17 February 2021

Following a packed first day of the second Intelligent Cities Challenge City Lab which saw ICC cities start to draft concrete plans for their digital transformation, day 2 continued in the same proactive spirit.

ICC City Lab Day 2

City representatives began the day by engaging in another round of peer review sessions in small groups, during which they shared strategies to build back better after COVID-19 and presented their cities’ ICC journey so far. The Peer Review session with lead experts was followed by a Mentor Lounge, which provided city representatives with An opportunity for mentor cities to identify common challenges and discuss collaboration ideas, and exchange best practices on key topics such as the Local Green Deals movement, or more broadly on Reskilling and Upskilling or the Renovation Wave and the New European Bauhaus movement. Mentor city representatives from Porto (Portugal), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Antwerp (Belgium) and Aarhus (Denmark), each mentioned priority topics to explore, ranging from climate-neutrality, green transformation of SMEs and social housing, to mobility and innovation procurement.

In the afternoon, parallel workshops were organised around the following five ICC themes:

  • Green Economy and local green deals
  • Citizen participation and digitisation of public administration
  • Upskilling and reskilling
  • Supply chains, logistics and the economics of mobility
  • Green and digital transition in tourism

Each workshop was led by a Thematic Network Coordinator to orient policy, gather best practices and shape joint activities with all core cities within a specific theme. City representatives were also able to present their perspective on the given theme and share what their cities are doing in that direction.

When it comes to the Green Economy and local green deals thematic track, the main areas where cities have identified needs, as well as solutions, were the following: decarbonising industry, circular economy, renewable electricity, renovation and low carbon heat. The idea of establishing Local Green Deals (LGDs) within the ICC was also discussed, to build back better and greener after COVID. Mentor cities presented concrete examples of LGDs, such as the regional green deal, focusing on circular textiles, tech talents and sustainable jobs, showcased by the Municipality of Amsterdam (Netherlands). This example, and others, inspired participating cities to consider developing their own LGDs, such as the one between the Municipality of Tripoli and that of Corinth, which have joined the ICC as a consortium.

Regarding the Citizen participation and digitisation of public administration track, the most pressing challenges faced by participating cities were related to: systems design and data strategy, digital upskilling, implementation and execution, ensuring awareness and encouraging use by citizens, synergies with national government digital policy systems, and stakeholder management. Alice Xu, from the mentor city of Toronto (Canada), outlined her city’s efforts to ensure connectivity and digital equity, through a digital charter, a digital infrastructure plan, and a coalition of cities for digital rights. These were used as a means to empower the city to use processes, tools, data and technology in order to optimise resources and enhance the quality, accessibility and performance of urban services.

When it comes to the Upskilling and reskilling thematic track, cities shared best practices and agreed on the features that make reskilling projects successful: to be custom-oriented, flexible, and open to new suggestions and innovative solutions. The city of Espoo (Finland) developed a process in which a Board, where several key stakeholders are represented (business, societal and city authorities included), decide which project deserves attention and funding. Another best practice shared was Talent Call, a programme from the city of Pori (Finland), conceived in order to attract talent to the region. Topics such as reskilling opportunities addressed specifically to women and schemes to integrate migrant and/or foreign workers were touched upon and will be discussed in more detail in future workshops.

When it comes to the Supply chains, logistics and the economics of mobility theme participating cities shared some of the main challenges they face: severe congestions, poor transit access, noise emissions, and poor air quality and GHG emissions. These can make the cities in question unsustainable for living. When it comes to the Green and digital transition in tourism theme the link between tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was emphasized by both the moderator of the session, as well as the participating city representatives. Since tourism is a transversal activity, when the objectives of the SDGs are aligned with the objectives of the city, the implementation of the Goals is smoother. Cities have also shared examples of how they use advanced technology in the tourism sector. In particular, the Municipality of Ljubljana (Slovenia) has developed AR/VR solutions to enhance its cultural heritage and make the city more engaging for tourists and locals alike. Other technological solutions presented were the digital and data platforms designed by the city of Nice (France), which serve a dual purpose: communication channels (1), and as a medium to retrieve information on the local tourism sector (2).


ICC City Lab Day 3

Day 3 kicked off with a brief introduction of the Thematic Action Groups (TAGs), which were aimed at offering participating cities a place to gather and work on their chosen ICC theme. City representatives were split into groups and sub-groups, according to their priority theme, where they shared solutions, best practices, and failures to explore what they could do better in the future. Each group was led by the designated Thematic Action Group coordinators and supported by mentor city representatives.

