Supporting Local Innovation Ecosystems for Smart Cities

This theme paper introduces the role of innovative ecosystems and how Smart municipalities can work to facilitate the network of innovators and entrepreneurs who drive them.

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Supporting Local Innovation Ecosystems
for Smart Cities

Smart city is a complex ecosystem of people, processes, technology and stakeholders working together. The systems, data and artifacts of a Smart city are not the exclusive property of the city. Urban innovation develops as a result of the interplay between many differing stakeholders. Smart city change is enabled when cities work to create optimal conditions where new and innovative solutions can thrive.

It is not about one single product or technology but an array of interconnected devices, services and people. A key part of the municipality’s role in seeding this ecosystem is knowing when and how to support it.

Key issues for
SmartImpact partners

All cities are taking part in an overarching and rapidly evolving transformation towards a knowledge and service based economy. This increasingly means that innovation becomes an underlying principle to the success of local development.

Cities are big data suppliers and users. They are big business for providers of technologies, equipment, social care and many other products and services. Every Smart municipality needs to undergo a cultural shift towards seeing its own operations and processes as opportunities to engage in new partnerships from its ecosystem of innovators.

Lessons learnt from
SmartImpact partners

Building effective policies to support the growth and sustainability of urban technology ecosystems is an essential part of being a Smart city.

Smart municipalities work in partnership with stakeholders that range from academia, private sector and start ups to citizen led groups. This promotes the municipality as both an innovator itself and a framework that supports the wider innovation ecosystem.

A primary way to generate new innovation is to ensure the city’s data is open and accessible in a secure way. This includes bringing together data from key stakeholders within the city and making it accessible to everyone from start-ups and citizens to communities and corporations. Start-up ecosystems are important not only for growth and jobs but also in helping a city to solve local problems in new, relevant and cost effective ways.

Innovation ecosystems for Smart cities

Innovating through procurement

Smart cities need to lead by example. Acting both as the launch customer and driving the innovation ecosystem through procurement from local innovators. Smart cities can set the pace by working to identify city challenges and then translating these into an open call with an innovation led brief.


Living labs

Living labs are when the city defines a specific area as an open laboratory to test and pilot Smart innovations for improving city functions (lighting, parking, waste, citizen communication etc.). While the city provides the public space and basic infrastructure, companies provide their technologies.

Innovation through hosting

Cities can boost their innovation ecosystem by being an excellent host. Any city can become an innovation destination through targeted investment and strategies that provide tax breaks, work space and business support. It is up to the municipality to facilitate, but not control, an ecosystem that proves beneficial for all.


The city as strategist

Smart cities must be strategic in order to develop a successful local innovation ecosystem. Their strategy for innovation must be an overarching vision supported by key senior people and in-line with other stakeholder goals. Known as the ‘Quadruple Helix’ this engagement model for local innovation ecosystems seeks collaboration between citizens, public and private entities and allied research organisations.

Supporting Local Innovation Ecosystems for Smart Cities Case Studies