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Smart Cities Marketplace

Conclusions and next steps

A few years ago, in the Action Cluster Integrated Planning, Policies and Regulatory Frameworks of the EIP-SCC, it was felt that there is a huge amount of relevant information around on smart cities and low energy districts. Nevertheless, due to a lack of resources and time pressure, many city administrations hardly seem to have the opportunity to access this information and translate it to suit their own situation and ambitions, resulting in the frequent re-inventing of the wheel. Would it be possible to develop simple guidance material, that would take city administrations and their stakeholders through the pitfalls and barriers of setting up such projects, and present some ideas about how to prevent or overcome them?

Soon the idea emerged to develop an easily accessible guide for all city administrations that might be interested in orientating themselves and forming an opinion about what would be useful for them, by supporting their ambitions to make their cities more sustainable, competitive, inclusive, and having a higher quality of life, with the help of smart city and low energy district solutions.

This guidance material should essentially be a self-help guide, getting city administrations started, preceding the bigger work. Its scope should be rather superficial, because detailed information is available through excellent repositories as SCIS. Besides, the document should not become an encyclopedia. It should provide a recipe for preparing and realising plans in an integrated way: cross-domain and multisectorial, having a pervasive long-term perspective on the built environment, not going the road alone but being inclusive and co-designing the solutions with businesses, research and citizens. The guide should be complementary to information about specific technologies and offer ideas for organising the „soft shell” around implementation of these smart city and low energy district technologies. And lastly, it should be as practical as possible.

The work was started with making an overview of obstacles or barriers and how to solve or overcome them, and an intermediate version was published in June 2017 (Borsboom et al., 2017). However, important feedback was that more structure was needed to serve as guidance material. As a result, the document gradually morphed over the years into a roadmap containing specific steps for integrated planning and management of smart city and low energy district projects. The eea – European Energy Award - method proved to be a good basis for this. More information about how the material has been collected can be found in Annex 2.

Three years later, the final version is here. Testbeds in and interviews with follower cities and other cities planning smart city and low energy district projects, have made clear that the SCGP can play an important role by making cities and urban stakeholders acquainted with the path ahead, mindful of the preconditions to be fulfilled for successful implementation and replication, and aware of where relevant information on experiences and best practices can be found. In this capacity, the SCGP can contribute to better integrated planning and management of smart city and low energy district projects in the future and accelerate the uptake of smart city and energy-efficient solutions, both in terms of appropriate methods as in terms of suitable technologies.

Figure 9-1 Results of a testbed of the SCGP in Vaasa

While this document was drafted, it has tried to have the perspective of the intermediary: processing information from one practitioner to pass it to the other. This means that its content could not have been developed without the willingness of dozens of practitioners and experts to share this information. City administration staff, consultants, businesses and research candidly expressed their views – about what works but also about what does not work. Apart from that, small talk and site visits demonstrated the immense proudness of practitioners about what had been achieved in their city and the heart-warming enthusiasm of residents and businesses about these new, innovative developments. 

Since the first work on the SCGP was started in 2016, the smart city and low energy districts landscape has changed. The first generations of Horizon2020 SCC-01 projects have finalised their implementation phase. More cities are working on SE(C)APs and eea plans. JPI Urban Europe funded 17 smart city projects where living labs play a central part and published a new Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda. CEN/CENELEC/ETSI work on smart cities standards has progressed. All in all, this means a vibrant community has come into being, where SCIS is key to store and disclose experiences and build a collective memory. Many city administrations and politicians realise that better interconnections and cross-domain thinking are essential for meeting the challenges cities are facing. Not only at EU level, but also at national, regional or local level.  Collaboration between city administration, research, businesses and citizens has become mature and better documented. 

The IPCC report published in Autumn 2018 makes clear that work on climate and energy must be stepped up, as only a 12-year time-window is left to prevent worse (IPCC, 2018).  It is widely acknowledged that a fundamental energy transition in cities is needed, and that this will influence how we design, use and operate our built environment. We hope the SCGP contributes to this transition, no matter how small, by paving the road for a more widespread use of smart and energy-efficient solutions which contribute to more sustainability and quality of life. 

The journey has not yet come to an end, and there is always room for improvement. For that reason, the following steps are considered for the near future: 

  • Summary for politicians of the main steps and uses of this roadmap in a brochure; 
  • Development of an Open Access web-based version under a Creative Commons license;
  • Establishment of a proper linkage to SCIS; 
  • More collaboration by teaming up with adjoining initiatives, such as Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, eea, JPI Urban Europe, and CEN/CENELEC/ETSI Sector Forum Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities. How can different methods and tools reinforce each other? Which activities can be organised together with the EIP-SCC?
  • Inclusion of more material about the actual implementation of plans;
  • Testing and evaluation of this version. Does it really work as a self-help guide? What information is still missing? Could it provide a basis for technical assistance? 
  • Better linkage to specific phases in decision making in the built environment – when does it make most sense to have this type of information available – and how can this instrument help to de-risk investments and pave the way for better business models or provide better access to financial sources?   
  • Analysis of the influence of local conditions and contexts on the applicability of the SCGP;
  • Explore the usefulness of this roadmap tool for adjoining topics, such as nature-based solutions and circular economy