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Commission launches innovation partnership for Smart Cities and Communities

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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."

Background

The Smart Cities and Communities Initiative was launched in 2011. In the first year (2012), € 81 Million has been earmarked for this initiative, covering only two sectors: transport and energy. Demonstration projects financed under the scheme can be in either one of the two sectors - rather than the two combined.

Starting from 2013, the budget has been increased from € 81 Million to € 365 Million, covering three areas instead of two: energy, transport and ICT. In addition, each and every demonstration project financed under the scheme must combine all the three sectors. Pooling the sources together also means using synergies.

With this Smart Cities Partnership, the EU will help to establish strategic partnerships between those industries and European cities to develop and roll out the urban systems and infrastructures of tomorrow.

A High level group consisting of CEOs from R&D-intensive industries, city mayors, regulatory authorities and public financing institutions will be set up to support the successful implementation of this innovation partnership.

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