Steal with pride and share with passion
When is stealing something the right thing to do? We learn from a young age that society frowns on the concept of stealing. Yet, in the case of the Horizon 2020 programmes, I would argue that we should actively borrow from each other, with transparency and with pride, in order that we can combine, build, improve and then share what works with passion.
My name is Nathan Pierce and I am delighted to introduce myself to you as the new Programme Director for Sharing Cities. Sharing Cities is an EU funded Horizon 2020 programme that will, over five years, demonstrate Smart City solutions that will benefit civic society in tangible ways and that can be replicated in any city regardless of the local circumstances. I was drawn to this programme as it reflects my desire to shift cities to a place where sharing and learning together become the norm and ‘starting from scratch’ becomes archaic.
My background is in public realm commissioning for a council in London. London has 32 separate local councils and each commissioning and operating in slightly different ways. Whilst there are amazing examples of collaboration and partnership working it is still common for areas to act as small islands on their own. This has led me to question how many times must the wheel be reinvented at a city level?
Innovation is about borrowing what works and packaging it in new ways that benefit a wider range of actors. Smart city technology is at the forefront of this. The technology has come a long way in the past decade with common themes and functionalities emerging that can be replicated by other cities. Smart solutions to everyday problems benefit from scale, which means there is little benefit in being protective. The more cities start to generate information and share across common platforms the more nuanced information is shared and more accurate decisions can be made.
So what does this mean for Horizon 2020? To begin with the odds are in our favour. At the heart of Horizon 2020 is a drive to do things in collaboration and be bold in how we do it. There is €250 million to be spent by seven consortia in broadly similar ways such as Urban Platforms, Humble Lamposts, financing and business models etc. This investment can be used to shape the market to maximise the impact of our joint spending power. Organisations such as Eurocities can help to drive and facilitate through their pan-EU networks. And we have the leverage to call on a range of experts to input into new models as they emerge. In the Sharing Cities programme for example we have a Global Advisory Board, chaired by Greg Clark, to help steer and inject reality into our bold ambitions.
To this end, and ahead of the EIP conference in Eindhoven, I would urge European partners to embrace such an approach. Wherever possible we should strive for common designs and methods which reduce the barriers to interaction. For example:
- Standard approaches to project planning methodologies can promote shared approaches to programme design, replication and articulating interdependencies.
- Designing solutions around the end user that will are practical and applicable across cities.
- Refine how we learn from each other and package it in a way that is easily replicable and scalable.
- Share newly created products with passion and actively promote to others, inviting input, criticism and collaboration
- Implementation of shared solutions, demonstrating how others can benefit
- Continuous cycle of sharing and learning
So far Sharing Cities has pursued this trajectory. Our vision and aims were co-produced at our launch event in January. As well as our three lead cities (Milan, Lisbon and London) we have three fellow cities (Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw) who are actively involved in the overall process and a further 80 interested ‘scale up’ cities who are ready and willing to replicate our new business models as they emerge. We are already exploring ways in which we can scale up activity to trigger extra investment. For example, in our Humble Lampposts programme we are engaging with areas outside of the demonstrators who are keen to invest, therefore allowing us to scale up demand above and beyond the programme funding. The audacious aim is to trigger €500 million in scale up funds over the five years of the programme
As we move towards standard ways of doing things we save money. We save time. We improve designs. We can procure with more muscle and drive up demand. We can influence with confidence. We can start to shift the focus of cities, industry and funders towards the vision and outcomes of the Horizon 2020 programme. We should be proud about what we steal, and passionate about what we share.