Smart cities Smart cities

There is a strong interrelation between smart cities and the regional and urban development as well as between smart villages and regional and rural development.  Cities are microcosms which condense many regional policy priorities and have some specificities to be addressed, as some urban areas today face many difficulties including significant levels of poverty. Smart cities aims at improving liveability and sustainability of cities, by ensuring scaling up and replicating smart city solutions, which will help reaching the 20/20/20 energy and climate goals in cities.

Given increasing urbanisation trends, transformations towards knowledge-intensive economies, cultural trends and growing shares of resource consumption and emissions, cities become even more of a focal point for achieving economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. All this puts cities under great pressure, especially in times of very tight public budgets. Transforming European cities toward more sustainable objectives requires considerable investment and effort, especially for those cities which have obsolete infrastructures, or are not technologically ready. In addition, facing those huge investments may be almost impossible for cities and regions, because the debt crisis has hit many municipal budgets severely. The decarbonisation efforts of cities risk being delayed by falling tax revenues and austerity measures. This will also negatively affect industries in the low-carbon sector, employment and ultimately adversely hit the economy, as energy, transport and ICT are core economic sectors.

In this picture, the Commission published a Communication on Smart Cities and Communities in July 2012. The goal of the Smart Cities and Communities Innovation Partnership (EIP SCC) aims at tackling some common challenges affecting cities. Its goal is to exploit the untapped innovation potential and to catalyse commercial deployment of smart city solutions in the key economic (and most risky) areas of energy, transport and mobility and ICT. The EIP will act on two fronts, on the demand and supply side:

  • The demand side measures include the identification and validation of new business models, new approaches to public procurement and identifying and converging on regulatory measures and standards.
  • On the supply side, the EIP will implement a limited number of large scale projects (the Lighthouse projects), at the intersection of transport, energy and ICT, targeting large-scale demonstration of SCC concepts in city contexts, where existing or very near-to-market technologies will be integrated in innovative ways. Yet, commercial roll-out in city environments is also within scope inasmuch as the projects are to prepare the ground for it.

Given the complexity, size and socio-economic and environmental impact of the projects, strict conditions, and synergies with other actors and funds are essential to achieve your goals. In this context, ESIF are fundamental co-instruments to achieve innovation, sustainability and smart cities goals. As already announced in the Communication, the large scale projects foreseen in the implementation phase of the EIP could be funded from a number of sources: EU funding including H2020, ERDF and Cohesion Fund, national and regional funding, and private investments. EU cohesion policy can provide support for research and innovation in these areas. The EU rural development policy (EAFRD) can further support investments and innovation in smart villages in rural areas, multiplying in this way the effects achieved by smart cities' developments and brining up additional synergies between the various ESI Funds and making the rural-urban linkages even stronger. The participation of the ESI Funds to the implementation of smart projects can contribute to achieve smart growth in all regions, cities and rural areas.

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