On July 5, the participating Italian cities in the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) were united for the first Geographical Chapter Meeting. It was an occasion to discuss and exchange knowledge on access to finance opportunities and ICC solutions for the cities of Catanzaro, Metropolitan City of Capital Rome and Coastal Towns Association (Città della Costa).
The valuable learning opportunity offered by the ICC initiative and the ICC Geographical Chapter meeting was highlighted by Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of the Cities and Proximity Team in DG GROW, in her welcoming speech.
Relaunching tourism and culture with a digital and sustainable approach
The first part of the session was dedicated to the topic of relaunching tourism and culture with a digital and sustainable approach. Nicoletta Minto from KPMG Italy presented the funding and financial opportunities for cities in the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR - Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza), as well as other opportunities under the European structural and investment funds (ESIF) funds, focusing on the open calls and most relevant prospects.
Mauro Vanni, Project Coordinator of the association titled “ITACA”, representing Coastal Towns Association, shared the experience of the seven cities. The cities of Silvi, Martinsicuro, Alba Adriatica, Tortoreto, Giulianova, Roseto degli Abruzzi and Pineto developed a plan to turn the area into a smart and sustainable tourist destination. With several different public administrations required to work together towards one goal, a strong collaborative process was required. Mr Vanni detailed how the cities managed to identify a shared agenda and ensure smooth cooperation between. Building on this experience, the Association successfully participated in a LIFE+ project on the same topic.
Digital and sustainable urban mobility
Attention then turned towards the topic of digital and sustainable urban mobility for the second part of the meeting. Nicoletta Minto again clearly illustrated the most relevant opportunities for cities under both the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan, as well as in the ESIF.
Two city representatives then outlined some good practices. Antonio De Marco, Project Leader from the city of Catanzaro, presented the city’s experience with sustainable and digital mobility. This takes a holistic approach and relies on a variety of complementary measures. Maurizio Moretti, Advisor of the ICC Team for the Metropolitan City of Rome, then shared his administration’s ongoing work on the model of sustainable mobility for the area of the Roman Castels (‘Biovie: un modello di mobilità sostenibile per l'area dei Castelli Romani’).
In the interactive part of the session, several participants shared their experiences with using the resources provided through the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan. This revealed several common challenges for cities, including: administrative capacities, complex procurement procedures, lack of clarity about the procedures to follow (such as templates to use, processes and contact points) and lack of support from the national administration.
This conversation led cities to discuss how the key challenges they encountered with the utilisation of RRF resources come from the novelty of the procedures and from the lack of timely support at the national level.
The cities all acknowledged that the ICC network represents a shared resource for mutual learning and sharing of experiences. It also offers actionable information about current funding and financial opportunities which can be used to implement individual and joint activities to develop the respective strategies and plans.
Crafting a successful proximity strategy was also discussed. It was concluded that the best way is for it to be designed and updated with the active involvement of all the relevant stakeholders. Additionally, investment in awareness raising and information activities are crucial. This becomes particularly important when the planned solutions include a change of behaviour, e.g. for motivating citizens to use shared electrical bikes in the framework of a city mobility plan as a measure to reduce the use of fossil-fuel driven vehicles and achieve sustainable mobility.
The cities will now reflect on the outcomes of this meeting and consider what each city can take away from it. In terms of collaboration opportunities, interest from Coastal Towns Association was expressed for looking for partners within the Italian and overall ICC city network to respond to the call for projects recently published by the INTERREG Euro-MED programme.