SCIS gives first recommendations to the EC on support and policy actions needed to address the market gaps in the field of smart cities

by
Igor Taranic, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)
29 March 2017

One of the missions of the Smart Cities Information System (SCIS) is providing the European Commission with recommendations on how to improve the European policies in the areas of urban innovation and planning, research and development and how to better support the EU-funded smart cities projects.

For this purpose, SCIS collects and analyses lessons learned from dozens of projects implementing various technological solutions, in different Member States with a plethora of administrative rules and cultures. We distill the knowledge and experience and turn them into policy recommendations.

In February 2017 the SCIS team had the first opportunity to present our analysis and lay out proposals for best course of action to address the challenges these projects are facing. The presentation was attended by dozens of officials from DG Energy, the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), as well as other related European Commission’s structures potentially impacting the future EU  programmes for Smart Cities and, specifically, the Horizon 2020 programme.

Connecting the bottom-up experience of specific projects to overreaching top-down policies at European level, we classified the recommendations into the following main types:

  • Specific recommendations for Horizon 2020
  • Recommendations for stakeholder engagement and communication of projects’ results
  • General policy recommendations.
  • EU Support Coordination 

Horizon 2020

Our analysis shows that usually the biggest barriers to project’s success are not the technologies, but barriers of regulatory andadministrative nature. Therefore, our recommendations are:

Feasibility studies should scope in detail all regulatory hurdles to be addressed, for example, planning restrictions for historical buildings and privacy rules and the use of data. Exchanges with other project developers, architects or other experts involved in similar projects can also be helpful.

Focus on reaching results and less on bureaucracy and administration. Uncertainty is a central part of research and innovation does not fit strict risk-averse and rigid rules on timescales, impacts etc. This should be better reflected in the financial support structure.

Long payback times are part of the innovation process and this information needs to be treated carefully. Payback prices for R&I demonstrations say little on future market viability, in fact, learning and returns to scale will determine price In addition, in integrated technology demonstrations, future performance of individual parts cannot be judged.

In terms of public procurement rules, we recommend the use of life cycle costing, not only of capital costs and the introduction of better rules on life cycle costing when it comes to the choice of technologies.  Innovative and sustainable long-term solutions should be favoured with regards to testing new approaches and in view of cheaper replication.

There should be a focus on simple (user friendly, seamless) and efficient technologies, projects advise. Users prefer autonomous low intervention technologies. Those that need intervention will often be sub-optimally used and results will be worse.

Provide a common, consistent and reliable set of KPIs. This is necessary to assess the performance of projects (i.e. buildings and energy systems) together with the means to obtain the data required to perform the measurement

It is important to develop a robust monitoring protocol that should include clear specifications for the planning, installation and operation phases of the monitoring system.

Dissemination and management activities help to improve the focus of the management and should remain 100% funded in Horizon 2020 projects.

Stakeholder engagement and innovative communication

Use of co-creation process involving the relevant stakeholders on early stages of project planning, as well as use of crowdsourcing. The tenders should require that the proposals are more precise regarding citizen engagement: strategy and tools, recording of data, data use, method of crowdsourcing and crowdsource funding, risks, co-creation methods. As such approaches generate uncertainty on the final choices and timing the European Commission (and other public authorities) should also be more flexible on the budget.

There is a need to introduce innovative communication tools, such as short and concise storytelling, videos to communicate results and serious gaming as methods to spreading information in a more convincing and persuasive way; special innovation events for the dissemination and creative processes on Horizon 2020 projects’ results. 

General policy recommendations

Projects need regulatory certainty. Frequently changing national regulatory frameworks (for example, the Spanish RES support schemes) distort primary financial assessments and at times the viability of projects.

Big data barriers needs to be addressed. Legislation is needed to solve the barriers to data use while addressing data security issues. Conditions to access data securely need to be set up

EU support coordination

A greater effort is necessary towards exploiting synergies and complementarities among different EU programmes and financial instruments. On one hand this requires better guidance, establishing of synergy between funds and simplification of procedures. A key to facilitate replication is for stakeholders to understand the role of funds and how to combine them to ensure projects are not stand-alone oddities, but part of a larger approach in cities. On the other hand, new financing schemes, for example, using ESIF and EFSI, need to be developed to facilitate upscaling and replication.

What comes next? In the following months SCIS will build on this initial assessment through collecting more lessons learned from projects through interviews, meeting and questionnaires. Furthermore, we will conduct several studies on replicability of projects and identify additional experiences and suggestions on local, national, regional, and EU level. If you want to help us in our mission to provide recommendations to policy makers on support and policy actions needed to address the market gaps, get in touch with igor.taranic@ceps.eu and share your story! 

Igor Taranic works as an Associated Researcher at CEPS, where he has been involved in numerous projects on smart cities, circular economy and European energy policy. His previous working experiences include Israeli Prime Minister's Office and consulting to Israeli chemical industry companies. Igor holds MA in Economics from the College of Europe, MA in European studies from Dusseldorf University and BA in international relations from IDC Herzliya. He is fluent in Russian, Hebrew, English and Ukrainian, and speaks some French, German, Romanian and Yiddish. You can write to him on igor.taranic@ceps.eu