• 30 Apr 2021

    A Masterclass on Smart Cities: What Have our Signatories Learnt?


    The Covenant of Mayors and the Smart Cities Marketplace share the common objectives to advise and support cities to access financing opportunities to ensure sustainable solutions for climate and energy actions.

    As a follow-up of the joint webinar organised in January 2021, interested Covenant signatories had the opportunity to attend a 2-day tailored training programme to help them shape their smart city projects.

    The objective of this masterclass was to explore how to design a good smart city strategy that can sustain the work of the city beyond the first experiments and pilots and form the resilient backbone of future projects.

    What happened on the two days of the Masterclass?

    The first day started with an introduction on the EU landscape for smart cities, and the objectives of the European Green deal. The Covenant of Mayors Office presented the support offered to signatories on funding and financing, as well as the new ambition of the initiative towards a climate neutral and fairer Europe by 2050.

    The Marketplace team presented the Smart Cities Guidance package, which provides a blueprint to plan and implement smart city and low energy district projects in an integrated way by describing common situations and giving real-life examples. Putting the theory into practice, the cities of Vienna, Debrecen and Zaragoza shared their real life experiences: Vienna has implemented a major district renovation project in Simmering that helped them improve energy performance, integrate shared mobility and local energy production installations, and developing the measures together with citizens. The approach worked so well that they plan to apply it to other areas of the city. Debrecen shared insights on how it developed its own smart city strategy and how it attracted private investments. One key tip? Start a dialogue with companies and investors that share the vision of the city. It is also very important to focus on objectives and recommend but not prescribe technologies, especially when you are setting a long-term goal: new solutions will surely appear on the market. Zaragoza shared its plan to become climate neutral as soon as possible, which requires to rethink the whole production and consumption model of the city. One key aspect will be to exploit the solar and wind power potential and meet 100% of the energy demand with locally produced energy.

    Moving to the practical part of the Masterclass, cities were asked to start thinking about a project to finance and to prepare an intake form. With guidance from Smart Cities Marketplace experts, cities shared their project ideas in small groups.

    To conclude the first day, Aquila Capital, a member of the Smart Cities Marketplace Investor Network, shared some insights on how to address financing aspects at early stages when preparing a smart city plan, and what do financiers look force in a project concept note.

    In the 4 weeks between the two days, participants had time to prepare and refine their project ideas.

    The second day started with a presentation on how to focus on the bankability of projects and then dive into the ideas presented by cities. In a mix of peer review and expert guidance, cities had the opportunity to exchange and identify the key strengths and weaknesses of their project ideas, and how to improve the concepts to bring them to maturity.

    Participants were also invited to attend the Matchmaking event on 27 April, where participants had the opportunity to join other experts to explore and shape broader possibilities and ideas in five different ‘factsheet workshops’ and meet and shape ideas with like-minded professional in 1-on-1 meetings.

    Key takeaways from our Covenant of Mayors and Smart Cities Marketplace joint masterclass

    18 participants from 7 countries have joined the Masterclass to develop and discuss their project ideas. Here are a few top tips that Covenant signatories should consider when starting to develop a smart city project that can help them to attract private financing:

    • Integrating planning & implementation is key to ensure the feasibility and bankability of climate neutral and smart cities projects;

    • There is no such thing like a risk-free investment, but it is important to identify the possible risks and ways to mitigate them - this is an aspect often overlooked;

    • Seeking financing from a bank requires a higher project maturity level, but it can be useful to involve a private investor earlier in the process to shape the project;

    • The local ecosystem must be well integrated in the project concept note: how can the project help the city achieve other co-benefits? What is the economic value – if any – of these co-benefits?

    • There is no size of project that is too small – each city should build on its own strengths, including the proximity with local stakeholders.

    Smart Cities Marketplace Masterclasses are open to any Covenant signatory who wants to develop or work on a project idea. You can write an email to matchmaking@eu-smartcities.eu with the title ‘Masterclass’ to begin the process. Do include the specific topic you are looking for in a Masterclass, such as ‘mobility’ ‘PED’, ‘Urban data’ or a suggestion of your choice.

    The final objective of this cooperation would be to help Covenant signatories connect with investors of the Smart Cities Marketplace Community and finance their project ideas, to achieve their climate and energy targets.