The Digital Cities Challenge moved into the strategy phase as participating cities came together for the 3rd Academy Seminar on the 17-18 October.

The Strategy Academy Seminar, hosted by Challenge city Thessaloniki, provided a unique opportunity for city representatives to collaborate on their digital strategies to boost local economic growth.

The cities pooled knowledge on the digital skills, priority actions, branding as digital-first thinking cities, and governance at the heart of their digital transformation strategies, as well as identifying potential funding streams for implementation.

14 external speakers came to Thessaloniki to talk about the digitalisation of the transportation and construction sector, how urban planning can speed up the digital transformation of cities, and alternative approaches to digital skills development. 

The Director of Ecole 42 in Paris and Ecole 19 in Brussels, Olivier Crouzet, delivered a presentation on how these tuition-free computer programming schools are injecting digital transformation into education with no professors and no diplomas or degrees but instead based on new modern ways to teach, like peer-to-peer pedagogy and project-based learning.

European Parliament Member Eva Kaili set the tone with some insight on how blockchain and Artificial Intelligence projects will be funded in cities and regions to boost the digital economy. The MEP went on to close with the rally call, “Digital is happening, and the EU is working to make sure that our citizens can harness the benefits and our businesses can well position themselves worldwide. Together we can do it!”

"You have inspired each other, but also discovered common challenges and shared first ideas for joint actions. As a result, many participants felt both motivated and supported to roll out ambitious strategies in their own cities and regions," said Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Advanced Technologies Team of DG GROW.

The seminar also allowed for the exchange of good practices among the participating cities. Taking up the mantel, Piia Wollsten, from the Mentor city of Espoo, galvanised the attendees with the story of how her city embraced digitalization to improve public services and economic redeployment in the second largest city in Finland.

“It was a pleasure to join Thessaloniki and mentor all those cities. It was a success!” said Pia.

See photos from the 3rd Academy Seminar.