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Cities as Innovation Platforms by EUROCITIES
Jan Franke , Jan.Franke@eurocities.eu
The EUROCITIES team is
Jan Franke , Jan.Franke@eurocities.eu
This proposal suggests that the EU’s Digital Agenda should support the role of cities as ‘innovation platforms’.
City administrations are both supporters of innovation and innovators themselves. Cities can function as ‘innovation platforms’ addressing local challenges such as economic contraction, social exclusion, demographic change and energy/climate.
The city as service provider
City administrations provide a range of services that underpin the work of all actors within the innovation web. Rarely explicitly focused on innovation, these include:
- Providing support to SMEs and other businesses. By giving advice, guidance, training and at times more tangible support to SMEs and business, the work of cities underpins market innovation.
- Providing lifelong learning and training to residents and employees. Many city administrations provide training and lifelong learning that equip residents with the skills to participate in the knowledge economy.
- Outsourcing service delivery. As the public sector focuses on the need to improve efficiency in the future, attention will shift to whether the community and voluntary sector can be empowered to take on some current city services.
- digital and mobile service delivery. Local authorities are increasingly promoting interaction with citizens, businesses and other government bodies through electronic linkages. This e/m-government has the potential to inform policy and promote citizen involvement in service design and delivery.
The city as facilitator
City administrations hold a central and impartial position as ‘ringmaster’ within the framework of the city itself. Political leadership can catalyse change. Cities have the capacity to gather and
interpret intelligence and data, allowing a strategic overview of challenges and opportunities. Administrations are able to take an overview of the various organisations and actors operating in
the city at a given time, as well as being able to work across sectoral divisions. The result is that city administrations are ideally positioned to provide tools and services to facilitate innovation, including:
- Supporting clustering. Cities provide financial, physical and human resource to support the development of clusters that are seen as central to market innovation.
- Developing incubators for businesses. City administrations work closely with business leaders and universities to develop dedicated premises for short-term use.
- Convening and leading partnerships. City administrations have the representative authority, legitimacy and strategic overview necessary to bring together partners from across sectors to work together towards common goals.
- Providing kick start funding for R&D. Many cities, often through their support to clusters, provide grants of various sizes to stimulate R&D.
- Providing general and specialised funding and grants. City administrations administer substantial funds, some of which is destined for external organisations.
- Pilot projects and testing. Due to their position as service and infrastructure providers, city administrations are uniquely able to lead on or put in place pilot projects to test new ideas and solutions across all thematic areas.
The city as government
Cities provide a local policy framework to support innovation as well as an essential infrastructure fabric. Specific actions include:
- Setting policy. City administrations have responsibility for a wide set of policies that shapethe activities that can happen within a city. They are also able to develop new tools and processes that can foster improved institutional and professional learning by adapting internal structures and processes.
- Driving innovation through procurement. As major purchasers, city administrations are able to foster innovation through procurement. They can also act as first markets by adopting products ahead of general release.
- Providing subsidised premises for community and voluntary organisations. Due to low income and lack of resource, many community and voluntary organisations are supported by the provision of premises in council owned building stock.
- Establishing and improving the supporting infrastructure for innovation, such as high speed digital connectivity, and transport infrastructure.