DiPP - Discussing the opportunities that Smart Cities bring to the quality of life of their residents

22 Mar 2016
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM CEST
14 Rue de la Science (7th floor), 1040 Brussels

Under the title “Bright Lights, Big City: Smart Cities with human touch”, the last edition of our “Digital in Practice Programme” was held on 22 March 2016 at DIGITALEUROPE premises.

Cities seem to offer the exact right scale human societies need to thrive. Smart cities aim to improve quality of life and the efficiency of services for their residents. The enduring economic crisis and consumers’ new habits have wrought havoc throughout the trade. All hope is not lost though as the digital transformation of most industries and the implementation of an ambitious Urban Agenda are poised to breathe new life into inner cities.


  • Anne Deltour

    Smart Cities Coordinator, DG CNECT

  • Dana Eleftheriadou

    Policy coordinator for Digital Entrepreneurship, DG GROW

  • Dorthe Nielsen

    Policy Director, Eurocities

  • Bernadette Fulton

    Secretary General, French Federation of Clothing


  • John Higgins

    Director General at DIGITALEUROPE

European Innovation Partnership

European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) embody a new approach to EU research and innovation.

They are not about funding or regulating, but about bringing together stakeholders to gather experience , identify best practices at EU, national and regional levels and leverage action by creating markets. They are challenge-driven, focusing on societal benefits and a rapid modernisation of the associated sectors and markets.

The call for commitments launched back in 2014 generated no less than 400 commitments. The EIP approach has proved most effective at cutting lead times. On 28 April and 12 May don’t miss webinars on privacy in smart cities. On 24 May, the General assembly of the European Partnership on smart cites will take place in Eindhoven (NL) where the output of the current works and new lines of a actions for the futures will be discussed. Specifically as regards citizen focus and citizen engagement, the adoption of a Manifesto on citizen engagement is planned together with a conference on citizen focus scheduled late November 2016. For more information visit EIP website.

Digital transformation at work in cities

Meanwhile, the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship dedicated a whole chapter of its recommendations to the role of cities and regions as launching pads of the EU’s digital transformation. 13 cities gave rise to as many detailed case studies identifying the attributes of success. The resulting data elicited a blueprint or guidelines for other cities to draw inspiration from.

The main four attributes read as follows:

  • Leadership and collaboration as a more effective alternative to top-down approach to generate vibrant ecosystems that all stakeholders make their own. Governments, whether national or local, are more efficient when acting as mere moderators.
  • Digital talent and entrepreneurship. Nice offers a good case of local government’s effective mobilization to stem the exodus of international companies once attracted in the area.
  • Easy access to data and technology, open data. Most advanced cities not only master Big Data but manage to attract app developers.
  • Investment in key infrastructures such as energy, transport, telecoms.

Innovative regulation is the icing on the cake: take the Volvo-Göteborg partnership whereby the city of Göteborg, alone in Europe, allowed Volvo to test 100 autonomous vehicles in the area. Find out more about policies supporting digital entrepreneurship on DG GROW website.

Smart: cities, citizens, consumers

Eurocities, the voice of large cities across Europe, focuses on tapping the digital transformation to create jobs; on helping smart cities design the propitious context that will nurture smart citizens, whether from the perspective of environment, transport or social affairs. For instance, a particular project brings together cities committed to reduce CO2 by 30% over the next 5 years.

80% of retailers are located in cities. By empowering consumers to develop new habits, ICT has changed the life of retailers, a loose, patchy breed of big and small, thriving and struggling businesses. Their main challenge, and that of their federation too, is to sift the wheat from the shaft in the avalanche of apps flooding markets. Evaluating apps is a major puzzle in and of itself. The federation is well aware of the fact that recommending a limited number of proven apps to stay on the safe side will stifle innovation. But all too often the alternative proves to be a waste of time and money. Indeed anecdotes abound on creative startups going under for lack of a sensible business plan. Retail is therefore open to cooperation on this specific challenge with other stakeholders keen to clean up the market from ‘lemons’ and to promote innovation.

The same holds true for platforms: retail is a most active part of smart cities; they depend heavily on those local governments that offer the platform or ecosystem they need to get consumers back to the physical stores. One nagging question is: can we afford this magic combination of energy, connectivity and bustling social fabric? Dublin provides a good template in this respect, having managed to provide all the right ingredients to have new tech meet old trades, get to know each other and come to grips together with the challenges at hand. Actually the cities which stand out have managed to shape and implement platforms that serve the needs of everybody, whether citizens, consumers, creators or businessmen. Size doesn’t seem to match leadership as a driver, as the stories of Trento, Barcelona or Tallinn tell. The Citizen Focus project exemplifies this successful trend: citizen’s re-engagement may range from ‘pothole watch’ to urban design. Streamlined, creative public procurement able to reduce the uncertainty associated with investment in uncharted territory seems to be another defining feature of cities able to attract innovation back home.

Semantic-wise, smart cities, a concept born 30 years ago, is not to be confused with the much broader urban agenda to be announced on 31 May in Amsterdam.

In short, cities seem to offer the exact right scale human societies need to thrive: 75% Europeans have made a deliberate choice to live in urban areas. Fully interoperable platforms provide the right foundation on which personalized co-creation – a magnet to most people and a true asset for local economies – can take place. For all the ongoing actions to bear fruit though, huge re-skilling efforts are needed: that’s the price to pay if European cities are to take advantage of the endless opportunities that come with digital transformation.

For more information, please contact:
Our similar past events
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Strasbourg Reception
DIGITALEUROPE reception for the new MEPs
Le Louise Hotel, Brussels & Online
Summer Summit 2024
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