For commissioner Violeta Bulc, the purpose and benefits of smarter cities is clear “Cleaner air, safer transport networks, reducing congestion, optimising use of existing infrastructure – these are just some of the reasons why smart city development is so important.” she said.
Amongst the actions delivering benefit to administrations and citizens included smart housing and living, electric mobility, intelligent lighting and mobility services. The solutions are there, it seems, but need to be taken up and mainstreamed. This is why facilitating access to finance for cities, developing bankable business models and providing good and effective policy and regulation were focus themes for this EIP meeting. European funding can be the right catalyst at the right time, enabling projects to be more ambitious than they might have been, inspire confidence across administrations as many smart city project present were able to testify. The challenge is carrying the work forward and making hi-tech and highly efficient services ubiquitous.
Technology was a major driver of discussions and developments. Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič was keen to point out in his opening speech: "Mayors experience first-hand that new disruptive technologies are blurring the boundaries between the worlds of energy, transport, digital and the circular economy. Cities are where the rubber meets the road; it's where traditional policy silos are broken first”.
Road testing and sharing some of the CITyFiED solutions at the event were coordinator Ali Vasallo, Aude Pélisson-Schecker of exploitation partner Steinbeis, Jeanette Green, of IVL and Elisabeth Schmid of youris.com. In addition to the conference itself, all were active networking around the themes of technical challenges, replication, clustering and citizen engagement amongst others and discussing with interested parties at the CITyFiED poster session stand. The project partners were also pleased to contribute to a combined session with Horizon 2020 smart cities projects of 13 coordinators including REMOURBAN, Triangulum, GrowSmarter and CITYkeys along with the most recent wave of new projects.
From a project angle it was striking how similar the challenges and solutions are amongst the projects and cities of Europe. Heartening to unite around a common cause, but as Jeanette Green observes “The what and the why are very similar; but the real difference between urban areas and projects are instead how they work to solve the challenge and how the solutions are argued for. Such unique local features for each intervention pose a real challenge in terms of replication ”.
In a project as diverse as CITyFiED, the 3 demonstration sites, 11 replication cities and broader community of nearly 40 cities, regions and energy agencies these are challenges to address if we are to move with speed and scale.
A special report from the Citizen Focus Action Cluster can be read in more detail.