The European Commission's Digital Cities Challenge

Make your city more liveable, more productive, and more innovative
Join the European Commission challenge to transform your city with free policy advice and coaching from high-level European experts, in your local language.
Call for applications now open!

The challenge

The Digital Cities Challenge is a tailored programme of coaching and facilitation launched by the European Commission to help cities develop and implement digital policies that can transform day to day life for residents, businesses, workers, and entrepreneurs.
The challenge will give city leaders and key stakeholders access to high-level experts with local and international experience in designing and implementing digital transformation strategies, free of charge and in their local language for 14-18 months to achieve their goals for improving their city.
Whether equipping local talent with the digital skills needed to prosper in a changing workplace, developing a collaborative economy to springboard social cohesion and innovation, or implementing a smart parking policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, all proposals are welcome.

The Call

The European Commission is launching a Call for applications to select 15 European cities with strong will to change and unreleased potential, to receive hands-on first-class policy advice, coaching and support to transform their cities through digitalisation and industrial modernisation.
The challenge is aimed at local public organisations that are either responsible for or involved in the funding and/or implementation of a policy or programme of a city related to digital transformation and industrial modernisation. This refers to local authorities or their representative public agency. Only one application may be submitted per city.

Participants will receive a set of hands-on, tailor-made advisory services throughout the course of the 14-18 month programme, including:

  • Tailored advice and support from high-level experts who will be familiar with your city, its current challenges and future ambitions
  • Access to tools allowing you to develop a clear understanding of what stage of digital maturity your city can currently claim and where you should be aiming to be
  • Access to unique and innovative training and capacity building sessions for key staff and representatives of your city
  • Dialogue with other cities in Europe who have embarked or are in the process of embarking on the same challenge, in order to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices
  • Access to European networks and platforms

At the end of the challenge, your city will have:

  • Developed a strategy and action plan to move towards digital transformation. This will include tangible, achievable and measurable steps to be taken in the short, medium and long term
  • Built a community of local stakeholders willing to engage in the digital transformation process
  • Gained exposure at a European level and established itself as a beacon for the transformative power of digitalisation
  • Built a network of European peers and partners able to offer mutual support and advice in the future

Eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible, each applying city must comply with the following:

  • Must be from an EU Member State.
  • The application form must be submitted in English. Applications submitted in any other language will be excluded.
  • Submit the application within the stipulated deadline.
  • Complete application following the template provided.

Applications not meeting any of these conditions will be excluded from the selection process.

Key dates

Activity Dates
Digital Cities Challenge open for applications 10 October 2017 - 25 January 2018
First batch of cities Dates
First cut-off date
24 November 2017 – 12:00 PM (CET)
Evaluation and selection of a first batch of cities 24 November 2017 - 15 December 2017
Second batch of cities Dates
Second cut-off date
25 January 2018 – 12:00 PM (CET)
Final evaluation and selection of a second batch of cities 25 January 2018 – 15 February 2018

Apply

Applications must give an overview of the digital ambition of your city and demonstrate the potential, the capacity and the willingness to implement a strong digital strategy. Applying cities are kindly requested to read very carefully and respect the instructions provided in the application form.

Download the application form and guideline for applicants, then click Apply now when you are ready to submit your application.

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Success stories

See the success case studies that were able to create innovative ecosystems to restore economic growth and improve the life of European citizens.

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Find answers to your questions or contact us for further support with your application.

General Questions

The Digital Cities Challenge is an initiative of the European Commission which aims at helping 15 European cities to foster the use of advanced technologies. By doing so, the cities involved will boost growth, create jobs and become more appealing places in which to live. Through hands-on first-class policy advice, coaching, networking and peer support, the initiative will offer 15 cities in Europe which currently demonstrate potential in digitalisation and which have strong aspirations to advance, the opportunity to capture the benefits of digital transformation.

The cities chosen to take part in the Digital Cities Challenge will receive free-of-charge the support needed to take full advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. Harnessing the power of advanced technologies will enable these cities to grow their business, to foster further innovation and productivity, and, most importantly, to improve the quality of life of their people. The specific advantages of participating cities include:

  • Free-of-charge tailored advice and support from high level experts who will be familiar with your city, its current challenges and future ambitions; And most of it in your own language;
  • Access to tools allowing you to develop a clear understanding of what stage of digital maturity your city can currently claim and where you should be aiming for it to be;
  • Access to unique and innovative training and capacity building sessions for key city staff and representatives;
  • Dialogue with other cities in Europe who have embarked or are in the process of embarking on the same process, in order to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices;
  • Access to European networks and platforms.

Tools and offered services are presented in more details in Section 3 of the Guide for Applicants.

At the end of the initiative, each participating city will have:

  • Developed and started implementing a strategy and action plan to move towards digital transformation. This will include tangible, achievable and measurable steps to be taken in the short, medium and long term;
  • Built a community of local stakeholders willing to engage in the digital transformation process;
  • Gained exposure at a European level and established itself as a beacon for the transformative power of digitalisation;
  • Built a network of European peers and partners able to offer mutual support and advice in the future.

