Creating smart cities with the help of citizens and businesses – The mySMARTLife Urban Transformation Strategy

Developing new ways on how to engage citizens in the city life and in an integrated city planning process is at the core of the mySMARTLife Urban Transformation Strategy. The Urban Transformation Strategy is one of the main mySMARTLife outcomes. It is based on the Smart People and Smart Economy concepts, adopting as main instrument an integrated Advanced Urban Planning. The strategy aims to support public authorities in the development of transition models on how to become a Smart City.

The Smart People concept is one of the main pillars of the Urban Transformation Strategy. It is based on the understanding that the citizen is the most important element of any urban transformation, either as consumer/user or as city “planner”. mySMARTLife is looking for new ways to engage citizens in the city life, such as local engagement activities where the citizens can actively participate in the planning of their district, or co-creation workshops with an aim to co-create ideas for defining solutions to mySMARTLife challenges. This approach is being tested in the three mySMARTLife Lighthouse Cities Nantes, Hamburg and Helsinki. For example, in Nantes, the Great Citizen Debate "Energy transition is all of us" was launched in 2017. In Hamburg, an event series titled "mySMARTLife Walks & Talks" has recently started and in Helsinki, a series of co-creation event to design solutions for Helsinki’s zoo becoming energy neutral was launched.

Another important pillar is the Smart Economy approach: A solid economic framework shall be established in a city, guaranteeing employment, an adequate income and enough variety of services. This shall attract talents and provide goods and services according to the actual requirements of the citizens.

These two concepts – Smart People and Smart Economy – highlight the central role that citizens and businesses play in the daily life of a city. The main instrument to achieve the Urban Transformation Strategy is the definition of the Advanced Urban Planning. This consists of an integrated approach of the planned city interventions on the basis of an impact assessment, an active citizen engagement in the decision-making process and a structured business approach for big companies and local SMEs and start-ups.

The foundations of the transformation strategy are made up of the following elements:

  • The involvement of the citizens in the development process of the city transformation: this shall lead to a good social acceptance of the activities that are being implemented in the city, as citizens can have a say in the planning process and will have a better understanding of the benefits.
  • The creation of a city business model, in order to create good conditions both for smaller and big companies on the policy and action levels.
  • The introduction of the concept of integrated Advanced Urban Planning, taking into account clear social, economic and environmental indicators.
  • The implementation of innovative solutions in the energy and mobility sectors, with Information and Communication Technologies as cross cutting domain to implement the smart solutions. Within mySMARTLife, this large scale validation is done in the three Lighthouse Cities Nantes, Hamburg and Helsinki.
  • The fostering of replication of these experiences of the Lighthouse Cities in the four follower cities Bydgoszcz, Varna, Rijeka and Palencia, by best practices exchange, capacity building actions and staff exchange.