otaniemi area, the business center in Keilaniemi (home to the headquarters of Nokia, Kone, Fortum, Neste Oil and a number of other companies) as well as the cultural center in Tapiola. This area is fertile ground for establishing such demonstration activities, as it will also see the construction of the West Metro, leading to the building of metro stations in all three mentioned city districts. As the West Metro should be completed by 2015, this also implies that there is a very firm timetable connected to the ongoing development work.

To be able to engage both participants from the public sector as well as relevant companies the demonstration activities must have a significant impact on both sides. In this respect, electric vehicles form a good catalyst for an initiative such as this which addresses one of the main grand challenges of our society, climate change. However, the Eco Urban Living initiative is not solely restricted to developing a test bed for EV-technologies, but it will also further explore what other qualities are necessary for a city to truly become a low-carbon city.

Addressing grand challenges has been identified in the work carried out by Synocus together with Tsinghua University as one of the main trends in today’s innovation landscape. This was thoroughly discussed in the book Innovation and Collaboration for a Harmonious World. This was further reinforced in spring 2011 when the Swedish innovation agency VINNOVA launched its new innovation strategy called Challenge-Driven Innovation (pdf).