The largest share of Europe’s population lives in small and medium-sized cities and this session discussed what challenges - and possibilities - such cities and towns face on the issue of digital transformation. Led by the Initiative Leaders of the Marketplace Initiative on Small Giants, Annelie Zapfe and Trevor Gibson.
“This is about finding ways to design solutions for small cities and aggregate demand in a replicable and scalable way” Trevor Martin from the Municipality of Peterborough explained on the Initiative Small Giants. He pointed to several characteristics of small cities, including how a project only being a small pilot in a large city may have potential to transform a small city due to the difference in scale.
“The smaller the city the smaller the pool of resources. It’s about infrastructure and funding but it is also about human resources. Small cities often don’t have the access to universities, to academics or to innovative hubs”, explained Annelie Zapfe, Co-founder of the initiative Small Giants from the Region of Thuringia. She pointed out how effective collaboration and more ready-made solutions are necessary for cities without easy access to innovation pools. On the plus side, she explained how the relations and cooperation inside the local area are often stronger in smaller cities.
“The key is to be able to develop a scalable business model”, said Matteo Andreoletti, Smart City Infrastructure Fund, and pointed to the example of cell phones being much ready for upscaling when they were first developed. He also pointed to the importance of small- and medium-sized cities to have a seat “at the table” when the digital solutions of the future are being developed.
“There are different ways of interpreting scalability. I think in this instance the only way we achieve a compatibility of interest is through standardisation and making sure we adhere to data standards.”, Naill McCarthy, CEO of Crust Technology Ltd, said related to a question of avoiding past mistakes with creating different IT environments.
“We had a master class between the Covenant of Mayors and Smart Cities Marketplace recently and one of the outcomes was that no projects are too small,” said Frédéric Boyer, from the Covenant of Mayors, pointing out that even large cities need to test on small-scale at first. Therefore, smaller municipalities, with the ability to implement, should not hold back.