Letting innovation shape the future of our smart cities

Posted: 2 August 2016 | , | No comments yet

The transport sector is currently experiencing a paradigm shift. Coinciding with transitions in the field of energy use, such as the deployment of electric modes of public transport, there are now smart and integrated transport systems and a behavioural change emphasising the sharing economy and active travel modes. These changes affect passenger, freight, businesses and leisure travel. As Ivo Cré and Nicolas Hauw from Polis explain, this paradigm shift facilitates the achievement of ‘Smart City’ objectives such as stimulating the local innovation market, mainstreaming best available technologies and knowledge-based decision-making.


On a global scale cities and industry are developing coherent operational tools to better plan and manage urban territories and improve quality of life for citizens. These tools are the practical translation of a deeper understanding of interdependencies and synergies between sectors such as transport, energy, urban planning, economic development, environment and health. The interrelation between all these sectors is what constitutes a ‘Smart City’, which is able to link all these aspects in order to aid citizens with their daily commute and travel options.

The EU is addressing the challenge to make cities smarter by means of a package of instruments: research and innovation with funded EU programmes; policy development and community building through the European Innovation Partnership, Smart Cities and Communities; and finance in combination with the European Investment Bank, the Connecting Europe Facility Programme and the European Fund for Strategic Investments. This is where specific ongoing European projects, such as the Growsmarter Project1, act as a tool to better upscale and disseminate good practices assessed by 50 public and private partners for future smart cities. The example of fast electric charging shows that transport has a lot to offer the ‘Smart City’. Polis2 wants to ensure that local urban mobility stakeholders can take full responsibility in co-creating the Smart City and pursuing Smart City objectives, without transport being made subsidiary to other sectors, such as energy. This can be the basis for appropriate EU institutional arrangements to support local transport actions in Smart Cities.

The transport sector in general leaves ample room for improvement in terms of (energy) efficiency, environmental performance (air quality and noise) and leverage for economic development. For several of these objectives, actions in transport will be more cost efficient than in other forms of urban infrastructures and sectors, where the ‘quick-wins’ have been made and ‘low hanging fruit’ has been harvested.

In particular, the urban transport field can – and should – contribute to realising European Union policy goals, whether they are overarching strategic goals (jobs and growth, energy targets), or targets applied specifically to transport (road safety, 2030 clean logistics targets etc.).

The transport sector is currently shaping and experiencing a paradigm shift, with coinciding transitions in the field of energy use (electrification), technologies (Intelligent Transport Systems, Real-Time Traffic Information) and behavioural change (sharing economy, focus on active travel). These changes affect passenger as well as freight transport; business as well as leisure travel. This paradigm shift can be directed to achieving Smart City objectives such as stimulating the local innovation market, mainstreaming best available technologies and knowledge-based decision-making.

For this reason Polis strongly believes that the urban mobility component within the Smart Cities concept should be further enhanced. Therefore, Polis recommends the following approach in terms of governance, community building and financing tools for research and innovation.


The European Commissioner for Transport should play a key role in raising awareness of the urban mobility component. Support should be given with the promotion of indicators for sustainable urban mobility plans that have been assessed and fully supported by transport peers and European stakeholders in the field of urban mobility. Furthermore, within the High Level Smart Cities and Communities representative groups, further presence of urban transport stakeholders should be ensured in order to gain equality regarding the representation of cities, business and research.

Financing research and innovation

The European Union should ensure and secure the continuation of EU funding streams of research and innovation for Smart Cities, including via the Horizon 2020 programmes; its follow-up post 2020, and the future of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology; and in particular Knowledge and Innovation Communities for urban mobility. Any budget uncertainty for the Horizon 2020 situation would hamper fundamental research and exchanges, hence potential projects that would otherwise lead to demonstration activities and ultimately deployment in the market. Additionally, we would welcome the test and trial voluntary top-down coordination of territorially grouped EU financed projects.


It is extremely important to pool several existing communities together, both at European and global cooperation levels, in order to increase existing local best-practice exchanges. This would also allow a single entry point in order to link CEF and EFSI funding to capacity and community building initiatives and further disseminate local success stories and the ‘lighthouse projects’ under the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities activities.