In the Circular Economy TAG each participating city ranked its key priorities and shared best practices. For example, Victor Dimoulis from Corfu (Greece) explained how an initiative from community volunteers with a private contractor to gather clean recycling materials and actively participate in the recycling process contributed to solving his municipality’s waste management problem. Circular and shared mobility was also briefly discussed in this group, as city representatives from Patras (Greece) Athanasisos Kalogoras and Iiris Asunmaa from Jyväskylä (Finland) exchanged views on sustainable public transport solutions and the sharing economy. Participating cities showed a particular interest in circular business models, funding and procurement. They also highlighted existing skills gaps and the need for upskilling and reskilling as part of a circular economy.

In the Smart Tourism TAG the Spanish city of Malaga was in the spotlight for its journey of becoming the smart capital of Europe. Some of the strategies that the city deployed in achieving its goals were: attracting private sector actors (both small and large companies) to invest in the local community and establishing public-private partnerships aimed at helping the city reinvent itself by focusing on digitalization and green tourism. In the Sustainable Mobility TAG, the discussion revolved around the topic of integrated cycling networks, such as the ones deployed by the Municipality of Amsterdam (Netherlands), which represented a key component of its sustainable mobility plan.

In the second half of the day, the Tech4Good Marketplace was formally announced, which is a digital European platform to showcase innovative and sustainable tech solutions (AI-powered, blockchain, data analytics and else), best business practices, and inspiration designed to advance social, economic and environmental causes. “The idea came about after we discussed the need to create a place where cities, constant originators of solutions, could exchange tested and proven recommendations and solutions with other cities, as well as European social and economic players,” said Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Advanced Technologies Team at the European Commission. The Tech4Good Marketplace will benefit all, from intelligent cities to local and social economy actors, tech entrepreneurs and citizens. It will also serve as a display of the great work carried out by ICC cities.

Cities are invited to upload their “validated and deployed solutions” to the Tech4Good Marketplace and add to the solutions already featured in the catalogue. So far, the 25 city profiles have been approved for the Marketplace and 37 are currently being reviewed by the ICC programme team.

“The marketplace is an interesting tool to share our experiences with other cities and the ICC programme. This initiative goes back to the original reason as to why we joined ICC—to share and learn from each other. The marketplace is the embodiment of this thinking.” Teresa Bonet, Torrent (Spain)

ICC City Lab Day 4

On Day 4 of the second ICC City Lab, city representatives and experts from the cities’ local ecosystems were invited to join one of three parallel transversal sessions.

Financial experts joined the Access to Finance session, while other experts gathered for the Public Procurement session, while open data experts were grouped in the Open Data session. Speakers from city networks OASC and ICLEI, and others presented each transversal service and encouraged interaction among participants and Q&As. After the presentations, the city representatives had some time to network and engage with lead experts on their thematic interests. In these talks, cities were able to reflect on their experiences so far in the ICC programme.

The day continued with another Mentor Lounge during which participating cities shared best practices and explored potential avenues for collaboration. The city representatives from Porto (Portugal) spoke of her city’s partnership with the Finnish capital of Helsinki to develop an open data platform, as well as her city’s work on supporting the local start-up ecosystem by providing training to entrepreneurs. A representative from the mentor city of Phoenix (United States) spoke about the importance of starting joint procurement initiatives between SMEs in order to build a trust-based and effective system. Finally, a representative for Medellín (Mexico) emphasised the need to support SMEs on e-commerce and digitalization to revitalise SMEs post-COVID and to make them future-ready.

Later in the day, participating cities were given the choice between three different sessions: transversals 1:1s and ecosystems 1:1s, in which city representatives were able to submit specific questions to experts and discuss the challenges they had with them, and a communications workshops in which city representatives were able to learn how to use video as a medium to better communicate about their city’s ICC journey on social media. These sessions offered ICC cities the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other, which are two of the key benefits of being part of the Intelligent Cities Challenge network.

The last day of the second ICC City Lab ended with a regrouping of the Thematic Action Groups to talk about the learnings of the week and agree on the next steps for each TAG, and a final session for the participating cities to reflect on their learnings from the Lab and reiterate their city’s commitments. The day was concluded with the announcement of the third ICC City Lab, which will take place in May 2021.