One of the greatest challenges facing the EU is how best to design and adapt cities into smart intelligent and sustainable environments. Almost three quarters of Europeans live in cities, consuming 70% of the EU’s energy. Congestion costs Europe about 1% of its GDP every year; most of it is located in urban areas. Smart urban technologies can make a major contribution to tackling many urban challenges.
By launching a Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC) the European Commission aims to boost the development of smart technologies in cities – by pooling research resources from energy, transport and ICT and concentrating them on a small number of demonstration projects which will be implemented in partnership with cities. For 2013 alone, € 365 million in EU funds have been earmarked for the demonstration of these types of urban technology solutions.
Currently many obstacles limit the potential of innovative smart technologies, for example high technological risk, difficulties over uncertain returns on investment or regulatory difficulties. In tough economic times, businesses and cities are also reluctant to scale up and rapidly deploy innovative technologies despite potential cost savings and longer-term emissions reductions.
The transport, energy and ICT services and value chains are also now converging. The EU has many years of experience promoting and implementing urban projects in transport, energy and information technology, those efforts need also to converge to create “new thinking” across sectors.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger stated: “Innovation drives Europe’s competitiveness and is the best means of addressing energy efficiency. Thanks to this partnership, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, smart metering, real-time energy management, or zero-energy buildings neighbourhoods solutions will spread among more and more European cities.”
Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: ”Transport is the lifeblood of every city for people and business. But Europe’s cities suffer most from road accidents, congestion, poor air quality and noise. We need to drive forwards the research and innovation that can bring us to our goals of CO2 free cities, phasing out conventionally fuelled cars from city centres, to smart charging of electric vehicles and smokeless silent buses.”
Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “ICTs put the ‘smart’ in ‘smart cities’. It challenges legacy industries to rethink how to reduce congestion and increase energy efficiency in the urban environment; enabling new business models and empowering people.”
The Commission Memorandum giving further background on Smart Cities and Communities is here: