An adaptive ecosystem for smarter cities

What are the building blocks required to create an active, smart and adaptive ecosystem for smart cities and municipalities? Together with Belgian banker Belfius, we are aiming to identify those elements that actually cross traditional boundaries and ultimately lead to a multi-municipal approach.

Smart cities: two main approaches

Smart cities have been talked about for years, with two main approaches being taken so far. The first tackles the issue in a highly technical, infrastructure-intensive way (e.g. London, Barcelona, Santander and Rio de Janeiro), while the second considers it from the citizens’ point of view (e.g. Ghent, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Manchester and Milan).

Belgian local authorities in the front row

Even though Belgium is not yet considered a leader in smart cities, it has a lot to offer in this field, with many smart city “fundamentals” incorporated into the policy statements of almost all local authorities around the country. Two-thirds of them have signed a voluntary agreement to achieve the following targets by 2020:

  • reduce their energy consumption by 20%
  • reduce their reliance on fossil fuels by 20%
  • use 20% more renewables.

This smart direction is one that you won’t find in any other country, and we should be proud of that fact.

Banker to municipalities

Smart cities are developed with the involvement of companies and citizens. Each project is aligned with the strategic plans of the city in such areas as mobility, climate and energy. With its unique track record as the banker to municipalities, our Prime Foundation Partner Belfius has the connections, expertise and solutions to to bring their smart city projects to fruition.

Partner for the long haul

Francis Hayen, responsible for ‎Smart Cities & Sustainable Development at Belfius, explains: “It’s important to have the right partners for a smart city project. But the right partners should not just be involved in one single project; they should be in it for the long haul and help local authorities to create an adaptive, active, smart ecosystem for all their projects.”

What is a smart ecosystem?

So what actually is a smart ecosystem? Francis: “It brings together players of different types and sizes to create, scale and serve markets in ways that are beyond the capacity of a single organisation. Equally important is its diversity, as this results in a better ability to learn, adapt and innovate together. It’s the next level for smart cities. Such ecosystems, however, do not exist today and no academic studies have yet been conducted in this field. Together with Vlerick, we want to define the building blocks for smart ecosystems.”

Francis Hayen, responsible for ‎Smart Cities & Sustainable Development at Belfius: “Adaptive ecosystems for smart cities do not exist today and no academic studies have yet been conducted in this field.”

Digital transformation

At Vlerick, the study will be coordinated by Professor Stijn Viaene: “This smart city project allows us to delve deeper into how governments tackle digital transformation. It’s a great way for us to access the best cases in the Belgian market, and find the ones that fit our research, without compromises. It also ties in with the smart government project we recently set up with the province of East Flanders.”

Stijn Viaene, Professor of Technology & Operations and Vlerick partner: “This project allows us to delve deeper into how governments tackle digital transformation.”