Interview with Margit Noll and Judith Borsboom

By Marketplace Editorial

Margit Noll (on the left), Chair of the Management Board of the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe, leads the EIP-SCC Initiative on Scaling-up & Replication of Smart City Plans. Judith Borsboom (on the right), Head of the Urban Design and Planning Department of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is the chair of the EIP-SCC Initiative on From Planning to Implementation. These two recently created Initiatives, both part of the Integrated Planning, Policy & Regulations Action Cluster, showcased their first steps during the last EIP-SCC General Assembly (Eindhoven, May 2016) and are now planning to merge into one Initiative. “A close cooperation of the two initiatives seems therefore logic and will bring synergies in jointly approaching cities and stakeholders, connecting the different aspects along the whole smart cities and communities cycle”, they agreed.


1. Could you describe your initiatives in a few words?

MARGIT NOLL: The ‘Scaling-up & Replication of Smart City Plans’ Initiative is linked to the fact that most strategies are based upon pilot projects, living lab experiences, demonstration activities, local initiatives or experimentation. All such initiatives prepare the ground for a broader implementation of strategies towards sustainability. However, developing from a pilot action to a city wide implementation demands additional considerations regarding  longer term business models, governance concepts, infrastructure related investments up to models on how to structurally support societal initiatives and involvement. The aim of this initiative is therefore to identify key issues that need to be considered when scaling up smart cities and communities activities and to provide references and guidelines for decision makers regarding these success factors. 

JUDITH BORSBOOM: The ‘From Planning to Implementation’ Initiative deals with the different stages in the implementation of smart city plans, the obstacles and pitfalls during the implementation process and potential synergies and opportunities. Many cities have great smart city plans, but the articulation and operationalization of the plans and strategies towards their implementation is not always easy. As we are part of the Action Cluster on Integrated Planning, Policy & Regulations, this initiative focuses in particular on aspects as intergovernmental collaboration across different sectors and scales, and better collaboration with urban stakeholders such as citizens and businesses. Many cities, city networks and other actors help to build the knowledge and practice base of this initiative by sharing their experiences. Based on that, we identify best practices for specific situations, enabling others to learn from these experiences before they implement their own plans. For this reason, the initiative is also closely related to Scaling-up & Replication of Smart City Plans


2. What are the ambitions and focus areas of each Initiative? And what are the synergies you identified and discussed during the GA?

MARGIT NOLL: The focus of the Scaling-up & Replication of Smart City Plans Initiative is clearly on investigating the key factors on how to exploit the results of pilot projects at the district or city level and how to take up and use experiences made in one city in another. For this analysis, factors such as the size of the cities or the specific focus of the smart city strategy need to be taken into account. In any case, this can be seen as the final part of a full scale implementation cycle. The cooperation of the two initiatives will allow us to cover the whole smart cities and communities cycle and provide good practice examples as well as references on the various phases of this process.

JUDITH BORSBOOM: The ambition of From Planning to Implementation is to do an in-depth analysis of involved actors, of different implementation phases and of the overall performance of smart city solutions to find what works to overcome obstacles during implementation. Using this information together with other FP7 smart city projects such as CELSIUS and TRANSFORM, as well as individual cities and city networks willing to share their experiences, lighthouse and other smart city projects, businesses and citizens will enable us to create  a Smart City Guidance Package where  the EIP-SCC Initiative on Tools for Decision Making, Management & Benchmarking, to be published at the end of this year, will also  contribute.

BOTH: As has been stated above, the two initiatives address different aspects of Smart City implementation – from the initial planning up to first projects and their scaling up or replication. A close cooperation of the two initiatives seems therefore logical and will bring synergies in jointly approaching cities and stakeholders, connecting the different aspects along the whole smart cities and communities cycle. A well-coordinated approach will also support the development of a comprehensive smart cities guidance package and hopefully provide references and conclusions for decision makers in an efficient way.


3. What is the status of your initiative right now? What are the main strengths of ‘From Planning to Implementation’ and ‘Scaling up’ initiative?

MARGIT NOLL: The Scaling-up & Replication of Smart City Plans Initiative has started only recently during a workshop at the EIP-SCC 2016 General Assembly. Based on the first findings, additional interviews with cities are planned to gather references and input that will allow us to validate the first ideas on the scaling up issue. In this context, we will also involve the smart cities and communities projects funded by Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe and extend the baseline beyond the direct EIP-SCC commitments.

Some workshop related to this initiative will take place during the coming months. The first one, titled ‘Accelerating Urban Transition: Tapping the full potential of Smart City and Community Pilots’, will be held on November 16th 2016 in the scope of the Smart City Expo in Barcelona (15-17 November 2016). This event is jointly organised by the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe and the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.

JUDITH BORSBOOM: The initiative From Planning to Implementation has been doing a scan by desk research and interviews of what should be included in the Smart City Guidance package, a set of documents and tools that the Integrated Planning, Policy & Regulations Action Cluster is preparing with the objective of supporting public authorities in the development  and implementation of smart cities strategies and the identification of successful strategies. In the coming months, this will be developed by organizing more in depth interviews and desk research which will also benefit from the wealth of information in the Smart City Information Systems (SCIS). A workshop will be organized on 22nd September in Brussels and two webinars will take place in mid September and mid October. The last months of the year will be used to finalise the first version of the Smart City Guidance package.

The strengths of this initiative are the enormous commitment of cities and urban stakeholder to share their experiences very openly and its relation to nearly all other initiatives. And of course it is a great topic because it is generally acknowledged that integrated planning is mandatory but we do not have so many good examples yet of how to do this during the strategy preparation and implementation.


4. Can public and private sectors cooperate in the new merged initiative? How?

BOTH: Since any practical reference needs to be built upon verified cases, the contributions from cities, from public and private actors, businesses as well as civil initiatives are required. Actually, there are two closely related fields of activity there. On the one hand, we want to identify main obstacles and find recipes for overcoming them. On the other hand, we also want to investigate what is needed to move beyond the stage of urban acupuncture through individual pilots: what is needed for real system changes through upscaling and replication?

Therefore, we want to discuss the expectations for a full scale implementation of smart cities strategies of various stakeholders. What main obstacles are expected or have been experienced in replication and upscaling? Which changes in governance structures have taken place to ensure a full exploitation of early smart cities activities, etc.? Interested parties are highly welcome to inform us of their offers and possible contributions. 


5. What are the main challenges you are facing?

BOTH: The variety of smart city and communities strategies and actions is huge, many cities are in quite early smart cities phases and amongst many other factors the local context is highly influential for any implementation. In this diverse and complex landscape, it is challenging to identify and distil the key factors, generalise guidelines and develop recommendations applicable in various contexts. In addition, some information might be politically or financially sensitive, so it is not always easy to obtain.


6. How will this new initiative contribute to the achievement of the EIP Goals?

BOTH: The ambition is to provide information, guidelines and narratives for cities and urban actors when dealing with the various aspects of implementing smart cities and communities’ strategies. In this context we hope to help newcomers through practical references to pick up available experiences and support cities already active in the various phases to take the next step towards an effective exploitation of smart city strategies. Furthermore, we will develop the networks and knowledge base for future implementations.


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