14 December 2021

After 10 days of engaging presentations, inspiring conversations and fruitful exchanges, the fourth edition of the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) City Lab closed its curtains. A range of advice on how cities can best upskill and reskill their workforces and enable a smart transition was provided across all levels - from high level speakers from the United Nations Environment Programme and OECD to peer review sessions. 

Whilst several sessions were open to the public, the most part of the City Lab took place behind closed doors. ICC cities were supported by the ICC team of international experts to focus on the thematic workshops, transversal and peer review sessions. Several moderators and thematic coordinators hosted the sessions and facilitated insightful discussions. 

Thematic workshop on Green economy and local green deals  

In part I of this thematic workshop, policy insights were shared by István Nemeth, Policy Officer, DG Grow, European Commission, who explored the sustainability practices of SMEs and shared findings from a study on the uptake of CSR by European SMEs and start-ups. A city level perspective was then offered by the city of Mannheim (Germany) by Agnes Schoenfelder, Head of the Climate Strategy Office, Spokesperson, Local Green Deal, CEO Climate Action Agency. The German city is currently running its own local green deal

A deep dive into the green economy was conducted by two Dutch representatives - Daan Walter, Sustainability Expert, McKinsey & Company Amsterdam and Yolanda Schmal, Advisor, Province of North Holland. The collaborative challenges with decarbonisation seen in Amsterdam and approach towards plastics circularity in the Province of North Holland were highlighted. 

Part II of the workshop saw the Climate–Neutral and Smart Cities Mission take centre stage with a presentation by its Manager and Deputy Director General, DG MOVE, European Commission, Matthew Baldwin. Cities interested in becoming climate-neutral and looking for concrete solutions to enable this were strongly encouraged to register for the call for expression of interest before 31 January 2022. 

Thematic workshop session on Green and digital transition in tourism 

Three segments shaped this session: tourism data spaces; EU and smart destinations; and inspirations from cities. Alberto Gago, Spanish National Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation outlined how tourism data spaces have been used in Spain. Whilst Misa Labarile, Tourism Policy Officer, European Commission, explained the various initiatives organised by the European Commission such as networking events, funding opportunities and the co-creation of priorities.  

The ICC cities of Medellín (Colombia) and Heidelberg (Germany) inspired participants with their experiences. Natalia Currea, Director of Knowledge and Innovation, ACI, Medellín shared valuable expertise on how Medellín became an intelligent tourist destination whilst Claus Wichmann, Head of Department Subsidies Management and Open Government, Office for Digital and Information Processing, Heidelberg provided details on the emergence of Heidelberg as a smart and sustainable area for tourism.  

Thematic workshop session on Citizen participation and digitisation of public administration 

The pillars of customer centric government service and effective data management for governments were discussed by Associate Partners from McKinsey & Company - Jonty Olliff-Cooper and Thomas Weber. Whilst insights from ICC cities were shared by city representatives from Barcelona (Spain) - Isabella Longo, Project Director, BIT Habitat - and Hamburg (Germany) - Sebastian Troch, Head of ITS & Data Management, Ministry of Transport and Mobility Transition. Lessons learnt from successful digital initiatives in Barcelona and experiences with digitising mobility services within the city of Hamburg were revealed. 

Thematic workshop session on Supply chains, logistics and the economics of mobility 

The challenging process of building a mobility platform in the ICC city of Porto (Portugal) was detailed by Margarida Campolargo, Head of Smart Cities Unit, Porto. Tips on implementing data driven interventions were shared by Brian Cooperman, Analytics Expert, McKinsey & Company. Finally, Dmitry Chechulin, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company, talked about lessons from supply chain and mobility transitions around the world. 

Transversal workshop on innovative public procurement 

Opportunities for funding were outlined in this session by Elsa Durieux, Senior Officer, ICLEI, who gave a brief overview of the call for ‘Boosting green economic recovery and open strategic autonomy in Strategic Digital Technologies through pre-commercial procurement (PCP action)’. Sustainable procurement in the ICC city of Aarhus (Denmark) was explained by Dennis Madsen, Sustainability Consultant, Procurement. 

Joan Prummel, International Circular Economy Advisor, Executive Agency, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, The Netherlands then discussed the topic of circular procurement and networks, focusing on the work done in the Netherlands. 

Transversal workshop on Open data 

Urban data platforms for the twin digital and green transition were discussed by Andrea Halmos, Policy Officer, DG CNECT, European Commission, who clarified why the European Commission is focusing on these policy goals and how open data platforms help to achieve such goals by generating digital twins of cities. 

Another representative from the city of AarhusKim Stannnov Søvsø, Head of Department, ITK City Lab, discussed the topic of Smart Aarhus and how open data platforms benefit the city. He gave examples of emerging technologies that use open data such as drones and how this helps with citizen engagement. Similarly, Jaime Ventura, Head of Urban Platform, Data Analytics and Digital Services, Porto described how an urban data platform with open data is used in the city of Porto to help make data-driven policy decisions. 

The ICC thanks all speakers, organisers and participants for making the 4th City Lab a success. From hosting a first of a kind dialogue between Commissioner Thierry Breton and EU Mayors from ICC and Living-In.EU to offering a stage to cities to showcase smart solutions in the Tech4Good Marketplace, the City Lab offered plenty of opportunities for learning and collaborating.  

As the ICC looks to its next steps, which will take place in the form of piloting geographical chapter meetings to bring together local stakeholders, cities are encouraged to be more ambitious. As we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm, working together and asking for help where needed is essential. The ICC looks forward to a constructive 2022 and to the 5th and final City Lab.