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Smart cities
Smart cities

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1 Leadership and partnerships

A graphic of two pieces of a jigsaw labelled ‘Partnerships’.
Figure 1 The importance of working partnerships.

Let’s review what you know about collaboration – partnerships – and smart cities. You know that many stakeholders need to work together and understand one another’s needs. You’ve seen how exploring the city as a system of systems helps identify opportunities for integration. Last week you learned how to create a smart ecosystem map that helps identify how organisations are already working together in your city.

Many smart city publications talk of a need for new models of partnership working: public–private partnerships that create a shared vision for the smart city, bringing together leaders from city government, national government, health services, universities, business, social enterprises and the community sector. But as you know, crucial to the acceptance and success of smart cities is the involvement of citizens. Cities in which citizens take a central role are creating public–private–people partnerships.

There’s no clear beginning or end to the process of becoming smart: the road to smart cities is a ‘transition process that can take 10, 15 or even 20 years’ (van Beurden, 2011). Today’s decisions on city infrastructures and services will have consequences for the future generations who live in the city. There needs to be a huge cultural shift away from working in silos and towards integration across organisations, cities and countries. Smart city partnerships need to bring people together but they also need to be a vehicle that commissions and manages smart infrastructure and technology, dealing with issues such as finance, privacy and security.

Smart city partnerships create the opportunity to mobilise action behind a common goal and to build capacity to deliver shared smart city solutions. Many partnerships are led by city governments working with a broad range of city stakeholders. By working as a collective, smart city partners can also leverage opportunities to draw in funding and inward investment.

Cities are adopting different types of smart city partnership model. Some have informal partnerships where partners come together to share experiences, develop ideas and bid for funding. This is common where a city has recently started developing a smart city programme. Others are starting to adopt more formal governance structures. Genoa Smart City, for example, has a Memorandum of Understanding that is led by the city government and is signed by companies who engage in analysis of the feasibility of specific projects.

As smart city programmes are scaled up, cities will look to more formal governance structures for their smart city partnerships that reflect the needs and aspirations of the partners and stakeholders. A good governance structure needs to build on the objectives of the programme, and allow it to be managed in a transparent and accountable way. It also needs to address issues such as who are the decision makers, how they are accountable and to whom. It will be important to consider where any funding has come from and who controls this, as well as any assets or intellectual property. The legal framework is also important and differences exist in legal systems around the world, so no one model will fit all.

Currently it is still common for city government to manage smart city programmes and tender projects when they need other parties to deliver aspects of the programme, such as a roll out of smart meters. In this case a memorandum of understanding and procurement processes can be used. But in the future we will see other approaches.

For example, Bristol Is Open [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] is delivering smart city research and development initiatives funded by local, national and European funding, and by the private sector. It is a company limited by shares, and is owned by the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council. Its board is responsible for working policies but long-term partners are invited to join an advisory panel and to have influence on its work (Bristol Is Open, 2014).

At a European level the European Commission has established the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC), which brings together cities, industry and citizens to improve urban life through more sustainable, integrated solutions. By pooling resources the partnership aims to co-fund demonstration projects, to help co-ordinate existing city initiatives and projects, and to overcome bottlenecks that impede the transition process.

Further reading

The Guardian newspaper has drawn up a useful summary of essential stages: 10 steps to building a smart city.