Espoo innovation School as a Service gains international recognition

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2017-02-03 8:30

School as a Service (SaaS) operating model, developed together by the City of Espoo and Aalto University, has been awarded in the international Quality Innovation Award competition. SaaS is the award winner in the category of education sector 2016.

The driver for the experiment is the need for more flexible spaces and operating models to meet the needs for future learning.

School is a versatile service supporting learning

Traditionally a school is defined as a building. In the SaaS concept, new service architecture defines school as a set of resources to supporting learning. The idea is to create different kinds of learning environments, develop new pedagogy and renew the operation culture in schools.

The role of the learner is central. The concept offers an ideal platform for a wide range of learning methods and makes learning more meaningful and fun.

The concept is sustainable by optimizing and recycling the use of spaces and equipment, by increasing social diversity and sharing resources with the surrounding society. Also other resources such as academic knowledge can be shared.

Good results

The SaaS experiment started in the fall of 2015 when Haukilahti Upper Secondary School was chosen to be relocated on decentralized premises on the Aalto University campus in Otaniemi, Espoo.

Students and personnel have been strongly involved in designing and implementing the experiment.  The experiment has already been successful in terms of user experience, engagement and funding.  

According to the first survey, the students appreciate the new learning environment and experience that it supports their own ways of learning and increases their wellbeing and joy of learning. The students have actively grasped the opportunity to participate in about 50 university courses available for their participation. The teachers can co-operate with their university colleagues and can make use of the university´s versatile spaces, e.g. laboratories.

Initial calculations show that the costs of the service innovation concept are up to 25 per cent lower than in the investment-based model.

Implementation opportunities city wide

With the SaaS innovative service architecture Espoo and Aalto University have developed tools for further development, methods to measure the impact and concept for future implementations. The City of Espoo and Aalto University are now executing next phases, with the second and third SaaS projects, and potentially utilizing City as a Service concept to other public services.

All Espoo schools will benefit from the innovation.  The new metro line will make it easier for the students to move from one school to another and participate in common courses.

The SaaS operating model will also be applied in a similar project to be started in 2017 by Tongji University in Shanghai, China.  These two projects will be developed in the spirit of mutual learning. In the project it is also possible to study the scalability and export potential of the concept.

In addition companies are invited to participate in developing innovative solutions to promote better learning and to increase their business opportunities.

Espoo is a Learning City

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) has awarded Espoo as a Learning City that rises to the challenges of the changing environment with new ideas.  According to a recent study, Espoo is also the most sustainable city in Europe. By minimizing the school physical footprint trough optimizing usages of assets in a community SaaS will lead to more sustainable future in organizing the delivery of learning and developing smarter cities.

The SaaS concept won also the series of education innovations in the Finnish Quality Innovation Competition in December 2016 and was awarded in the Espoo mayor´s innovation competition in November 2016. The concept has also aroused plenty of international interest.  

More information

Aulis Pitkälä, Deputy Mayor, Education and Cultural Services, City of Espoo,           tel. +358 43 827 1105

Kristiina Erkkilä, Director of Development, Education and Cultural Services, City of Espoo, tel. +358 40 705 3952

Jarmo Suominen, professor, Service Architecture, Aalto University

tel. + 358 44 304 9465


The Quality Innovation Award is an annual, international competition that helps innovators to get professional assessment for their innovation, benchmark their innovation against others and increase the visibility of their innovation The concept is developed by the Finnish Quality Association. This year more than 350 innovations from 11 countries participated in the competition.

Kuvassa professori Jarmo Suominen, Kristiina Erkkilä ja Tapio Erma

From left professor, Service Architecture Jarmo Suominen, Aalto University, Director of Debelopment Kristiina Erkkilä, The City of Espoo and Chief of Upper Secondary Education Tapio Erma, The City of Espoo.