On December 4, the Digital Cities Challenge Project of the European Commission brought together the mayors of the participating cities for a summit of knowledge sharing and collaboration on the digital transformation of Europe driven by the cities. Sofia was presented by Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency.
Sofia was among the first 7 cities approved to take part in the implementation of the project and to develop its own strategy for digitization in a network of over 40 cities that currently participate in the initiative. The Digital Cities Challenge (DCC) Project aims to achieve sustainable economic growth in the cities through the integration of advanced technologies. Sofia’s participation in the programme is managed by the Sofia Investment Agency.
In what was a day full of presentations and panel discussions, Markku Markkula, Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and Rapporteur for Digital Europe, opened proceedings by calling it a “revolutionary step forward for the cities”.
Picking up the baton, Slawomir Tokarski, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing at the European Commission highlighted the importance of merging Digital, Industrial and Urban policy. He also invited the participants to inspire and learn from each other to make the Digital Cities Challenge stronger and to better to respond to societal challenges. An overview of the Digital Cities Challenge so far and the vision ahead was given by Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Advanced Technologies Team at European Commission.
Franc Weerwind, Mayor of city of Almere and Member responsible for Digital Connectivity at the Amsterdam Economic Board, shared the success story of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, as one of the six Mentor cities in the Challenge.
“The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is one of the Mentor cities in this programme, because we believe in sharing our vision with other cities in terms of knowledge and innovation, but, please, let me assure you that our ‘success’ story has been established, due to knowledge and innovation coming also from your cities,” said Mayor Weerwind.
All mayors presented their cities visions in the 4 panel sessions:
Insight was shared on how to Shape a winning strategy and brand, by ”REal” Granada, Herakleio’s first Greek smart city strategy, the talent management in the youth-full city of Derry and the ”Connected city” of Gelsenkirchen.
Pori’s ROBOCAST cluster, Alcoy’s smart governance plan, Padova’s self-driving vehicles and Smart Costa Blanca were the examples on how to reinvent growth through technology and data.
Skills and employability were covered by Thessaloniki’s incubators, L’Aquila’s and Iasi’s university communities and Trikala’s Public-private partnerships for digital skills.
On the last panel about unlocking investments Rijeka’s project ”Powerhouse” was presented together with the model for participatory budgeting in Arad, Kavala’s plan to use the Digital Cities Challenge brand as a tool to attract investment, the work of Sofia’s Investment Agency to attract foreign funds and Algeciras’s work with ERDF and the DCC as a tool for a more focused city strategy.
In what was a major coup for the network, the mayors of the participating cities signed a Declaration on their commitment to cooperation on digital transformation and smart growth.
Among a number of factors to foster dynamic innovation ecosystems, utilise cutting-edge technologies, upskill the city, scale up infrastructure and drive change through networking, the cities agreed to:
• Develop and test novel policy initiatives in a collaborative approach with other cities to reap the benefits of digital transformation.
• Reinforce collaboration among technology and innovation centres, clusters, digital innovation hubs, fab labs, incubators, accelerators and venture capital to provide first-class services to businesses and citizens by promoting demand-based development models.
• Cooperate on new business models and partnerships to develop local excellence, knowhow and talents, support entrepreneurship and the upskilling of the workforce.
• Unleash bold investment opportunities for digital transformation of the local economy, using a mix of financial instruments.
• Engage in the creation of a permanent network of European cities that promote the agenda of digital transformation, collaborative intelligence, and smart growth.
As part of the agreement, the mayors committed to regularly assess the achievements and progress of the Declaration of Cooperation and the adoption of appropriate actions supporting digital transformation and the opportunities and challenges related.
See photos of the Digital Cities Challenge Mayors Summit.