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Action Cluster & The Smart City Guidance Package

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 honored 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 finalize 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 the 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 the 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 the demand for better infrastructure and services is high and still increasing, however public budget is 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 an 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 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 the 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 neighborhoods, 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 neighborhoods, 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;
  • organizing cross-domain collaboration during preparation and implementation of plans, governmental and non-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;
  • mobilizing capital from different sources to finance projects at an early stage;
  • accelerating the impact of smart city projects afterward through replication

For whom is the 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?

A most important step in the preparation stage is the participants to collect information and make a list of smart city solutions (methods 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 the 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 an 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 a “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. 

Early involvement of all governmental and non-governmental actors is fundamental for maximizing the output and the guidance package can provide ideas on how to do this. Further, integrated planning and management involve the spatial, temporal and technical coordination of different policy areas for achieving the established goals. In doing so, improved collaborative governance at city-scale and 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.


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