The Digital Cities Challenge initiative is led by Technopolis Group in cooperation with CARSA, Roland Berger and WAAT.

The team to be providing the advisory services will be tailored to your Expression of Interest i.e. put together on a case by case basis and expertise will be sought within or outside the current consortium in order to deliver the team (of three experts and one analyst, in total four people) meeting the requirements listed below.

At least 10 years of experience in the following domains:

  • Policy / strategy design and operationalisation on industrial transformation and innovation (hands on experience in policy advisory to regions/cities and working with stakeholder groups);

  • Technology trends in digital transformation and digital entrepreneurship (technological expertise of current and upcoming trends across industries);

  • Business strategies on industrial transformation (hands on experience in advice to industry).

Further capacities of the experts will include:

  • Country and language expertise (understanding of the digital/economic/political reality in the country, speaking/understanding the local language);

  • Specialisation in the domains of focus as indicated in the Expression of Interest of the city. This may include a sectorial focus (e.g. expertise in the digitalisation of tourism), or a thematic focus (e.g. expertise in cybersecurity), etc.

The core of the activities of the team of experts will include:

  1. An assessment of the city’s digital transformation level including gaps and bottlenecks;

  2. Creating a sound stakeholders' community within the city, to share a common vision for the development of their city;

  3. A development/revision of the city’s vision and digital strategy including the links to other policy documents;

  4. A detailed roadmap and tailored advice for the implementation of the strategy;

  5. Networking activities across the 15 model demonstrator cities, frontrunner cities that act as role models and mentors (e.g. the blueprint cities) and other cities that wish to participate using their own resources.

Support for selected cities will last between 14 to 18 months, depending on the Wave in which they have been selected. Cities selected in Wave 1 will receive support from January 2018 to June 2019 (i.e. 18 months). Cities selected in Wave 2 will receive support from April 2018 to June 2019 (i.e. 14 months). For more details on support duration and process, please consult Sections 3.3 and 4.3 of the Guide for Applicants.

The Blueprint for cities and regions as launch pads for digital transformation is a set of recommendations from the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship that showcases successful case studies from 13 European cities. Building on the set of recommendations, the Digital Cities Challenge is providing 15 European cities the opportunity to receive support and services to unlock their digital potential, and develop and/or strengthen their digital strategy.

In the context of the Digital Cities Challenge call for applications, we do not have a restrictive definition of a city. We are aware that the definition varies from one country to another within the European Union. Therefore, all cities, regardless of their size, are invited to apply. The Challenge targets cities with unreleased digital potential but which have strong aspirations to achieve their digital transformation.

There is no limit to the number of city representatives who can participate in the Academy seminars. However, the initiative will fully cover all related costs (travel and subsistence) for three representatives from the selected city (i.e. public official in charge of implementing the project, provided that they represent different organisations). Should a city want to send additional representatives to Academy seminars, it will have to cover these extra-costs with its own resources.

Cities hosting Academy seminars will be asked to provide a venue for the training, which will last two full days. All other costs, such as catering and travel expenses, will be covered by the Digital Cities Challenge.There will be four Academy seminars in total. Seminars 1 and 4 will host 30-40 persons and seminars 2 and 3 will host 60-70 persons.

Questions related to the Call for Expression of Interest

The Digital Cities Challenge is launching a call for Expression of Interest (EoI) to select the 15 European cities that will receive the support of the initiative and become model demonstrators of digital transformation and industrial modernisation.

Applicants must be local public organisations that are responsible for or involved in the funding and/or implementation of a policy or programme of a city related to digital transformation and industrial modernisation. This refers to local authorities or their representative public agency. Only one application may be submitted per city.

In order to apply to the call, cities have to fill in and submit an Expression of Interest. The EoI template is available on the online platform (www.digitallytransformyourregion.eu/). The EoI should give an overview of the digital ambition of the city in question and demonstrate its potential, capacity and willingness to implement a strong digital strategy.

The call will have 2 cut-off dates to select cities. The first one is 24 November 2017 and the second one is 25 January 2018. 

The timeline is the following

All cities, regardless of their size, are invited to apply.

Questions related to the Expression of Interest preparation and submission process

The Digital Cities Challenge Evaluation Management System (EMS) platform is the platform used for the reception of EoIs and evaluation (https://digitalcities.ems-carsa.com).

The Expression of Interest template is available on the website of the initiative (https://www.digitallytransformyourregion.eu/) as well as on the EMS platform (https://digitalcities.ems-carsa.com/). The word template is available to applicants once they register in the platform. Applicants are kindly requested to read very carefully and respect the instructions provided in the template.

The Expression of Interest must be submitted in English. EoIs submitted in any other language will be excluded.

