SCEWC 2016 in Barcelona: impressive display of city solutions, rewarding feedback on SCIS and some sun

by
Jorge Nunez-Ferrer
13 December 2016
Jorge Nunez-Ferrer presenting SCIS during SCEWC 2016 in Barcelona

Attending the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, the largest smart cities event in Europe, is always special and this year was no different. Of course, another strong case for my presence in Barcelona is also getting some sun in November and catching up with my parents, who live there. This year though, I had an even greater incentive: I could finally bring to Barcelona our project - the most comprehensive and user friendly database ever created on EU funded smart cities projects - The Smart Cities Information System (SCIS).

What’s more, for me and my colleagues from the SCIS team the event was the place we could meet the people behind the projects included in this special database. Listening to their presentations and having face-to-face discussions is enriching and helps us understand in more depth the information we are offering to our customers.

The impressive display of city solutions in the expo made the experience very particular, with drones, robots and computer applications competing for space and attention in contrast to booths presenting their innovation with models made out of LEGO. A demonstration showing that some low tech solutions can attract a lot of attention. 

What makes the expo in Barcelona different is that the workshops and discussions are not confined to the congress programme, but also overflow the exhibitions space, which creates a more laid-back atmosphere and real conversation with the audience. I was delighted to hold three such sessions and present the Smart Cities Information System website, which is truly rewarding given the many months of work our dedicated team has spent on its design. Whilst there is still work to do in uploading and analysing information, we are now cruising ahead.

The feedback from the public on the cool visualisation tool was very encouraging. Participants said that the website is very welcome because it provides access to information, which is otherwise difficult to find. This is particularly true in the case of a young researcher who was trying to establish an overview of all EU interventions in his field and was struggling to gather the scattered information from across many websites. This is true, presently, there is no clear overview of all the projects and their results, which are presented in a general manner, in different forms and not easy to find or compare. SCIS offers both ‘at a glance’ overview and also in-depth knowledge, which is highly appreciated. 

As I am leading the work on policy within SCIC, for me it was particularly encouraging to see the strong interest in the policy and finance section of the website and the audience’s surprise at some of the real-life examples from EU projects we brought up.  What emerged as the most intriguing case study was the Swedish demo site of the BEEM-UP project, where they came up with a lateral thinking solution to overcome a legal barrier stating that owners cannot increase rents to tenants due to renovation, unless the results offer the tenants sufficient benefits. The improved living conditions including lower expenses, accessibility and increased flats surface of 4 m2 allowed the owners to increase the rents in order to recuperate the investment. I won’t go into further detail, as you can read the whole story about Sweden here, but one thing was evident to me – the great response from the visitors showed that SCIS can offer a clear added value to its users.

Same time, same place next year the SCIS team will surely be demonstrating the fully developed database of figures, technologies, solutions, lessons learned and, honestly, I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Jorge Nuñez-Ferrer has studied economics and agricultural economics in the London School of Economics, Wye College and Imperial College of the University of London. He is Independent consultant & Associate Research Fellow in the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. His central area of work is the analysis of the implications of policy decisions on the economy, in particular those financed by the EU budget: the quality of the strategies, their efficiency and their appropriateness in the national context as well as the wider implications.

Between 2000 and 2004, he worked in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Financial and Economic Affairs in the areas of agricultural, rural development policies and structural funds. Since, he has been working as a consultant for a number of national and international organisations and think tanks. From January 2012 to end of 2013 he was the chair of the Finance Group of the EU's Smart Cities Stakeholder Platform, a governing body of the EU's Smart Cities and Communities initiative. Presently he is a policy and finance work package leader in the European Union's Smart Cities Information System (SCIS). He also works closely with a number of other organisations and teach at the Central European University in Budapest as visiting professor.

Follow him on Twitter @jnunez_ferrer