04 June 2021

As its third City Lab continued, the Intelligent Cities Challenge showcased its Tech4Good Marketplace (beta) and brought together Initiatives at European level to discuss the green urban transition.

The new Tech4Good Marketplace launch

Lea Hemetsberger, Networks and Projects Director, OASC, welcomed the participants and speakers to the discussion. Her organisation OASC - Open & Agile Smart Cities - the intelligent city network worked with the ICC to co-create the new Marketplace.

Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Cities and Proximity Team, DG GROW, European Commission, was delighted to launch the Tech4Good Marketplace. She began the presentation by expressing the ambition of the Marketplace, which is "to give small and medium cities access to technology and ideas for new business models. The solutions in the Marketplace aim to improve the lives of their citizens, administrations, stakeholders, businesses, SMEs, social economy players and civil society overall".

Ms Eleftheriadou explained that the Marketplace offers "solutions powered by technology which includes business models and services designed to serve and advance good causes such as environmental, social and economic". The revised Marketplace will also see the announcement of public procurement agreements and hopes to further expand into this area in due time. With these upgraded and larger perimeters, the Marketplace is now more accessible than before. The vision for the Marketplace is to create a vibrant community and makers space where those facing local challenges can meet up, identify their issues and work together to find solutions.

Davor Meersman, CEO, OASC, congratulated Ms Eleftheriadou on her hard work in producing the Marketplace and vision of greater societal inclusion in the platform, stating that this was a "moment to celebrate". Mr Meersman highlighted that the primary objective of the Marketplace is to create awareness of successful and equally unsuccessful solutions therefore encouraged users of the Marketplace to be honest with their submissions. "The operational lanes are now there", he stated, "so get in touch and get involved", he plead to cities.

In true virtual event style, Professor Gesa Ziemer, Head of CityScienceLab, UNITAC Innovation Technology Accelerator Centre in Hamburg, joined the discussion from a terrace in the participating mentor ICC city Hamburg (Germany). Hamburg recently set up a cities programme for the United Nations focusing on accelerating new technology and innovation. This project asks how data-based tools can be used for sustainability in cities, especially in the Global South. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, "Sustainable cities and communities, " guides the work done collaboratively between universities, UN bodies and funded by the German Federal Office.

Several lessons of success practiced by Hamburg were shared. Hamburg has a range of experience with people-orientated tools and citizen participation. Other cities can now immediately develop their tried and tested tools to fit their local needs. Hamburg's work shows how the work of one city can have a global impact; the project shows how European research can be taken to the UN level where it will then be further connected with other cities to have an international effect.

Professor Ziemer emphasised the importance of stakeholder engagement and collaboration across all levels, "I think it is very important for authorities to work together in an interdisciplinary way".  She referred to the frequently seen issues with lack of data, especially for social issues, and stated that this proves the need for strong mapping, which needs to be collaborative.

Hamburg recently sent out a call which invited cities to share their ideas for tech support; Professor Ziemer discussed the insightful results. In total, 35 applications from across all continents were received. Results showed a common need for: a basic data management system, reliable mapping, strong open data policies and effective monitoring systems.

Professor Ziemer said that UNITAC and Tech4Good Marketplace were currently looking for synergies and that she was keen to collaborate and work together in the future with the Marketplace.

Then ICC cities Tampere (Finland) and Cork (Ireland) offered concrete testimonials.

Seppo Haataja, Director of Heading Smart Tampere Programme, presented Tampere's three solutions available in the Marketplace.

1) Smart Tampere - a strategic development programme that creates new solutions for smart cities with businesses, research institutes and citizens. 
2) Tampere.Finland application – a one-stop-shop for all the important information about services in Tampere such as public transport routes and timetables.
3) Digital Twin – aimed to boost automatic traffic test areas.

Claire Davis, Digital Officer, Cork City Council, shared her experience developing the Open Data Portal solution. Ms Davis recalled how researchers at Derilinix the City Council to work with them to develop an open data dashboard. As a result of this relationship, Derilinix developed a pilot site dashboard using open development coding. Ms Davis, a keen user of the Marketplace, emphasised the importance of piloting and learning from failures.

