Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
DG GROW Newsroom

Digital cities challenge high level conference sets the vision for the future of cities

Over 40 participating cities and 400 key stakeholders from policy, business and academia came together in Brussels on 5 June for the high-level conference: A Strategy for EU cities in the 21st century.











Timo Pesonen, Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs in the European Commission, set the tone for proceedings and paid tribute to the digital cities challenge before switching his attention to what the future holds. “This is the time to think about the future of our cities and the future of our citizens,” said Director General Pesonen.

Timo Pesonen on stage at the Digital cities challenge high level conference

Senior executives from leading companies and international organisations then shared the stage with academia and city representatives. They discussed everything from cities leading the global economy to visionary leadership and governance, smart growth and quality, data and infrastructure, upskilling the city and jump-starting new markets.

The event brought up city stakeholders from all over Europe keen to share ideas and experiences on the benefits and challenges of digital transformation. There were several recurring themes with the key takeaway messages for cities being

  • Putting citizens in the centre through visionary leadership and collaboration between citizens, business, academia and local governments is vital for success as city ecosystems design future strategies for smart sustainable growth.
  • City ecosystems opening data and unleashing their full potential is the big topic in smart policymaking and sustainable growth.
  • Upskilling and attracting talents through innovative and disruptive education as well as training schemes to prepare citizens for a better future.
  • Cities are vibrant market creators as they base more and more decisions on data analytics and procure cutting edge technology solutions and services.

The conference was the culmination of 18 months of coaching, collaboration, knowledge sharing and peer review. The Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs' initiative which led to the formation of a network, a declaration of cooperation and the development of numerous smart growth strategies.

In her closing remarks, Ulla Engelmann, Head of Unit for Advanced Technologies, Clusters and Social Economy in the European Commission, picked up on one of the underlying themes of the day to highlight the importance of sharing data for the benefit of citizens. “During the different presentations from the industries, it shows we are in the same direction: putting the citizens in the centre and leading smart sustainable growth,” said Engelmann.