Blog publications

Judith Borsboom-van Beurden,
Senior Researcher Smart Sustainable Cities, NTNU Sustainability,
Initiative leader EIP SCC, Action cluster Integrated Planning, Policy and Regulation

I feel very honoured that the City of Sofia is our first testbed for the Smart City Guidance Package. I know the City of Sofia from their active role in the European smart city project Smarter Together and am happy to visit the city again. In the EIP SCC we have worked on this roadmap for integrated planning and management of smart city projects for nearly two years. Coming months, we visit a couple of European cities to test it. I would like to thank Knowledge Cluster Sofia for hosting this workshop, co-led by my colleague Georgi Georgiev of Fraunhofer Institute. All outcomes of this workshop will be very useful to finalise the right content of the Smart City Guidance Package, which will be presented early next year in the European Parliament

The  European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) is a major market changing undertaking supported by the European Commission bringing together cities, industries, SMEs, investors, researchers and other smart city actors. EIP-SCC seeks to improve quality of life of EU citizens, increase competitiveness of Europe’s industry and innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, make our cities more competitive and better places to live in, share knowledge to replicate success, and prevent mistakes being repeated, reach our energy and climate targets, support you in finding the right partners and solutions. It’s about achieving social, environmental and economic sustainability for our cities.

Why Smart Cities and Communities? 

What are the opportunities? The linking and upgrading infrastructures, technologies and services in key urban sectors (transport, buildings, energy, ICT) in a smart way will improve quality of life, competitiveness and sustainability of our cities. This is a strong growth market, estimated globally to be worth €1.3 trillion in 2020 - a great export market for European business. What are the challenges? The European market is very fragmented, offering resilience and choice, however missing out on potential economies of scope and scale; and collaborative learning. Many innovative solutions require new business models and financing solutions to decrease risk. Since demand for better infrastructure and services is high and still increasing, however public budget are under pressure, knowledge needs to be shared effectively and capacities developed.

The EIP-SCC Marketplace plays a distinctive and new role compared to other European Commission platforms. The Marketplace’s team objectives are engaging cities, industry and financiers in interest matching activities, leading to project design and delivery. Building solutions and facilitation are the two main tasks of the Marketplace to help deliver investments.

The marketplace discovers action clusters, initiatives and lighthouse projects.

What is action cluster? An Action Cluster is an assembly of partners committing to work on specific issues related to smart cities, by sharing the knowledge and expertise with their peers, giving added-value to their national and local experience and identifying gaps that need to be fulfilled at European level. 

There are six action clusters which have been set up:

  • Sustainable Districts and Built Environment;
  • Integrated Infrastructures & Processes (including Open Data); 
  • Sustainable Urban Mobility; 
  • Business Models,Finance and Procurement; 
  • Citizen Focus; 
  • Integrated Planning / Policy & Regulations

The work of the each of the Action Clusters is collected under thematic Initiatives. An Initiative pools the work of the various partners around a particular objective, promoting learning beyond project and geographic borders, and opening the results to the world at large. Links with EU-funded projects allow results to be consumed by the thousands of people active on the Marketplace. Each Initiative is led by one of our six Action Clusters.

The Action cluster of Integrated Planning and Policy Regulations is an enabling action: it wants to facilitate low energy neighbourhoods, clean and smooth mobility, and integrated infrastructures. In day-to-day policy and decision-making, and implementation, by city administrations and urban stakeholders, coordination-related issues which need to be addressed for successful implementation of smart city solutions, especially:

  • developing a holistic perspective on low energy neighbourhoods, integrated infrastructures, clean urban mobility and ICT
  • framing the impact of short-term actions within a longer time horizon and long term goals and to measure progress;
  • organising cross-domain collaboration during preparation and implementation of plans, governmental and on-governmental;
  • enabling governance of co-design and co-creation processes with a wide variety of urban stakeholders who are often interdependent upon each other for results;
  • mobilising capital from different sources to finance projects at an early stage;
  • accelerating the impact of smart city projects afterwards through replication

For whom is action cluster?

For businesses, smart city solution providers, politicians, strategists and advisors, directors of unit, smart city project managers, practitioners, housing associations, transport and energy network operators and suppliers, civil society, etc!

How to prepare?

Most important step in the preparation stage is the participants to collect information and make a list of smart city solutions (methos and technologies) that are suitable to implement in the city and to indicate on a map where this could be done. Later the list and the map will be used in the workshop and included it in the plan.

What does city gain from this cooperation? When preparing the urban or replication plan, this activity will give the smart city players a head starts by:

  • Supporting you in developing a dedicated Smart city roadmap for integrated planning and management of smart city projects, summarised in a EIP-SCC report after the meeting;
  • Giving you tips how to better include mobility and energy solutions from lighthouse cities in follower cities integrated urban planning; 
  • Advising how to create task forces with people from different departments in order to avoid “silo effect”;

In the replication phase:

  • Benefitting from our joint collaboration with Smart cities information system, the EIP Smart cities market place, Eurocities network and the Urban Agenda from DG REGIO to better set up/improve your replication and upscaling approach;
  • Facilitating B2B meetings with Investors and banks under the European institutional umbrella in our yearly general assemblies.

