Vilnius is always at the forefront when it comes to innovative solutions, resourcefulness and creativity. Unexpected solutions during the pandemic that turned Vilnius into a huge open-air café inspired other Lithuanian and foreign cities to look for ways to stay in close touch with the population even in complex situations. A remarkable focus on incoming talent and open data initiatives underpin the capital’s leadership in smart solutions.
Open data. Vilnius is an example of an open data policy. The city council offers free access to financial, procurement, real estate, transport and other data. The public can access information at any time on the city’s planning, construction, investment projects, educational institutions, and so on. In addition, technology developers are being encouraged to help create even smarter urban solutions using the data the municipality has made available. In such conditions, the city is developing rapidly in smart technology areas like financial technology, IT (gaming, cybersecurity, data centres), biotechnology, electronics and optical systems.
Vilnius’s open data policy is good for all tech startups as it means they can test products with real-life information. That, and the third lowest income tax rate in Central Eastern Europe, has helped make the city both inclusive and attractive for business.
Besides using the gathered data to improve the city’s infrastructure, the country’s capital is making it available to all residents and businesses. Trafi, a global mobility problem-solver that grew out of Vilnius’s open data, has built one of the world’s largest urban transport platforms – used by the residents of Berlin and visitors to the Rio Olympics, and with advances that Google and Lyft have exploited as well.
Smartness. The Financial Times’ fDi Intelligence division published a list of the 30 cities that attracted the most greenfield foreign direct investment tech-startup projects per capita in 2016-2018. Vilnius topped the list, outranking cities like Singapore, Tel Aviv, Berlin and London. Vilnius has also been named one of the top 25 Global Cities of the Future for FDI.
Vilnius has a vibrant startup community with more than 20 business hubs, accelerators and pre-accelerators, besides the regulatory sandboxes. Companies like Revolut, Transfergo, de Vere group and others have set up their offices in Vilnius, recognising the value of this environment.
Talent. The city also offers a good talent base for tech startups. There are 21,000 professionals employed in the ICT sector in the Vilnius region and over 6,000 more work in R&D. According to Invest Lithuania, 85 percent of young professionals in Vilnius speak English and the city is one of the youngest European capitals, with more than 50 percent of residents under the age of 40.
Welcoming of newcomers. Vilnius puts considerable effort into providing relocation services for expat employees. The city promotion agency Go Vilnius offers an online relocation guide and organizes regular workshops for newcomers to the city, explaining Lithuania’s tax procedures, healthcare system, housing market, and so on. The workshops are followed by guided tours of the city and networking events.
Non-traditional solutions. The capital has handled to the COVID-19 crisis with creativity, turning empty cafés into fashion displays and the city into one big open-air café. As soon as the city issued its invitation, more than 400 restaurants, cafés and bars came forward to set up in the open air. Cities in other countries followed this happy example.
Smart energy. An “Intelligent Energy Lab” focused on energy sustainability and innovation has been launched in Vilnius, creating an open platform to bring together local and international business, academia, and national and municipal companies interested in promoting energy-sector advances.
Always ahead. In Lithuania, a four-day workweek is nothing new. And not just private companies are choosing that employment model, since even Vilnius’s municipal heating utility works four days a week.