Once again, the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) has demonstrated its potential for creating opportunities for connecting cities. This week, for the first time in ICC history, several ICC cities gathered to meet for a local chapter meeting in Greece. This is the first of a series of geographical and thematic workshops intended to support the evolution of the networking and cohesion process for ICC cities. The event brought together 11 Greek municipalities and saw great success.
Among the attendees were the municipalities of Chalcis, Corfu, Heraklion, Ioannina, Kavala, Palaio Faliro, Patras, Thessaloniki, Trikala, Tripoli, Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni. In total, 62 people attended to hear from 13 presenters and discuss, exchange knowledge and plan cooperation on the upcoming challenges for their local areas. The event was moderated by Panagiotis Palaistis from KPMG and welcomed a representative from the Greek Ministry of Development, Orestis Kavalakis, General Secretary of Private Investments and PPPs “Opportunities for Municipalities through PPPs & Private Investments” in addition to several Mayors.
Whilst the meeting had a largely national focus, spokespeople from the Netherlands were in attendance in the form of Farida Polsbroek, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Jan-Willem Wesselink - PM of the City Deal from the Future City Foundation: “The Dutch City Agenda and City Deal Approach”.
A series of new ideas and tangible outcomes came from the event which included:
- The prerogative to optimize access to funding was a top takeaway. There is an unprecedented amount of budget available for Greek cities (including €90 million from national Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) for 17 cities and €230 million from Cohesion funds). There is further additional financing from National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), Horizon programmes and other European financial instruments. For the effective transition of this money to intelligent municipalities, support is needed to ensure the money is spent wisely.
- The possibility of introducing training mechanisms for the staff of the municipalities and of leveraging resources through special tools such as public–private partnership (PPP) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) contracts was also raised.
- The importance of linking the smart city’s transition plan with the broader strategic goals of each municipality was agreed upon.
- Smart tourism was also part of the conversation, with a focus on using data analysis to support the tourism model, and to distinguish the impact on the environment and the impact on other activities.
- Four pillars for the transition in cities were identified and explored:
- Environment – a focus should be on natural resources management, waste and water management.
- De-carbonisation of energy and addressing energy poverty - a need for monitoring and local energy mapping of energy supply and demand (including public companies, private companies and citizens’-led infrastructure) was highlighted. As was the need to better match supply and demand and make informed decisions on investments needed.
- Citizen engagement - building up trust between the citizens and the local government is a prerequisite for effective engagement with policy making, however this is not mature yet so needs addressing through a bottom-up strategy that works with and for citizens.
- Green and digital skills for all - digital services for all citizens are important and should be accessible.
To ensure the continued progress, an informal working group will be set up to elaborate on the findings of the session and drive action forward. This group will help in the transfer of know-how, provide support, and will reinforce information dissemination and active networking for all 11 Municipalities. The ICC is pleased it was able to facilitate these discussions and allow the cities to connect. It was observed that the ICC will help to mature the strategic approaches of municipalities and transfer best practices.
A short evaluation of the meeting revealed that the ICC thematic tracks that the Greek municipalities would like to learn more about are citizen participation and digitisation of public administration and green economy and local green deals. It also showed a high satisfaction rate and demand for another similar meeting. Therefore, ICC will ensure future geographical meetings take place and looks forward to leading this new direction.