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The city of Tallinn at Expo 2020 Dubai – meet the capital of innovation

The capital of Estonia is introducing its smart solutions at Expo 2020 Dubai. A city that never stops innovating has the beginning of the word hard-coded even at the end of its name: Tallinn – and ovation naturally follows. But besides that, what actually makes Tallinn the capital of innovation?

You may have heard about the success story of Estonia as an ‘e-country’. Tallinn, a renowned Baltic capital, is a meeting place of creativity and innovation, dreaming big and making the dreams come true. It has understood the importance of providing startups with an environment that is safe and supportive for innovation, in particular, a location for testing ideas and new products or services. The opportunity of developing products in a real-life environment is a catalyst to ensure that new services reach the clients as soon as possible. Think global, test in Tallinn, is the motto.

Tallinn is not only open to new ideas, but also encourages everyone to think big and is constantly looking for solutions to make the urban environment smarter, increasingly sustainable, and more comfortable. A number of competitions directed towards innovation have been initiated with that purpose in mind.

All this has taken the ‘innovative concentration’ in Tallinn to another level in comparison with most other cities. It is here that you can find self-driving cars and delivery robots, solar-panelled pavements, smart crossings, self-service mini shops or other futuristic products and services. There are good reasons why Tallinn has been globally listed among the ‘21 Places of the Future’.

Watch more: Tallinn as a testbed opportunity
Watch more: Tallinn as the local government – the story of its digital services

Unicorn capital

Unicorns were originally mythical single-horned creatures sighted by only a few, but the name has become an industry term for privately held startup companies worth over $1 billion. Estonia is a good place to sight one of those rarities, as the incidence of unicorns per capita in this country is Europe’s highest. Most of them are based in Tallinn or have their origins here.

Even though Tallinn is not among the 50 biggest cities in Europe, it is one of the biggest startup hubs that is worth keeping an eye on and its developments are being actively followed. Since 2005, a unicorn has been born in Estonia once every two years, which testifies to the rapid development of the startup sector in the country and support from the national and local governments in creating a favourable business environment. Openness, cooperation and consultation with economic operators offer good potential for speeding up amendments to the legislation and receiving any permits needed for testing.

Watch more: Tallinn dashboard – the future tool for continuous data management

Photo by Martin Dremljuga 

Green tiger that never sleeps

Due to its relatively small size, Tallinn cannot compete with major metropolitan cities in quantitative terms. However, it can offer serious competition in the category of green capitals. Just as the ‘Tiger Leap’ project was launched in the beginning of the millennium to put Estonia on the world map in the technology sector (successfully, as can be seen today), the Green Tiger is now making its first vigorous jumps.  Striving for sustainable development, Tallinn is searching for opportunities to promote green technologies and green thinking in the Estonian society and economy. A vivid example of this will be the Insect Passage’, a 13‑kilometre‑long park planned for Tallinn to provide a favourable habitat for pollinators –bumblebees, other wild bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies or other insects – and as a corridor for their migration between city districts. It is believed that Estonia will soon show impressive results in its leap toward a green transition.  It has done so already with World Cleanup Day, a global event that started from a local initiative in Estonia. This year, it will be held for the fourth time, with millions of participants from all over the world.

Tallinn has the ambition of being a green capital, investing in and facilitating the development of technologies that will contribute to a more sustainable and CO2-neutral city environment. As an example of a recent novel initiative, the city began to support the Bikeep, a smart locker solution for bikes, which has now extended to other markets as well. These private, weatherproof and theftproof bicycle lockers are aimed at encouraging people to prefer travelling by bicycle and public transport in order to decrease the number of cars on the streets. The city government also has extensively developed the network of safer cycle lanes and routes in the city centre.

Circular economy is another important focus. The creative sector of Tallinn is engaged daily in finding new smart ways of manufacturing with minimum waste or making waste useful. This has already resulted in a number of interesting initiatives, such as Reverse Resources, aimed at decreasing textile waste, or the Upmade® software, created by fashion designer Reet Aus to decrease production waste in garment industry.

The Starship Technologies autonomous delivery robot

Sky is not the limit

Six years ago, when Estonia joined the European Space Agency (ESA), we hoped that one day technologies developed in Estonia will reach the Moon and other celestial bodies. Today, space is closer to us than ever before. That is largely because of our expertise in the IT sector, in particular remote monitoring, big data, the internet of things and cybersecurity.

In cooperation with ESA, the sky is not the limit. That is evidenced, for example, by the success stories of Skeleton Technologies, a Global Cleantech 100 producer of ultracapacitors, or the first alumni of the Tallinn-based ESA Business Incubation Centre, such as Hepta Airborne, a startup engaged in technologies relating to artificial intelligence.

The functionality of cities increasingly depends on the ability to implement technologies – including deep technologies – and Tallinn supports the development of breakthrough innovations, be it snow-cleaning robots or air taxis.

A fairytale capital

In comparison with large urban centres or metropolitan regions, Tallinn has the advantage of being a human-scaled cosy seaside city, 25% of which is covered by green areas. The territory of Tallinn, which ranks among the least-polluted cities in the world, includes nearly 12 square kilometres of nature parks, one of them on Aegna island, which is part of the city centre district.

The city centre also boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site – the wonderfully preserved medieval Old Town – while the popular Kalamaja district with its distinctive wooden architecture and industrial heritage is just a short walk from there. No wonder Tallinn makes you feel like Alice in Wonderland, as all these colourful neighbourhoods are actually just up to 15 minutes away, except for the island of Aegna, which is about an hour by boat.

All this makes Tallinn a pleasant, safe and balanced urban environment for living and working. You are welcome to come and experience it yourself.

Together with Finland’s capital Helsinki, which is just a couple of hours away by ferry, Tallinn is part of an urban area of 2 million people, fresh ideas and friendly business climate – one of Europe’s most attractive regions for investors.

Tallinn airport – photo by Sven Začek  

Easy to access

You can come to Tallinn by air, sea or road. Tallinn’s award-winning airport impresses travellers with its simple, hassle-free and cosy layout. There are numerous cafés and a kids’ play area, or you can spend those long travel hours in the company of a good book borrowed from the airport book collection. You can fly to Tallinn from a number of larger European cities, including London, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo, using Finnair, Norwegian, Lufthansa, or budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet) or regional airlines (AirBaltic and Nordica). A smooth connection between Tallinn and Dubai is provided by Air Baltic, with just one stop in Riga, Latvia.

The busiest passenger terminals in Estonia are located at the Port of Tallinn, a stone’s throw away from the city centre. Overnight ferries from Stockholm land here daily, and numerous ferries departing from Helsinki every couple of hours will reach Tallinn in a matter of hours.

Combine your trip to Estonia with a tour of the Baltic states, arriving by car or coach. You can catch a luxury bus to Estonian cities from as far as Warsaw, Prague or Berlin.

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” – Steven Johnson

This is exactly what Tallinn offers.

For further information about Tallinnovation, visit

Facts about Tallinn – financial, business and tourism capital of Estonia

+  Listed among Europe’s biggest startup hubs in 2020

+  Named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2020

+  Listed by Cognizant among ‘21 Places of the Future’ in 2020

+  Named Best City for Remote Workers in 2021

+  Ranked 12th among the 50 smartest cities in the world in 2021

Do you wish to invest in the capital of innovations? Read more about the opportunities here or send us an enquiry via e-Consulting.

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