The Digital Cities Challenge community came together to cement their roadmaps for digital transformation and explore opportunities for further collaboration as part of the fifth and final Academy Seminar in Brussels on 8-9 April.
With the Challenge entering the final stages, all city teams and experts were on hand for two intense days of peer-review and knowledge sharing that has been the hallmark of the initiative since the first Academy Seminar back in February 2018.
Head of Unit for Advanced Technologies, Clusters and Social Economy, Ulla Engelmann, used her opening speech to commend the cities for their achievements in the programme up to date and look to the future of the network.
“Since the beginning of 2018, you put together your local ecosystems, and with the use of a robust methodology of digital transformation, assessment and monitoring tools you have agreed commonly on a vision for digital transformation and industrial modernisation. A vision that was translated to actions that all city’s stakeholders will commonly realise.”
“Looking at the near future, the Digital Cities Challenge is concluding in July 2019. But this is not the end of our work as an expansion and scale up is already planned. The torch will pass to the Intelligent Cities Challenge,” said Ulla.
The new initiative will keep the current network of participating cities and add 50 new cities, plus triple the budget of the Digital Cities Challenge and expand the scope to the achievement of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
The High Level Conference Digital Cities Challenge: A strategy for EU cities in the 21st century, taking place in Brussels on 5 June was announced as a bridge between the two initiatives that will take stock of the lessons learnt of the DCC and pave the way towards the Intelligent Cities Challenge.
After the exciting announcement, Clara Maddalena Callegaris, Head of Smart City Milan, kicked off proceedings with a presentation of the digital transformation strategy of Milan which focuses on social and economic innovation and inclusion through an action plan in “permanent beta, constantly ready for improvements”.
The cities were then able to interact in depth with comparable cities and digital specialists to strengthen their roadmaps toward digital transformation, as well as be inspired by good practice case studies on sustainable growth, covering smart and sustainable mobility, energy, and water management with examples from Copenhagen, Glasgow and Karlsruhe.
There were also case studies from Brussels and Amsterdam on how to support incubators and accelerators to scale up the start-up ecosystem, an introduction to the European Commission’s practical guide for the digitalisation of the retail sector, and a deep dive into the Commission’s current 5G initiatives.
Having set a high standard of collaboration with a number of joint applications for initiatives and funding under the S3 Platform and URBACT already underway, Johanna Lyytikäinen, a Smart City project manager from Espoo, presented 6Aika – a scheme in Finland where six cities are jointly developing actions and tools for intelligent urban development.
Attendees were also able to make a field visit to Ferme Abattoir, a high-tech urban farm located on a rooftop in the heart of Brussels. The farm created and managed by BIGH (Building Integrated GreenHouses) is an aquaponic rooftop farm that produces herbs, tomatoes, micro-greens and 35 tons of high-quality striped bass fish per year, all by utilising the heat produced by the fridges from the markets of the Abattoir.
In what was a very fruitful two days, DCC members left the Academy Seminar emboldened by their efforts and news of further support for the network through the expansion initiative the Intelligent Cities Challenge.
In her closing remarks, Ilektra Papadaki, Policy Officer dealing with the Digital and Intelligent Cities Challenge at the European Commission, complimented the cities as partners of the Commission and thanked them for making the project a success.
"Getting close to the end of this journey, we have to say, from the side of the European Commission, that what our 41 Digital Cities have put throughout this initiative to achieve digital transformation and smart growth has been an inspiration for all of us.”
“The Commission works with local governments in many initiatives, but the uniqueness of the Digital Cities Challenge lies to the fact that European cities are our partners and enablers in harnessing the benefits of advanced technologies and achieve smart and sustainable economic growth, and a better life for our citizens,” said Ilektra.
See photos from the 5th Academy Seminar.