11 May 2021

A busy few weeks for the European Commission saw the announcement of more details on three developments that are important to the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) – the EU Industrial Strategy, the Sustainable Finance and EU Taxonomy and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) legal framework. The ICC looks forward to seeing how these new tools will help the cities on their smart, green and digital transformation journeys.

EU Industrial Strategy 

On 5 May, the European Commission published the updated EU Industrial Strategy. It reaffirms the priorities set out in the original Strategy published in March 2020, while at the same time responds to the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis to boost the recovery and enhance the EU's open strategic autonomy. Europe is embarking on a transition towards climate neutrality and digital leadership, and the European industrial strategy aims to ensure that European industry can lead the way as we enter this new age. 

Besides taking into account of the new circumstances following the COVID-19 crisis, the Industrial Strategy focusses on 3 key areas.

  • Strengthening the resilience of the Single Market,
  • Strengthening the EU’s open strategic autonomy and dealing with the EU's strategic dependencies,
  • Accelerate the ‘twin transitions’ towards a greener and more digital EU industry.

The new Industrial Strategy will have great influence on European cities, as more emphasis will be placed on resilient and diversified supply chains as well as on the (over) dependency in key industrial ecosystems like health and energy. The Commission will also support new industrial alliances in strategic areas where such alliances are the best tool to accelerate activities that would not develop otherwise. Transition pathways will be created in partnership with industry, public authorities, social partners and other stakeholders in an effort to offer a better bottom-up understanding of the scale, cost and conditions of the required action to accompany the green and digital transitions. All this will help European cities and citizens to emerge better than before from this crisis.

EU Sustainable Finance and Taxonomy

On 21 April, the Commission established which economic activities can be labelled as green across the European Union (EU) through its adoption of the first set of criteria under the Sustainable Finance and EU Taxonomy. 

The package consists of the EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) proposal and six amending Delegated Acts on fiduciary duties, investment and insurance advice. These tools all aim to strengthen the EU’s ability to transition into a climate neutral and green future. The impact of the tools will support efforts to align the existing financial frameworks with the goals and ambitions of the European Green Deal.

As cities will be at the centre of Europe’s green and sustainable recovery, the ICC appreciates the economic contributions made by this financial package towards this vision. We particularly welcome the push to green for sectors that are crucial to the ICC, such as energy, manufacturing, transport and buildings. The ICC further supports the recognition under the CSRD of the need for different, proportionate standards for SMEs than those applied to larger companies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) legal framework

On the same day, the Commission detailed its proposal to turn Europe into a global hub for ‘trustworthy AI’. This ambitious goal for a ‘European approach to excellence in AI’ attempts to increase trust by prohibiting certain practices and placing additional requirements on so-called ‘high-risk’ AI systems. The Commission hopes to meet this goal through the first ever legal framework on AI, a new Coordinated Plan with Member States and new rules on Machinery.

ICC cities have already recognised the many useful applications of AI. Pori (Finland) spoke about their use of AI (RoboAI) in their Meet the Cities interview and Amsterdam Metropolitan Area has been using AI technology in its Civic AI lab to improve the lives of citizens. 

The prioritisation of ensuring Europe leads the way with AI is welcomed by ICC. We look forward to seeing how the future of trustworthy AI will push the cities of the future into their digital journey.