Mapping Smart Cities in the EU: A New Study

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The European Parliament has just published a report mapping Smart Cities in the EU.  Now firstly one must welcome this attempt to try and assess the number of ‘smart cities’ and the scale of activity across Europe. As always with such reports it is a weighty tome and hard to get to grips with. It defines a smart city as

A city seeking to address public issues via ICT-based solutions on the basis of a multi-stakeholder, municipally based partnership’.

This on the face of it seems a rather narrow definition but it does go onto to detail this definition into types of actions/ axis for intervention – which are more recognisable

            • Smart Economy
            • Smart Mobility
            • Smart Environment
            • Smart People
            • Smart Living
            • Smart Governance

Interestingly it defines for the purpose of the study a smart city as any city that has actions under one or more of these areas.  This is quite a loose definition of a smart city and so not unsurprisingly of 468 cities of over 100,000 population it identifies 240 ‘smart cities’ i.e. just over half.  With bigger cities more likely to be smarter than smaller cities.

Now there are some methodoligical questions about how the researchers have identified these cities and their actions. They have used published information, the Cities websites and whether the cities have taken part in smart city type EU funded projects and networks as a judge of these 6 factors. They haven’t approached each city with a survey for instance. They recognise that this may mean they miss activity in cities that are not good at publicising or sharing their work.

They analyse the different types of actions and find that smart environment and smart mobility actions are the most common with 33% and 21% of all smart initiatives  respectively.

They quickly move from the this wide number of cities, through smaller groupings of 37 cities and then 20 cities with analysis at each stage before  finally moving into a more detailed look at six cities with the most smart city activity. These cities contain no surprises. They are

  • Amsterdam
  • Helsinki
  • Barcelona
  • Copenhagen
  • Manchester
  • Vienna

The report was commissioned to make recommendations. They found that most smart city initiatives were not mature – so they recognise there is a pipeline of activity that is planned and programmed across Europe in this field.

The found that key factors behind successful Smart Cities were; inspiring city leaders; an inclusive approach to avoid polarisation; and the need for a central office to drive initiatives forward.

A key concern of the Commission and partners as expressed under the Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership is the need to identify solutions that are scalable. The report found that scalability/ dissemination was more likely if:

1)  The potential for expanding the scale of existing projects (adding participants or areas) or creating duplicate projects in other areas can be reinforced by strong governance, sustained sponsorship and the right stakeholder mix.

2) Citizens are important stakeholders in ‘Smart Neighbourhoods’ and ‘participation platform’ initiatives, so should have strategic roles in development and execution.

3) The participation of a private company (ideally national or pan-European) as a key player alongside the city authorities and local firms can provide an institutional base for scaling, although this can also risk the accumulation of too much market power in such companies.

4) Co-operation among cities to create common Smart City platforms for large-scale development and testing is needed.

The report calls for more research, the establishment a European Smart City Platform, the use of demand size measures such as procurement to drive implementation and the expansion of support by the European Commission for the Smart Cities and Communities EIP amongst a range of other measures.

This report is heroic in its attempt to summarise smart city activity in the EU and it has some flaws but it does start to scale the amount of activity going on; the relative immaturity of the concept and what needs to happen and does support further investment by cities, national governments and the EU in this area.

The post does not  fully do justice to this comprehensive report.  It is worthwhile just reading the executive summary and then skim reading the rest. You can downloaded from here.

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