The GrowSmarter Project and fast-charging infrastructure experience in Stockholm

GrowSmarter is focusing on the energy efficient and environmentally sound renovation of buildings. In connection to this there are quite a few mobility solutions that complement smarter and more environmentally- and energy-efficient transportation. One of the components of this project is the implementation of local electric charging infrastructure that constitutes the backbone of electric private vehicles, be it for public fleet, private use or car-sharing schemes. Currently in deployment in Stockholm and Barcelona – based on several preliminary studies, cross benefit analysis and urban mapping – these infrastructures will serve as an incentive for citizens to change their lifestyle toward a more sustainable urban transportation system. It will improve urban mobility in terms of energy efficiency and environmental performance for air quality and noise reduction.

In an interview for Eurotransport, Eva Sunnerstedt – Project Coordinator at the City of Stockholm – outlines the current opportunities and challenges faced locally for the full deployment of a smart cities solution in urban transportation.

Is fast-charging identified as a key component in your local electromobility plan? If so, how does it contribute to the Smart City concept?

Electric vehicles and charging are part of the smart mobility solutions in GrowSmarter. Fast-charging is currently being installed for public use on public land in Stockholm and Barcelona. It is one component in the electro mobility plan for Stockholm. However, it is not a key component: what is required for a full uptake of the local market will first and foremost be home and office charging – generally where most cars are parked. As such, fast-charging is complementary to the general Smart Cities scheme.

What are the current challenges you face locally for fast-charging deployment?

Road signs to mark the place is complicated in Sweden. The accurate road signs are not the ones we would like to have. It is quite difficult to know how much fast-charging is needed and where the best locations are – taking all issues into consideration. Legal aspects on how to allow private operators to put up charging on public land are also not entirely clear, although different solutions can be applied in this particular case.

Bearing in mind the costs of deploying electric charging infrastructure in cities, one solution is to opt for private partners and outsource the infrastructure costs and its revenues. But is there really a business case for fast-charging infrastructure?

The City of Stockholm uses a business model based on access rights agreements signed by the Traffic Administration and electric utility companies, in this case Vattenfall and Fortum. The first agreement included a single payment as well as an annual fee, which at the time was the lowest possible rate. Subsequently, the Traffic Committee decided that access rights agreements within the project would not incur any payment. In total, 10 agreements have been signed within the framework for the commission for a duration of 3-5 years. Private actors concerned are granted the right to use space on public land for parking spaces with fast chargers and related installations. The actors themselves finance the charging equipment, power supply and necessary power lines, as well as signage and marking out of the area.

So far, experiences with the business model have been very positive with a clear understanding between the city and the companies establishing fast-charging facilities regarding installation, operation and phasing-out. By using access rights agreements, the city retains the right of decision, which is key to land-use planning.

In future access rights agreements we intend to include all three current fast-charging standards as compulsory for any new charging points or station. Requirements for reliability should also be added, and will apply equally to all actors. A reasonable requirement would be that the station is running and functioning at least 90-95 per cent of the time.

In your opinion, what incentive/strategy could overcome the barriers faced and enable a viable business case scenario to be deployed?

I believe there is a business case for fast-charging in Stockholm but not to the extent of normal charging. For normal charging on street level there has been very little interest to use the same business model as for fast-charging. Currently there is new state funding to apply for regarding charging facilities and this might change the picture and make it a better business case. As the GrowSmarter project will locally focus during 2016-2017 on e-car and e-bikes sharing, as well as on e-cargo bikes, the question around charging infrastructure and business case around it will also arise





Ivo Cré has been Deputy Director at Polis since March 2015. Before joining Polis in 2006, Ivo was Policy Officer for mobility at EUROCITIES, Assistant to a Member of the European Parliament, Advisor to the Belgian Minister of Environment, and Project Leader at Langzaam Verkeer. He has been involved in a wide range of European transport projects; coordinates the Polis Working Group on economic and social aspects of transport and is the Polis contact for Smart City issues.

Nicolas Hauw joined Polis in February 2015 as Policy Officer and is in charge of EU institution relations and presents Polis to stakeholders and partners in Brussels. Nicolas worked on the TIDE and NODES European projects and is currently involved with CIVITAS CAPITAL, GrowSmarter and EAFO. Nicolas has gained broad experience in European Policy from his previous positions as an elected representative in Brussels at the European Parliament, in regions and cities.