Smart cities are innovative in so far as they set about the task of trying to create an ecosystem in which innovations harnessing 4IR technologies, including in building and zoning, can thrive. This report identified the dynamic capabilities facilitating urban innovation and innovativeness in both the public and private sectors. The analysis was carried out based on a total of 1,088 smart city projects and 206 living labs in the 31 cities.

Capacity Building for Smart City Competitiveness Through ICT R&BD Test-Bed Projects 


   The cities surveyed in this report have promoted a range of innovative projects aiming to generate socio-economical value through developing or commercialising services. The services operate on the basis of technological innovations and are intended to fit into sustainable urban ecosystems. 

The form that innovation takes in most cities is increasing capacity for smart city services and infrastructure, which is initially tested at pilot level, then scaled-up with citizen participation and advanced and diffused regions. The stage of cities’ innovative projects may be regarded a leading indicator of future direction of a smart city; further, analysis can identify the focus of smart city innovation. Analysing a total of 1,088 smart city projects, 28% were identified as ‘innovative’. Of these, 154 projects (14.2%) relating to smart city development were led by the city or private sector, while approximately 152 projects were driven by living labs. Counting all city-level innovative projects, Helsinki and Copenhagen had the largest number.  Just as in 2019, Amsterdam had the most living lab projects, followed by Seoul and Barcelona. Seoul has recently established a number of living labs across urban sectors, building a regional innovation platform that connects solutions to urban problems and implements them at borough level. Breaking down 306 smart city projects by sector, most innovative initiatives were concerned Logistics, Labour & Employment (24%), with just a few less related to Energy & Environment (23%) and Transportation (18%).

   The analysis of this section also classified 154 projects according to their goal, which was categorised as either Job Creation, Start-up Incubation, New Business Model (developing ICT R&BD business models), Special Business Zone, or Other. Most projects were related to ‘developing ICT R&BD/business models’ (50%), with ‘other’ (17%) accounting for the next largest share of projects. These innovations were in the subfields of FinTech, Smart Work and supporting industrial development. Start-up Incubation accounted for 14% of the projects, and, lastly, Job Creation accounted for 10%. Within the theme of establishing a business model, more than 35% of the projects were focused on the Energy & Environment sector. Many European projects on this theme are a cooperation between local government and SMEs in developing renewable energy. One case of Job Creation is Women in Tech in Brussels, which harnesses entrepreneurship to enhance the skills of women teachers using digital technology. ICT education, including in AI and big data analytics, upskills women teachers and lecturers in a way that allows them to get new jobs or upgrade their old ones. In a comparable case categorised as a Special Business Zone, Sydney has envisioned a special Tech. Central Zone intended to become an Australian Silicon Valley. This project, run in cooperation with the state government, sets up an innovation hub for future 4IR technologies, in which renowned research institutions will sit alongside start-ups and spin-offs. Madrid International Lab brings together different start-up programmes, including provision of their office space and funding,  grouping small business into categories depending on whether they target global markets or local ones. The scheme also provides an inbound strategy which incentivises businesses to locate themselves in Madrid and build competitive ecosystem. Among ‘other’ smart city projects, this hub has served as a test-bed for payments based on FinTech, fostering smart working and aiming to revitalise the urban fabric through a mix of residential office areas.


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