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Smart City Project Developer

Smart City Project Developer

Dimitar Hristov, Cluster Sofia Knowledge City

This is the second article from the total of four consecutive articles I started at the beginning of November on the topic of professional roles (professions) the smart cities need. 

In the project Skills4Cities, we have identified as most important for transforming the cities into smart cities the following three key professions.

  • Smart city project developer
  • Smart city project manager and
  • Smart city project management consultant (advisor)

We have identified these three professional roles on the basis of a conducted fast-track desk study, a mapping of the smart city projects within its main domains, and also, on the identified challenges that the smart city projects face derived from its complex and multidisciplinary.

This article is an attempt to describe the main characteristics of the professional role of Smart City Project Developer (SCPD).

Role description

Smart City Project Developer (SCPD) can be an external professional, hired, based on a time contract or on a project basis as well as an internal person in the job position in city administration (in rarer cases). She/he is a highly skilled and knowledgeable practitioner who could be engaged by the cities or other city’s stakeholders to initialize, demonstrate, lobby, plan, communicate with all of them, and pitch on the city level various smart city projects and know how to run and facilitate a smoother project acceptance and development in relation with the city's needs, strategies, and tasks. It is supposed that such a person has a qualification and experience that enables her/him to easily implement skills and knowledge for general and innovation management as well as project management and managing change in diverse, sophisticated, and conflict areas.

Such professionals must know how to study and prioritize the needs of one city, how to engage stakeholders, and how to use good practices of successful smart city projects. She/he is to be a high-level design thinker and conceptualist who can ideate, generate, and defend a feasible initiative that can be turned into a smart city project. One SCPD knows very well the critical success factors and the usual mistakes one city makes when generating and implementing smart city projects. One of the most important competencies for playing such a role is the good awareness and the high level of knowledge of disruptive digital technologies and their areas of application for the needs of the smart cities. Certainly, good knowledge of similar cases over the world and even experience in the implementation of smart city projects will be advantages for being an excellent SCPD.

Smart city developers usually prepare smart city project concept notes to use for the next activities they are engaged in. After a concept note for a future smart city, the project is approved and coordinated throughout the stakeholders, the SCPD should elaborate a Term of reference for the detailed development of the project and together with the Smart City Project Manager, she/he will be engaged to prepare the full-frame and content of the project depending on whether the project will serve for finding grants, raising funds from private investors, or apply for a hybrid investment vehicle. Such a role also requires a set of financial competencies like skills and knowledge for making feasibility analyses, cost-benefit analyses, business, and financial planning, etc.

Responsibilities & duties

If SCPD is in the job position in the city administration he/she will be responsible for ideating, conceptualizing, and overseeing the results and impact evaluation of various projects for smart cities. If SCPD is not in such a position, then he/she does this work on a contractual basis as an external expert.

What does this job role include?

Here are proposed some commonly accepted activities one SCPD may perform:

  • Researches and recommends disruptive digital technologies to carry out project development tasks.
  • Develops smart city project initiatives while studying the cities’ needs, strategies, challenges, quality, and efficiency of the smart city.
  • Performs smart city project design and development activities according to the smart city needs, tasks, and specifications.
  • Responsible for the development phase of a smart city project, which typically includes concept note preparation, due diligence, scheduling, feasibility study, proposal writing, budgeting, etc. After the project is ready and accepted, it is given to the Smart City Project Manager for further management and implementation.
  • Coordinates the project proposal and the preparation of the documents with the interested party (contractor, city manager, supervisor, project manager). Works with the Smart City Manager in developing a project plan, budget, and schedule.

What is the relation and similarity of this job role to other better-known job roles?
To our understanding, this job role (profession) is quite similar and close to other commonly accepted and used in the professional world professions like Business developer and Corporate Projects Developer.

The next article will be dedicated to the description of the second identified job role (profession) namely the Smart City Project Manager.


Cluster Sofia Knowledge City (CSKC) is an association of enterprises from knowledge-intensive industries, universities, R&D organizations related to the chain of production and supply of technologies, products, and services. It is a tool for joint actions of the business, education, and science with urban and public institutions to generate and effectively use knowledge, know-how, and scientific infrastructure for the benefit of the city. The main goal and policy of the cluster are to stimulate the development of the market for intelligent and breakthrough technologies and to attract talents necessary for the digital transformation of businesses and cities.

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