In the future, companies and property investors operating in urban areas will be more and more often involved in urban planning. According to Aleksi Neuvonen, Head of Research at Demos Helsinki, megatrends create new business opportunities.

In the past few years, Aleksi Neuvonen from think tank Demos Helsinki has participated in significant urban planning projects in the Nordic countries and the United States.

Most of the projects have been based on collaboration, bringing together local companies and start-ups, individual entrepreneurs and the city, as well as property investors and property owners.

“Fewer and fewer projects are initiated on the upper level, such as by cities or the state,” Neuvonen says.

Need for a new type of workspace

Changes to the development of urban centres and the related work are largely directed by current megatrends. They will change the logic by which companies earn their profits as well as their operation methods. In addition, they have a direct impact on the workspace-related needs of companies in the future.

“We have identified some particular megatrends, such as the reduced number of energy sources, the transformation of the retail sector and digitalisation. In addition, dividing resources for numerous operators, which is referred to as the sharing economy, is an essential factor and influences the operating methods of companies directly,” Neuvonen explains.

This creates clusters of players from different fields who wish to be located close to each other in order to better utilise shared tools or energy sources, or be able to recycle the by-products of their processes. At the same time, this opens up new kinds of operational opportunities and business models.

Demos has developed its own Counting Backwards method for a new kind of urban planning. The method aims to predict future goals in advance and then find the best possible way of reaching them.


Six megatrends of urbanisation

1. A more human-oriented approach
In the future, any functional urban centre must be people-friendly. A pleasant atmosphere and well-being will become increasingly important.

2. The increasing importance of the city centre
People will move towards the nuclear centres of cities, bringing more life to services and businesses.

3. New ways of working
We are slowly moving from a full-time job society to production models where people divide their time between multiple jobs or employers. The number of entrepreneurs will increase. Multispace offices, coworking spaces, multispace commercial premises and production facilities will become increasingly common.

4. The active use of big data
Digitalisation and market data will be utilised when creating new services. This will significantly change the use of constructed environments and workspaces by allowing the services and spaces to be more customised and flexible.

5. Developing the circular economy
Renewable energy sources will become more popular and construction and renovation works will be made more eco-efficient to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. Some 70 per cent of the gases originate in urban areas.

6. Private will become public
Private enterprises, property investors, inhabitants and entrepreneurs will be more and more involved in developing urban centres.

Text: Johanna Hytönen