EoIs are submitted in a single stage. Expression of Interest shall be submitted electronically at the Digital Cities Challenge Evaluation Management System (EMS) platform (https://digitalcities.ems-carsa.com/user/registration). Applicants are advised to start the application process in advance (e.g. creating an account and entering their organisation’s data) in order to become familiar with the platform. Applicants will have the chance to submit new versions of their Expression of Interest as many times as they wish before the call closure. Only the last version submitted before the deadline will be considered in the evaluation.

Please note that:

  • EoIs must be submitted through the Evaluation Management System (EMS) platform;
  • EoIs must be submitted before the closing time and date of the call;
  • EoIs must be submitted as a pdf file.

An acknowledgement of receipt will be sent out via email to all successfully submitted EoIs, as soon as possible after the closure of the call. However, this receipt will not be a proof that the Expression of Interest is eligible for evaluation.

Further to the Expression of Interest, applicants are invited to provide letters of intent of stakeholder participation (Annex I) as well as any additional documentation (Annex II). The latter is deliberately left open so that applicants can provide any documents they deem relevant to support their application (e.g. presentation brochure on project results, reports or studies, etc.). Please note that none of these two annexes are mandatory.

There is no limit to the number of members in the applying team. The composition of city teams (i.e. in terms of member profiles and number) is at the discretion of each participating city. However, selected cities are asked, as a minimum requirement, to provide a dedicated local project manager that is available for the equivalent of at least 20% of a full-time role throughout the project. This project manager would be encouraged to coordinate and engage further with all relevant local stakeholders.

Applications can be submitted by municipalities as well as any other local public organisation that is responsible for or involved in the funding and/or implementation of a policy or programme of a city related to digital transformation and industrial modernization. In cases where the application is submitted by an entity other than the local authority, the application must be accompanied with a letter of intent from the local authority. Only one application per city will be considered.

You are not required to provide financial information. However, if you wish to provide relevant financial information, you are very welcome to do so in the Resources section of the application form.

You are requested to use the structure and content layout of the template but you do not need to follow the same design. For instance, you are welcome to exclude the green headers on each section or use a different colour scheme.

You are invited to provide relevant data related to your city, you can adapt the data accordingly.

Questions related to the evaluation process

The submitted Expression of Interest will be evaluated with respect to the following evaluation criteria:

  1. Relevance
  2. Digital ambition
  3. Impacts
  4. Resources

 

Evaluation scores will be awarded for each of the criteria. Each criterion will be scored out of 5 and decimal numbers can be given. All EoIs will be evaluated in equal terms. The thresholds and priority to be used in the case of EoIs being evaluated equally have been defined as follows:

CRITERION                                                     PRIORITY                                                     THRESHOLD

1. Relevance                                                           2                                                                 4 out of 5

2. Ambition                                                              3                                                                 3 out of 5

3. Impacts                                                               1                                                                 4 out of 5

4. Resources                                                          4                                                                  3 out of 5

All applicants, successful as well as unsuccessful ones, will receive a notice on the outcome of the evaluation and their Evaluation Summary Reports.

The evaluation will be carried out with the assistance of experts who are completely independent from the applicants. The experts will be individuals with experience and knowledge in the fields of digital transformation, digital cities, and the implementation of digital strategies. All experts will sign a declaration of confidentiality concerning the evaluation process, the content of the Expression of Interest they evaluate and the evaluation results. They will also declare an absence of any conflict of interest over the assigned tasks.

Prior or ongoing involvement in projects such as Horizon 2020 or projects with a digital dimension is not considered as a prerequisite. However, if such projects demonstrate cities’ commitment and digital potential, it could be considered as an asset. Therefore, we encourage you to indicate such information in your application.

Yes. Although your city has not been selected in Wave 1, you are welcome to submit a new application in Wave 2. However, we would strongly encourage you to take stock of the evaluation report you will receive after the first selection round and adapt your application accordingly.

The following table presents the evaluation criteria. The full details of what should be included in each section of the Expression of Interest are included in the application form.

            CRITERION                                                        EOL SECTION                              

     Relevance                                     1. Presentation of the city and its ecosystem 

     Ambition                                       2. Digital ambition                                             

     Impacts                                         3. Impact                                                            

     Resources                                   4. Staff and other assets                                   

More details on evaluation criteria and process are available in Sections 5.3 and 5.4 of the Guide for applicants.

Questions related to applicant support

Applicants may contact the Digital Cities Challenge Help desk (helpdesk@digitallytransformyourregion.eu) should they wish to receive further information on the Digital Cities Challenge EoI content and conditions, or any IT related issues. Applicants are advised to consult the Frequently Asked Questions before contacting the Digital Cities Challenge Helpdesk.

More information on Digital Cities Challenge Call for Expression of Interest can be found in the Guide for Applicants as well as on the Digital Cities Challenge webpage (www.digitallytransformyourregion.eu ).

Contact help desk

You can schedule a call with the Digital Cities team, send us an email, or request a webinar if you require further assistance

0032 2 645 08 70
helpdesk@digitallytransformyourregion.eu

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