The Future of Urbanization – Finland in 2039

Urbanization has advanced at great pace in Finland. Even so, we continue to lag behind other Western European countries, which means Finland has the advantage of coming from behind. We can look at how urbanization has advanced in other countries and put this information to good use in our own processes of urbanization.
The future of urbanization is a wide research theme that allows to analyse a cluster of social challenges in several sub projects. These developments will be looked at in the context of Finland in the year 2039.

URMI conducts multidisciplinary scientific research that is internationally recognized with high scientific impact, substantial societal impact and immediate policy relevance in Finland to respond to the programmatic questions of the Strategic Research Council call Urbanising Society.

The research project lasts from 2016 to 2019.

Work Packages

The Futures of Urbanization work package creates knowledge about the trends, alternative development paths and uncertainties of the ongoing urbanization process. It will map the paths towards carbon neutral urbanism and provide a vision for urbanized Finland in 2039. Co-creation, Delphi surveys and other future studies methods are used to synthetize scientific results and positively influence the societal decision making.

In the global context, we analyze the linked histories of industrialization and urbanization, as well as the emerging drivers of urbanization. Through a European comparison of the definitions of urban settlements, we figure out if Finland truly is less urbanized than some peer countries. Using social media data and network analysis, we unearth Baltic Sea Region’s urban metamorphology, ie. the rapidly changing spatial patterns of the digital urban communities and their valuations. With the methods of complexity science, we analyze the spatial dynamics of Finnish cities, for example how the functional city regions have changed since the 1970s. To support the planning of individual cities, the work package will present new insights of resource efficiency of the built environment and urban infrastructure by calculating and comparing material impacts (MIPS) of hypothetical housing areas.

Urban sustainability work package addresses the present and future drivers, results and policies for local urban sustainability through comparison in Finland and to European/Nordic development. Furthermore, the means to promote urban sustainability in Finland are addressed.

The work package includes four sub tasks: The first one of these studies urban sustainability, its promotion and challenges in policies and practices in Finland and Europe. The second studies the impact of residential areas’ structure and density on resource efficiency (understood here as material input per service unit). The focus of the analysis is on the material flows of investment phase of future residential area types such as station hub, town house area, and a mixed semi-urban neighborhood in the capital region. The third task studies the impact of “free” public transport (the users do not pay directly for using public transport) on local economic, social and environmental development with the case of Tallinn urban region, the global forerunner of such practice since 2013. The fourth task studies social sustainability in housing. The housing policies and the housing market situation in the largest urban regions in Finland are analyzed from the point of view of equality of opportunities, particularly regarding low-income households and immigrants.

The aim of the immigration work package in URMI is to increase the knowledge accessible to policy-makers on the processes affecting ethnic segregation and on the multiple domains of ethnic integration, by the means of scientific research.

The work package can be divided into two larger sub tasks. The first task assesses immigrants in urban space. This research focuses on the demographic and socio-economic processes shaping the residential distribution of the immigrant-background population and on ethnic integration in other domains besides the residential domain, such as in families and working places.

The second task of the work package focuses on asylum seekers and asylum grantees. This research analyzes, for example, migration of asylum grantees from the reception centers, governance of asylum seekers, and the use of social media among asylum seekers in respect of their integration and migration decisions.