European cities hit key smart technology milestone with €250m investment

London, Lisbon, Milan, Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw trigger investment in smart technologies as part of Sharing Cities programme

The UK may have left the European Union, but London, in a scheme led by mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured above), is working closely with other European nations to build workable business models for smart technologies.

Launched in 2016, Sharing Cities is a major international smart cities project that aims to address some of the most pressing urban challenges facing today’s cities, such as energy use, low-carbon transport and buildings, and harnessing data for the city’s good. The project works on the basic understanding that green technologies have led to significant change across the cities, which will continue to maintain close links in advancing research and development efforts in this area in coming years.

The five-year, European Commission-funded programme supports smart city technologies to maximise their benefit for Londoners and prove they can be replicated throughout Europe. The programme brings together 34 partners from across government, industry and academia and is on course to meet its ambitious target of €500m by 2021 as each city redoubles its focus on attracting investment into technologies it has been developing over recent years.

By developing business models that can be scaled up and replicated across European cities, Sharing Cities has supported the growth of a new green smart infrastructure market, which the project leaders say is a critical step in making London a zero-carbon city by 2030.

All six cities have demonstrated the benefits that using smart technologies and working together can have on carbon reductions, service delivery and wellbeing. The project is led by the mayor of London and delivered by a partnership of public and private sector organisations in the lead cities of London, Milan and Lisbon, and the fellow cities of Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw.

Initiatives within the project have already tested technologies and developed data-sharing platforms that increase the impact of these innovations. Building improvements to reduce energy consumption and electric mobility schemes – such as e-bike and e-car sharing, electric vehicle charging points and smart parking – make up most of the investment across the cities, with further funding expected to develop carbon-neutral neighbourhoods and build mobile apps to help people reduce energy consumption in their daily lives.

The project has already seen 10 low-carbon technologies – including retrofitting buildings with energy-saving measures, developing sustainable energy management systems for new and existing developments, shared electric mobility and smart street infrastructure – hit 50% of their target investment from a mix of public and private funds.

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The process of moving from pilot to scaleup has been captured and published in a series of five playbooks available for other London boroughs and cities in the UK to adopt. The playbooks have been designed to help councils considering using smart technology to deliver better services, covering topics ranging from improving urban mobility to engaging communities in sustainable lifestyles.

Insights from the programme will continue to inform the Mayor of London’s Recovery Programme in responding to the challenges and impacts of Covid-19, by using digital technology to turn London into a cleaner, greener and more resilient city, as established in the mayor’s Green New Deal.

In London, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is expanding the installation of low-carbon heating systems across its social housing stock. The borough has also been implementing a range of e-mobility measures to accelerate the shift from diesel to electric vehicles and encourage active travel, such as cycling and walking. 

“We’ve shown that these technologies are a growing part of the green transition, a top priority for cities and governments across the world as they plan the recovery of our economies,” said London’s chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell. “London is proud to be a global testbed for the kinds of partnerships and innovations that are attractive to investors, scalable and designed to meet people’s needs.”

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