Visibility of and communication on your project:

  • Promoting articles/video in SCIS during the demo-visit and in EIP Smart cities website;
  • Inviting you and your politicians as speakers at the political event in Brussels for the launch of SCGP;
  • Bringing to the attention of EU Institutions and Member States barriers encountered and how to improve legislation in order to better fit with city needs and services’ improvement.

The Smart City Guidance Package for Integrated Planning and Management seeks to provide the necessary support for planning and managing smart city projects by offering inspiration derived from the input of commitments within the Integrated Planning & Policy Regulations Action Cluster, additional interviews conducted with key players, and successful Framework Program 7 and Horizon 2020 projects. 

An early involvement of all governmental and non-governmental actors is fundamental for maximising the output and the guidance package can provide ideas how to do this. Further, integrated planning and management involves the spatial, temporal and technical coordination of different policy areas for achieving the established goals. In doing so, an improved collaborative governance at city-scale and a better usage of city-wide data would be achieved, thus enabling a more dynamic and informed planning process that takes into account both short- and long-term consequences of measures.

The Smart City Guidance Package aims not only at making information accessible to cities and communities that want to implement smart city plans and projects, but also at highlighting key success factors and avoiding common pitfalls, thus enabling the dissemination and replication of best practices and lessons learned. The ultimate objective is to contribute to shaping a better policy and decision-making process by involving and informing both the political and the operational levels working on Smart City projects, next to citizens, local businesses, and other urban stakeholders, such as energy and transport operators.


Cluster Sofia Knowledge City

At the end of 2017, IDC FutureScape published a report, in which the global analyst presented its 10 forecasts for the development of the Smart City Market for the period during and after 2018. These forecasts are intended to inform the leaders of the urban centers, incl. mayors, city managers, members of city and municipal councils and innovation managers to be able to support the process of digital transformation. The survey gives us the understanding of the IDC Smart City team about the ongoing urban transformations and their impact on city management. As, worldwide, development of Smart Cities projects is growing and is becoming, at the same time, less theoretical, researchers have identified three key topics to focus on, which are directly related to development of smart cities:

  • issues related to the management of pilot initiatives and projects, including ownership and management of data, security and new procurement models;
  • changes in urban processes that result from real-time data management and the challenge of how to train and support community staff to adopt new practices and attitudes;
  • technology considerations for smart cities platforms and the search for answers to how cities are going to use these platforms without compromising their need for open access to IT and co-experimentation.

The following clear trends and forecasts are emerging, which will influence the strategic planning of ICT investments in the cities.

Forecast 1: In 2018 providers of communication services will come at the fore front. They will develop strategies for working with urban authorities to expand intelligent communities, which will lead to 50% improvement in broadband coverage in the municipalities they partner with.

Forecast 2: In 2018, 30% of major cities will develop their strategies for Smart City IoT Platforms designed to connect devices, collect and manage data from different urban domains and technology vendors, and adopt new solutions and new a unified approach to urban development.

Forecast 3: In 2019, 25% of medium and large cities will experience the effects of digital transformation by increasing parking revenues, transit payments, advertising, and increasing the services offered by data management.

Forecast 4: In 2019, one-third of large cities will be able to regulate public carriers to combat congestion, improve driver safety and reduce obligations to ensure the purchase of first- and last-mile transit options.

Forecast 5: In 2019, 20% of public authorities globally will develop blockchain initiatives to reduce the cost of exploiting, processing and improving data integrity, sharing and embedding security and privacy protocols in registers and contracts.

Forecast 6: In 2019, up to 50% of global smart cities projects will be funded through PPPs, NGOs or Memoranda of Understanding, as cities and technology vendors are looking for new ways to work together across traditional public procurement models.

Forecast 7: In 2020 at least three large-scale urban initiatives will allow individuals to interact with urban sites - such as street lighting, street pavilions and tourist structures - access to new experiences, information and services.

Forecast 8: In response to the development of interrelated vehicles and the pressure to improve them by 2020, 20% of medium and large cities will begin to implement V2X opportunities to optimize traffic and significantly reduce collisions.

Forecast 9: In 2020, 15% of the major emergency management organizations (at city and state level) will use a combination of enhanced and virtual reality solutions to improve situational awareness through remote incident management and expertise on virtual reality (objects).

Forecast 10: Due to the increase in cyber attacks in 2020, 70% of governments will create and enforce common cyber-security standards (such as data management and connectivity security rules) at all levels of government, including the cities.

Cluster Sofia Knowledge City

According to the European Parliament, the idea of a smart city consists in the development and integration of information and communication technologies, human and social capital to improve citizens' quality of life and achieve sustainable economic development. A Smart City is the one that is able to successfully solve many public problems through solutions based on the latest technologies and through partnerships between citizens, academic organizations, businesses, municipalities and the state administration, and between all interested parties. When we talk about such a city, we usually bring out at least six of its smart dimensions, namely: economy, mobility, the environment, lifestyle, people and urban governance. This shared economy is already the basis of the business models set in modern cities, and the knowledge is gradually becoming the most valuable capital and growth factor in every modern city. This is the reason why Cluster Sofia Knowledge City participates in all the most important forums and European initiatives taking place in Bulgaria and where possible in Europe. We realize that it is precisely the current business generation that will decide how cities will develop in the future, and it is right now to offer city administrations and governments the relevant business models for that.