Pierre Baviera, CEO of Derilinix, then presented Derilinix's work with the city of Cork. Mr Baviera explained how DatAdore - Derilinix's Open Source data sharing and cataloguing platform uses cloud-based technology to deliver tangible impacts for users through LinkedIn and Open Data. The presence of Mr Baviera shows how the Marketplace is now open for a broader range of users - those who worked on the solutions.

Ilkka Lakaniemi, Director of Vastuu Group, detailed how their data operated business-to-business service helps manage efficient public services and remove silos in city infrastructure. The current platform service is being used by 65,000 small, medium and large-sized companies in Finland and Sweden.
Ms Eleftheriadou closed the session with a call to action for all to explore the Marketplace and contribute. To start sharing solutions, contributors must first sign-up here.  

Unpacking the green city European level initiatives

The second open session of the day talked about "Initiatives at European level on the green transition of cities". It was moderated by Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit Proximity, Social Economy and Creative Industries at DG GROW, European Commission and aimed to depict the “bigger picture” of city-relevant initiatives that are launched by the European Commission, acknowledging the stepped up efforts to co-design and co-create EU policies together with cities and promote the green agenda contributing to the EU Green Deal. She introduced the perspective of DG GROW on the European initiatives to help cities in their green transitions and afterwards gave the floor to her fellow European Commission specialists.

The first speaker was Marek Teplansky, Head of Unit, Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development, DG REGIO. He explained that about a third of the European budget is allocated to cohesion policy. This includes reducing disparities between Europe's regions and strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion. "Cities have an important role in defining strategy and delivering investment on the ground. We at the European Commission want to build on this and further strengthen this", says Mr Teplansky. 

The policy objectives of the Cohesion Policy are:

  • A smarter Europe
  • A greener, low-carbon Europe
  • A more connected Europe
  • A more social Europe
  • A Europe closer to citizens

The urban dimension has a prominent place in all those objectives.

Philippe Froissard, the Head of the Future Urban & Mobility Systems Unit, DG RTD, spoke about the mission to achieve climate neutrality. The aim is to have 100 climate neutral cities by 2030. "This is a very ambitious goal, but it is realistic. It is our job at the Commission to work with is already present and help cities identify opportunities that can help them towards climate neutrality", explains Mr Froissart. "The ultimate aim is to enable all European cities to become climate neutral by 2050". 

Cities will need to come forward with their own proposals, taking into account their specific landscapes. Cooperation with local and regional authorities and actors will be necessary to ensure different stakeholders support the commitments.

The next speaker was Eddy Hartog, Head of Unit, Technologies for Smart Communities, DG CONNECT. "The issue is making sure that cities work together", he says. "The European Union is 450 million cities, not just Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. How can we make them cooperate all together?" 

One part of the solution is by scaling up urban platforms and create Digital Twins. These kinds of integrated solutions will allow working across sectors, cities and even borders. One factor that cannot be forgotten in this, Mr Hartog emphasised, is ensuring citizens' digital rights like security, data protection and privacy issues.

Xavier Toussard, Head of Unit of the New European Bauhaus, repeated the message announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She wants Europeans to better explore how to live together and together with the planet after the pandemic. "The New European Bauhaus wants to bring people together through culture and science", says Mr Toussart. "It wants to connect people from different professions and backgrounds and weave different perspectives and cultures".

The New European Bauhaus created a three-step plan to bring European citizens and cities closer to this goal. At this moment, we are in the design phase, where the New European Bauhaus listens to the European citizens. It is still possible to contribute here.

Luana Maria Bidasca, Policy Officer, Innovation & Research, DG MOVE, highlighted the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, drawing particular attention towards Flagship 3, 'Making interurban and urban mobility more sustainable and healthier', which was launched in September 2020. She explained the need for the New Urban Mobility Initiative - namely, a more coordinated approach towards urban mobility data and indicators to monitor progress. Ms Bidasca also outlined the revised 2019 guidelines of the Mobility Plan that responded to local challenges and were more fit for purpose. Finally, participants were invited to get involved with the imminent launch of the Open Public Consultation. Details will soon be available on the DG MOVE website.

Ms Athanasopoulou closed the presentation by reflecting on how "a wealth of existing initiatives that connect" were brought together through the session. She ended with the following quote, which captured the session perfectly, "What perhaps appears in the beginning as a labyrinth, in the end, comes across as a space for cross-utilisation".

Stay tuned for further updates from the rest of the third ICC City Lab!