Make your city more liveable and sustainable: Ask, learn and share about energy, ICT and mobility!

Regulatory, financial and social barriers and solutions for innovation

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jorge Nuñez-Ferrer, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) | Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology Centre | Craig Martin, Delft University of Technology 

This webinar presented the SCIS framework for addressing non-technical issues in the fields of Energy, Mobility & Transport and ICT in the context of smart cities. It showcased examples of main financial and economic barriers encountered by smart cities projects; regulatory and administrative barriers, and measures needed to promote social acceptance and uptake of technologies and solutions. The EU-funded projects REMOURBAN and City-zen contributed by sharing their own experiences with non-technical challenges they have encountered and provided recommendations to smart city stakeholders.


Q & A

Q: How much of detailed and validated economic information do you find in the project cases - investment models, financing models, business models, risk sharing models?

A: This is a very good and timely question, since we are asking ourselves the same questions right now. We deal mainly with projects financed by the European Commission (FP7 and Horizon 2020), therefore financing is less of an issue. At the same time, the Smart Cities Information System (SCIS) aims to foster replication, i.e. the projects that were financed by the EC (and technologies tested) have to demonstrate best practices to be copied by others (with no EC funding). Replication of projects’ solutions requires other types of financing, than the EU funds.

This said, we do not have an answer to your question for the moment, but currently we work on a replication study, which will be published in September 2017. Financing and economic aspects are one of the main focus areas of the publication and we hope to provide some answers there.

Jorge Nunez-Ferrer, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

Q: Please elaborate more on the solutions to the financing barriers identified in project REMOURBAN, or potential solutions that have been discussed.

A: We have identified as main financing barriers the high upfront costs and the overreliance on EU funding. For this, we have been working on how assistance can be provided to promote other forms of getting good ideas funded through financing schemes as PPPs, EPCs, Tax Increment Financing or Bonds. Usually there is a lack of knowledge on how these financial schemes work or in a high number of cases they are not considered as a viable solution to finance smart city projects. As main solutions to overcome this barrier and activate these projects, REMOURBAN has identified that the creation of a Smart City projects’ market relies on two matters:

  • An active involvement of a Municipal financial department fully dedicated to smart city projects in looking for those opportunities of ‘joint venture’ with other local authorities
  • Sub-contracting to external consultant entities the activities of looking for joint ventures with other authorities, coordinating, developing and monitoring smart city projects until their completion and generally supporting the municipalities with filling in their lack of resources and competences.

Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology centre

Q: Did you consider for financing also the Ethical/Social financing solutions? (ref. REMOURBAN project)

A: For those actions where citizens act as co-investors (for example, in the building retrofitting) we are offering some soft loans solutions to finance the interventions. These soft conditions allow the possibility to pay for the actions even for people with low incomes.

Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology centre

Q: Do you apply co-creation approach or tools to ensure the participation and the co-responsibility of the citizens? (ref. REMOURBAN project)

A: Yes, we are applying some tools for co-creation. We have carried out an exercise of mapping existing tools to foster citizens’ participation and used them within our citizen engagement activities. We are implementing a three-level engagement strategy (namely, information and communication, collaboration and co-creation) depending on the action and the target groups. Regarding co-responsibility in the sense of risk-sharing, yes, citizens take certain responsibilities in some of the actions as in the e-mobility solutions or buildings’ retrofitting.

Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology centre

Q:  What about the public employees, if they weren’t interested or motivated to be active to support the project? (ref. REMOURBAN project)

A: We have found an increasing interest and motivation throughout the project to be active supporting the project as the implications, benefits and visibility have increased. It is indubitable that the project allows creating an smarter and more sustainable environment in the city which is a high priority for the public authorities, and at the same time the project is quite challenging which helps keeping high the interest and motivation.

Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology centre

Q: What are the specific elements of the Roadshow and how are they contributing to implementation of projects? (ref. City-zen project)

A: The Roadshow has many components which are strategically combined. Among these are:

  • Carbon Accounting
  • Sustainable Architecture & Urban planning
  • Serious gaming
  • Future Technologies
  • Social impact Specialists

There is a methodology the Roadshow is based on, which I have developed city-by-city and it is called ‘The Societal Impact Method’. A research paper outlining the methodology will be presented at PLEA 2017 in Edinburgh. My aim is that every activity of the 5-day event model relates to the people and their experiences, which can then be extended to include stakeholder understanding and confidence at a bigger city scale. Stakeholder faith in the process is key.

Craig Martin, Delft University of Technology  

Q: What has happened in the cities in the years after a Roadshow? (ref. City-zen project)

A: The Roadshow first began in January 2016 and in such a short timeframe it is not possible to assess the realised outputs, which resulted after each of the city visits. The encouraging short-term impacts have certainly been the change of mindset and approach to sustainability in those cities. As I mentioned in the webinar, the Roadshow gains trust without fear of any hidden agendas. As the Roadshow proposals are unbiased and supported by the European Union, each city must now take this ‘product’ forward to be realised in practice bolstered by fact that the city stakeholders have come together in common agreement on how to move toward zero energy. I have been looking at ways in which the Roadshow can be extended in terms of budget and strategy to formally revisit a Roadshow city. In my opinion, investigating onsite successes and/or bottlenecks, which may have prevented action, would be highly beneficial and even critical.

Among the short terms results of the roadshow are:

  • The first Roadshow was in the City of Belfast a little over a year and half ago and since then several meetings have taken place on a municipality and neighbourhood level
  • In Izmir, an algae façade research proposal was born out of the network that the Roadshow instigated.

I personally have revisited Izmir as a Visiting Professor to Yasar University (the hosting institution of the Izmir Roadshow) and Belfast as an external examiner at Queen’s University Belfast. In both locations I continue to build upon the sustainability and academic relationships that were forged during the SWAT Studio and Roadshow.  

Craig Martin, Delft University of Technology  

Q: How can a city apply for a kind of City-zen project?

A: If the question refers to the City-zen Roadshow and how a city can participate, you can get in touch with me directly via email ( ) and propose or recommend a city. We will then assess the city using various criteria to see if the roadshow will be a suitable approach or not.  

Craig Martin, Delft University of Technology  

A: If the question refers to funding for projects like City-zen, you should monitor the Horizon 2020 calls for tenders the European Commission publishes on their website:

Jorge Nunez-Ferrer, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

Q: How "smart" are the smart cities projects and what does this mean in the light of the recent global ransomware attack? How do projects safeguard themselves against attacks on their electronic systems? How big is their concern regarding this issue?

A: Good question. Of course security issues in the data storage and maintenance are a key aspect when considering the development of services to increase the smartness of the city. Actions as the global ransomware attack are of high concern for developers or hosts of services and there is still work to be done to increase the data security. But, in any case, this should not prevent exploiting the full potential of data to create high added value services for the citizens.

Miguel Á. García-Fuentes, CARTIF Technology centre

A: In the analysis of projects SCIS is performing we have come across mainly data privacy and protection issues.Privacy laws can be considered a hindrance for smart city projects, which require open data or shared data. For smart grids the accessibility of personal data on energy use is of paramount importance, but privacy concerns and the legislation protecting privacy may pose impossible hurdles for a number of grid solutions. There is a clear lack of public trust on big data and the fear of ‘Big Brother”.

One solution would be that data handling is done by a trusted organisation that acts as a mediator between data holders and data users. However, this is certainly an issue that requires deeper analysis.

Jorge Nunez-Ferrer, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)