What is the ICC?

The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) is a European Commission initiative bringing together 136 cities to achieve intelligent, socially responsible and sustainable growth through advanced technologies. The two-and-a-half-year programme builds on the previous success of the Digital Cities Challenge, which helped 41 EU cities to develop a strategic vision and roadmap for their digital transformations. In overcoming the difficulties of the pandemic, ICC cities are eager to become engines of economic recovery by creating new business opportunities, advancing sustainable developments and enhancing their cities both digitally and socially.

Taking an action-oriented and collaborative approach, the ICC will guide participating cities towards becoming the drivers of their own transformational growth. It will achieve this through providing five thematic tracks and transversal services. Opportunity for collaboration and innovative solutions are key to outcome delivery, therefore quickening the pace of technological integration into cities is important. Participating cities are encouraged to interact and learn from one another to creatively tackle city challenges. Cities are further recommended to form intelligent ecosystems and develop crucial long-term relationships with other ICC cities.

In addition to receiving expert advice that is unique to the challenges faced by each city, the ICC provides much more. Other offerings include regular networking opportunities and community gatherings for participating cities during the ICC City Labs, access to training, online toolboxes, and guidance from the ICC mentor cities. To ensure positive outcomes, the ICC programme helps cities to tailor build an assessment of prioritised issues and needs, in order to define a vision and a roadmap for implementation.
Thematic tracks of the ICC

These roadmaps are designed around common city-challenges and advised upon by lead and thematic experts. Categorised into overarching thematic tracks, which are shaped according to the hopes and desired outcomes of each city. These include:

ICC Thematic tracks


Empowering cities with transversal advisory services

In order to effectively engage with the thematic tracks and overcome their associated challenges, cities are given access to ICC’s transversal services.  These offer flexible support to cities through cross-theme coaching so that cities can effectively plan for their digital transformations by refining and creating new effective strategies. Working with experts, cities will utilise these services to tackle common barriers and leverage local enablers. These transversal services include:

ICC transversal services
  • Access to finance – In response to economic crises, this service is aimed at fostering a transformation of practices to secure different sources of funding on the road to smarter, greener, and fairer economic development. Looking to build city capacity to leverage external funding sources, this service will support and encourage cities to conduct performance assessments, help them to identify and engage new prospects and create knowledge sharing opportunities.
  • Innovative and social public procurement – This service commissions research and development activities and uses the public sector as early adopters of innovative solutions. It facilitates the wide diffusion of these solutions by incentivising industry investment and research. This allows for the modernisation of public services assisting in growth opportunities and with financial solutions for companies.
  • Open data platforms – Through this service, cities are familiarised with data concepts and implementation paths via workshops and e-learning materials.  They will also be involved in City Labs on policy and tech, focusing on open data policy and technological know-how for high implementation standards. To boost cities’ innovation potential, breaking data silos and developing sustainable services are fundamental steps supported by ICC’s open data platforms.

Tech4Good Marketplace access
Developed by cities, the Tech4Good Marketplace is a catalogue-style platform that presents technical solutions to challenges faced by cities. Canvassing city profiles and best practices, cities can share and learn from others while discovering solutions to common challenges. Cities can also benefit from creating opportunities through their own content.

Embedded in other key EU initiatives

The ICC is part of a wider EU support system that recognises the importance of delivering on the promises made by the European Green Deal. Therefore, the main challenge is to build an economy that works for everyone and a Europe that is fit for the digital age. To maintain a focused vision, support from several EU initiatives aiming for greener city-wide changes play a formative role in the desired outcomes of the ICC. A non-exhaustive list of EU initiatives includes:

By committing the tracks to numerous EU initiatives, cities will stay up to date with fresh policy inspiration, sources of funding and the like. It means they are offered all the tools to individually deliver on the wider commitment to a more sustainable, advanced and accountable EU. 

The tools, services and coaching offered are part of ICC’s overarching objective to empower and support cities in the process of becoming green, socially responsible and intelligent hubs. By encouraging collaborations with other cities, focusing on economic recovery and resilience, and pinpointing areas of improvement for businesses, SMEs and citizens, the ICC is committed to help participating cities become exemplar green hubs that attract economic growth.

If you’re interested in following the progress made by participating cities, follow #IntelligentCitiesChallenge on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

Download the ICC Concept Note for more details