Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Intelligent Cities Challenge and Intelligent city ecosystems

Intelligent Cities Challenge and Intelligent city ecosystems

Our cities have an important role to play the promotion and uptake of advanced technologies for smart, green, sustainable growth and social development models. They can boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy for green industrial transition and ensure better living conditions for their populations. They can create the right conditions to accelerate technological transformation and support disruptive innovation of businesses, organisations and public administrations. European Commission initiatives recognise the need for an integrated and coordinated approach to support local policy makers to understand the application of advanced technologies and the opportunities they provide, so that they can design flexible, future-proof policies.

The 100 Intelligent Cities Challenge

The 100 Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) is helping 100 smaller EU cities to lead green, climate-neutral, sustainable growth - improving the quality of life for people in these cities. With cities representing 72% of EU the population, 80% of global GDP and 70% of global CO2 emissions, using advanced technologies to achieve these goals is as important as ever.

European cities are addressing challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality, traffic, air quality, urban manufacturing, jobs, and smart health. They do so by leveraging advanced technologies to create smart, green and sustainable growth as well as social development models. They boost the efficient use of resources, put into practice clean, circular economy, incentivise green industry and ensure better living conditions for their people. They create the right framework to reset their economies in a sustainable, tech-savvy and socially responsible way. European Commission initiatives recognise the need for an integrated and coordinated approach to support local governments to grasp the opportunities of advanced technologies while designing successful local policies.

The ICC offers strategic advice and helps cities to

  • build vibrant public-private ecosystems 
  • identify local strengths and shape ambitious vision and strategies to accelerate the green and digital transition and develop a social economy
  • leverage cutting edge technologies to bring innovation and accelerate the cities’ transition
  • learn from peer cities and mentors and engage in long-lasting collaborations

The challenge builds on the success of the Digital Cities Challenge (see below).

Following an open call for expression of interest, 89 applications, involving 125 cities, were selected to take part in the challenge over the next two years. The selected cities include 54 new ICC core city applications, 26 core cities that took part in the preceding Digital Cities Challenge and 9 EU mentor cities. We will still select one European mentor city as well as 10 international cities to complete the list of the 100 cities.

Previous initiatives on intelligent city ecosystems

The Digital Cities Challenge

The Digital Cities Challenge initiative helped 41 cities to become more innovative, better places to live by putting advanced technologies at the service of their citizens. The challenge offered high-quality policy counsel and coaching from high-level experts with local and international experience. This tailored support helped them to develop and implement strategic plans addressing economic growth and social welfare, leveraging the opportunities of advanced technologies. The Digital Cities Challenge helped cities, representing over 1.5 million small and medium-sized enterprises to

  • mobilise ambitious political leadership and adopt digital transformation strategies and roadmaps
  • engage citizens in shaping the city vision and strategy
  • become conscious of the issues of technological sovereignty
  • deploy open data platforms and digitise physical infrastructure
  • upskill people for the jobs of the future
  • create vibrant markets for cutting-edge technology solutions

Blueprint for cities and regions as launch-pads for digital transformation

The Blueprint for cities and regions as launch-pads for digital transformation by the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship illustrates the strategic role of urban and regional ecosystems in leading a modern, smart transformation of their territories. It also underlines the importance of a holistic approach that is built on visionary political leadership and strong partnership with all local actors and citizens. An online tool for the blueprint defines the specific recommendations for local stakeholders on how to support digital transformation and presents the 13 case-studies in detail. Yet, the key to digital transformation remains leadership. Digital transformation has to be led from the top, with active involvement from policy makers and higher management in both the public and private sectors. To enable them to better appreciate the functioning of advanced technologies, as well as their social, economic and regulatory implications, the report, ‘Digital compass for policy makers: technologies, impact and recommendations’ by the Strategic Policy Forum highlights the possibilities, opportunities and effects of advanced digital technologies and sets out a three-stage approach to deliver effective, successful digital experiences.

Other Commission actions

  • The European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities brings together European cities, industry leaders and citizens to improve urban life through sustainable and innovative smart solutions.
  • Join, Boost, Sustain - a declaration on joining forces to boost sustainable digital transformation in cities and communities in the EU.
  • Mission for climate-neutral and smart cities to support and promote 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate-neutrality by 2030. The mission board recognises that smart technologies, data platforms and urban system modelling can improve the efficient use of resources and better decision making, but also indicates that this will only be achieved through use modern digital infrastructure, deployment of the Internet of Things and related applications at scale.
  • Many smart cities projects promote the development of cities with better public services, better use of resources and less impact on the environment, thanks to advanced technologies.
  • The Commission has set-up an interregional partenership, the 'Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation', to offer hands-on support for the creation of investment pipelines for cross-regional projects across the EU. The platform strengthens cooperation across and between European regions, clusters and value chains that are aligned with smart specialisation priorities.