On June 27-28, Cluster Sofia Knowledge City took part in a General Assembly forum of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) i Sofia. The EIP-SCC is one of the five important tools for creating a common European smart market focused on energy, mobility and integrated infrastructures and engaged in all sectors and all sizes in order to create and ensure a growing, open and inclusive market. The aim of this initiative is to attract representatives of key market players in Europe to work together and offer integrated solutions that can lead this market to grow.

The conclusions and the measures discussed during this forum are the subject of this brief article. These conclusions are welcome for cities such as Sofia, which do not have their own potential to develop and implement strategies and programs to achieve significant revival in the smart cities market. We designate a market in Sofia as "sleeping" i.e. still in its infancy before it becomes an "emerging market" with clearly defined components, trends and market players.
One of the main conclusions of the forum is that opportunities always arise when an appropriate environment is created to increase market demand, accelerate the process and actions that are good examples for both society and investors.

The Forum has accepted that five are the key areas that are an integral part of creating a basis for stepping up investment in smart cities projects:

1. Accelerating the development and use of new business models

At present, business models for smart cities are heavily influenced by: (i) scarcity of public funds to cover the full amount of investment; (ii) the manner of outsourcing; (iii) the value system of society; and (iv) the increasing participation of society in funding (for example, group funding, social media, etc.). These factors create needs and opportunities for innovation and application of new approaches to management and return on investments made in infrastructure and services. These changes affect all stakeholders who need convincing evidence to achieve value and viability in using new business models.

2. Change in the attitude of investors and the way they work with them

Most investors characterize investments in smart cities such as "too small, too slow and too risky" and there is a true in this assessment. Cities are complex organisms that provide a huge range of services to a very wide range of stakeholders. Urban authorities have legal obligations and must strike a balance between their political and professional goals. Unlike individual businesses that are relatively easy to assess for the economic suitability of investments, they need to account for and manage the complexity of "public value" accordingly, which is a serious challenge and requires more than financial knowledge and skills. The centre of gravity moves on the impact of changing attitudes, expectations, and how to work with private investors, which most often means using appropriate business models and strengthening public-private partnerships. The city market is one of the largest markets in the world and it is clear that private investors can not miss it because it is more complex. This is the reality and it must be understood. Public procurement covers only a small part of this market. In order to make it attractive for direct investments, it is necessary to work towards reducing the investment risk, which is done by increasing investors' confidence in the return on the funds invested in urban projects.

The conclusion is that this is possible through earlier involvement of the investment community in the preparation and structuring of transactions, providing knowledge transfer, building innovative trading capabilities, and innovative business processes in cities. This requires a systematic market approach, which is a serious challenge in managing a city.

3. Diversity control - application of standards

We are witnessing attempts to balance the desire or necessity of introducing customized solutions (custom-made) and introducing "universal solutions". This is a topic related to the role of the standards on the basis of which interoperability and impact on shaping the intelligent city market could be achieved. In small towns, the use of standards is much more advantageous in terms of the amount of investment and timing to achieve the desired effect, such as cheaper, faster and better services.
The availability of standards is also good for investors as they will increase confidence in investment decisions. They themselves could play an important role in the preparation and adoption of common and interoperable solutions (standards) for intelligent cities. Through them they will achieve economies of scale and, ultimately, expansion of the investment market.

4. Ensure an inclusive market

Since the creation of smart cities globally is already in the "maturity" phase, it is also understandable that some cities benefit more and others less than the introduction of smart city technology. Of the thousands of world cities, there are relatively few to which the term "smart city" fits, and unfortunately Sofia is not in this group. It is necessary to create an inclusive European market in which industry, investors, research and research organizations can benefit from the EU grant. Achieving the scale will be with the more active involvement of cities in joint projects.
Less developed (followers) will have the opportunity to learn and apply good practices in creating smart cities and even contribute to testing or collaborating in offering innovation. In addition, smaller cities are often more flexible and quicker to implement individual solutions.
Thus, through a common action and inclusion, an expanded investment market is created.

5. Winning and engaging urban / civil societies

This is definitely one of the most important means of ensuring greater investor confidence even though it is a process and a collection of multiple city-level activities and initiatives that are often not directly linked to them. Cities should implement strategies and try to plan the process of transformation by putting their so-called smart targets. In most cases, to achieve these goals and to consider expected financial, social and environmental performance, cities have to make significant changes that are difficult to implement without public support.

Consequently, cities must very well know public attitudes, understand them and use them to ensure active engagement of society. These are urban actions and initiatives that may not be seen directly by the investment community but vital to the development of an intelligent city. There is a toolkit to help the cities in this venture, and one of these tools is the Cluster Sofia city of knowledge ..

That is why the cities (regions) that rely on access to the EU Structural Funds must use these means to attract and stimulate private investment by applying appropriate and innovative business models to the so-called hybrid financing.


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