How a small area in Estonia’s capital is emblematic of its tech prowess

21 Jun 2023

Image: © Kavalenkava/

Ülemiste City in Estonia’s capital has emerged as a leading tech hub in the Baltic region and is now inviting companies to test their urban innovations there.

Few outside Estonia will have heard of Ülemiste City, a business park in the capital Tallinn with a population of 16,000 – mostly working professionals and students. But for those who have been following its growth over the years, Ülemiste has become a microcosm of modern Estonia.

It has been more than 30 years since the northern European country was freed from the clutches of the collapsed Soviet Union, and today has perhaps one of the best claims to being the Silicon Valley of Europe. With a population of only 1.3m people, Estonia punches well above its weight with 10 tech companies valued at over $1bn.

While not all of them are headquartered in Estonia, the figure places the country at the top spot for the greatest number of unicorns in Europe on a per capita basis. Some of these start-up behemoths include Skype, Wise and Bolt.

‘A testing platform for green urban solutions’

Today, Ülemiste has emerged as an example of Estonia’s success as a tech hub within Europe and globally, with more than 500 enterprises based in the area.

“The purpose of Ülemiste City that has been developed into a smart business area from scratch within two decades is to become a testing platform for new green urban solutions,” said Ursel Velve, the project’s chief innovation officer.

“As a compact business environment, we can offer testers access to our infrastructure, a community of 16,000 members, different support services and our know-how in development.

“The resulting synergy between science and business and the smart implementation of new sustainable technologies is what makes Ülemiste the most unique environment in the Nordic region for different testing purposes.”

Having launched a new technology testing environment earlier this month, Ülemiste is now inviting local and foreign companies to test their latest innovations such as smart city or mobility tech in a natural city environment.

According to Velve, Ülemiste is different from other north-European testing environments because of its “more significant and versatile” selection of services supported by the actual urban environment in a limited area functioning as a mini-city model.

“Ülemiste Test City, Tallinn and Estonia offer a physical testing environment at the level of a business campus, city as well as a compact small state, supported by data and modern technologies necessary for making leadership decisions as well as talents interested in technology who can contribute to the value chain from the beginning till the end.”

‘Talent magnet where people want to work’

Ülemiste City is the biggest business area in the Baltics, developed by Mainor Ülemiste and Technopolis Ülemiste. Its 36 hectare area includes 167,000 square metres of rentable office spaces.

“Estonia increasingly attracts forward-looking international companies which in turn increases the interest of foreign workforce in our opportunities,” added Joonas Vänto, a representative of Enterprise Estonia. “We see that Estonia in cooperation with the city of Tallinn and Ülemiste City is becoming a talent magnet where people want to work.”

Robin Saluoks, founder of former Start-up of the Week eAgronom, told last November that Estonia – where he is from – is a great place to do business because it is “buzzing with clever brains that develop innovative things”.

“Over the last 30 years since our country’s independence from the Soviet Union, successive governments have understood the importance of the digital industry and have fostered the sector from education all the way to international investment,” he said.

“Start-up visas for entrepreneurs outside of the EU have turned Tallinn and Tartu into exciting start-up hubs bustling with activity. I would not want to be anywhere else!”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic