Yesterday, the ICC cities enthusiastically embarked on day 4 of the 5-day ICC City Lab. After a presentation of internal and external best practices for communication and networking, the day-4 set programme focused on common challenges and mobilising local ecosystems.  

The session on local ecosystems was led by Hans Teuben, director public sector, strategy and innovation at Capgemini. He encouraged the speakers to share their experiences in building strong ecosystems, taking attendees on a tour of best practices of cities in Europe and beyond. City representatives of Cork (Ireland), Greater Phoenix Connective (United States of America), Mechelen (Belgium), and Tampere (Finland) zoomed in their achievement as well as the hurdles that they faced along the way.

Clair Davis, digital officer, Cork City Council
Cork highlights the importance of reaching out to a broader network to build effective city ecosystems. Ms Davis pointed out that smaller cities need to rely on their connections to make people and organisations understand the challenges that the city is facing. She encouraged other ICC cities to identify champions that can push the entire ecosystem forward. You can find them on local, regional, national or even international scale. Their pro-active approach has helped Cork to successfully launch projects around augmented reality, air quality, and smart data. 

Fennet van de Wetering, commercial director central government and strategic consultancy ANL Lead, Arcadis
Arcadis is a private company that encourages cities to focus on liveability. They find that liveability is one of the key factors in whether people and businesses settle in a city. Because the concept encompasses so many different factors, improving liveability are best tackled by a coordinated approach that involves an entire ecosystem.

Ms Fennet emphasised that building ecosystems is not a sprint. Building a good functioning network takes time, but cities should have faith that their efforts will pay off. She reminded cities that they play a crucial role in mobilising ecosystems and that they have the power to speed up projects by approving permits in a timely fashion.

Dominic Papa, Vice President, Smart State Initiatives, Greater Phoenix Connective
Dominic Papa's starting point was that challenges do not start and stop in one city. They cross municipal boundaries, and overcoming them requires collaboration. Effective collaboration between different actors in a local ecosystem is particularly interesting because it can leverage economies of scale, making expensive solutions affordable for all, and driving interoperability when cities and partners procure technology together. 

That is why the Greater Phoenix Connective has set up a membership programme that has broken down external silos and paved the road forward, where the entire ecosystem strives to achieve shared goals.

Tapio Siik, Project Director, Platform 6, Business Tampere
Tampere is about 15 minutes down the road of Nokia. At this peak, the Finnish mobile phone company was a giant of the industry that provided jobs and sparked innovation. As the mobile technology landscape changed, Tampere has had to adapt. 

Tampere brings together its entire city ecosystem in a knowledge hub called Platform 6, where start-ups, entrepreneurs and research partners meet and co-create. The hub has thrived through its focus on three key principles: community, collaboration, and communication. Mr Siik also emphasised trust as an important driver of innovation. Cities should listen to their ecosystem and trust their partners to fast-track progress. 

Mieke Van Cauwenberghe, Manager Smart City & Innovation, Mechelen
Mieke van Cauwenberghe pointed out that collaboration and co-creation are part of Mechelen’s DNA. Its smaller scale and interaction with citizens makes it a fertile ground for experimentation. 

Mechelen's motto “If you want to go quickly go alone, if you want go far, go together” . The city looks for partners close to home, but also at the regional and national levels. Ms Van Cauwenbergh also stressed citizen involvement as a crucial factor in setting up success collaborations. Their input is vital to co-design and co-create viable and effective solutions that respond to real-life needs. 

Today, on the final day of the first-ever ICC Cities Lab, the cities will reflect upon the green initiatives introduced across the past week while learning of additional initiatives aimed at improving the sustainability of their local economies.