A benchmarking visit to Kotka and Helsinki was held for Saint-Petersburg companies from 7 to 10 August 2019. The main goal of the trip was to establish contacts, learn about best practices, and discuss bilateral projects on establishment and development of creative and public spaces implemented by companies from Saint-Petersburg and Finland.

Participants of the study-tour, including leaders of public, creative and coworking spaces of Saint-Petersburg, representatives of organizations of the support infrastructure for creative industries and small businesses as well as heads of cross-sectoral associations, visited some famous landmarks and discussed cooperation prospects with their Finnish counterparts. The delegation of Saint-Petersburg companies was headed by Andrey Khlutkov, Deputy Chairman of Committee for External Relations of Saint-Petersburg.

As the first event of a program, participants visited Epicenter - house of innovation, situated in very heart of Helsinki. Besides, participants visited already very famous Central Library Oodi (“Ode” in translation from Finnish language). The Library is a perfect picture of modern public and creative space. The third floor of the building houses the library fund and second and first floor are occupied by a music studio, media classes, a workshop equipped with 3-D printers and various devices, fully equipped meeting rooms, enquiry points, and a cinema.
Taking into account the fact that startups are one of the development drivers of any economy, Saint-Petersburg delegation saw Maria 01, the biggest start-up hub in Skandinavia. This is a place for cooperation of bright and ambitious startups and freelancers.

On the second day, the delegation visited adjusting city of Helsinki Espoo – the innovation hub of Finland. Espoo is the center for high-tech technology of the whole capital region. Along with Helsinki, it’s one of the main congresses venues. The delegation visited creative agency Espoo Marketing, Startup Center of the Aalto University “A GRID”, interdisciplinary design and learning center Aalto Design Factory, and Startup Sauna – a central meeting point for entrepreneurs and investors in the Northern Europe, whose surface is about 1500 m2. This serves as a venue for meeting, pitching-sessions, hackathon, and barbecues. About 100 startup and business-related events are held in Startup Sauna every year.

As a part of the visit, the round-table “Public, creative & coworking spaces St. Petersburg - Helsinki: challenges & opportunities for cooperation” was held.

During the study tour, the organizations of Saint-Petersburg visited the key public spaces of Helsinki, got familiar with the way startup environment was organized and discussed the prospects for cooperation in this spheres.