Knowledge cities and Smart cities - Knowledge Economy Network

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					                               Knowledge Economy Network, Brussels

                                   Weekly Brief No. 20 – May 2012

                           Knowledge cities and Smart cities
Cities have always been home of knowledge, and in return being nurtured and protected,
it helped them develop, grow and prosper. Nowadays, we talk about knowledge, science,
innovation, technology, and lately also about smart cities. With modern focus on
knowledge-based competitiveness the terminology is often used inconsistently because
the concepts have not been defined precisely and unequivocally, at least as yet.

Many cities around the globe have realized that their performance does not depend just
on the city’s size of population, production facilities and physical infrastructure, but even
more on availability and communication of knowledge and their social and intellectual
capital. Smart cities distinguish themselves from their more technology-laden
counterparts, by successful application of knowledge and technology in a consistent
framework, benefiting from the growing importance of ICT, social and environmental
capital, and they are becoming also an important marketing concept and instrument.

By 2050 it is estimated that urban dwellers will account for 86 percent of the global population in the more
developed and 67 percent in the less developed regions. Overall, it is expected that 7 out of 10 people
will be living in urban areas by 2050. The surge and concentration of human populations will not only put
increased strain on the world’s ecosystem, but also pose even greater challenges on quality of life. As
with every challenge, there is opportunity to create sustainable, energy efficient cities of the future. For
instance, in Europe buildings account for 40 - 45% of energy consumption alone, contributing to
significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

In January of this year, Economist Intelligence Unit – a sister company of The Economist – published a
new index which ranks the competitiveness of the 120 cities across the globe using a number of
economic, demographic and social variables. While economic size and growth are important and
necessary, several other factors determine a city’s overall competitiveness, including its business and
regulatory environment, the quality of human capital and indeed the quality of life. Below you’ll find the
Index scores of the overall top 10 and by category.

At one level, it can be assessed to what degree a city has managed to develop based on best available
knowledge, know-how and technology. The more it has succeeded in this direction the higher it should be
scored at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s new index of city competitiveness.

At another level we have a number of cities having qualified by many criteria as “Smart Cities”, but have
adopted a strategy by which they have made knowledge production and dissemination (research,
education, consultancy) their particular focus and have achieved as such an internationally recognized
niche (regional or even global) as a ”Knowledge”, “Science”, “Technology”, “Innovation” or “Education”

In the first case knowledge has been successfully applied to make a city internationally competitive –
obviously in some domains more than in others. In the second case, a city is recognized internationally
for its role as knowledge center, of course with excellence in only some domains of knowledge
production, innovation and education. The “Smart city” has managed to resolve most of its practical
problems (from urban planning, environment, transport, energy management, etc.), but it may not have
the intention and capacity to systematically focus on further research and innovation, as well as
consulting and education services to be offered to other cities. A “Knowledge city” however may not have
solved several of its practical problems, but has developed excellent R&D, training and education
capacity and services in certain domains and is offering them systematically to other interested parties in
the region or worldwide.

This distinction is of course primarily of conceptual nature, while in reality there are always elements of
one and the other in each city around the globe. What is essential for qualifying a particular city as “smart”
or “knowledge” city is the proportion of the two elements. Normally, a smart city can build on previous
achievements of an “organic growth”, while a knowledge city is usually a result of a governmental project,
not necessarily being a part of an existing city, but also not too far from one.

Also, to illustrate this distinction at the practical level one has to compare cities primarily within their own
size category (mega city or large metropolis – with over 5 million people, big cities – with characteristically
3-5 million people, medium-sized cities - with up to a million, and small cities bellow half a million people).
In other words, a small “Knowledge city” cannot be compared by its knowledge capacity and output with a
megapolis, but in certain areas the small knowledge city may have achieved a level of expertise and
globally recognized excellence not to be found in any megapolises around the globe. At the same time
the research personnel and infrastructure to be found in a megapolis as part of the normal landscape of
an agglomeration of some 10 million people, would have a very different position and function in a
“science city” with a population of maybe only several ten thousand people.

To summarize the criteria for a knowledge city – as a very new and still vaguely defined concept – the
following three elements could be singled out::

       The relative size and impact of knowledge-related activities vis-à-vis the overall economically
        relevant activities in a particular urban environment;
       The volume and quality of human capital, equipment, infrastructure and capital available for the
        above mentioned activities;
       The “knowledge city blueprint strategy” - effectively supported by relevant authorities and
        economic interests, with ambitions to fulfill a specific role in building knowledge-based,
        international competitiveness for a region or a country, and offering knowledge services to a
        wider international market.

The concept of knowledge city has its early origins probably in the world-famous “Silicon Valley” which
has been the inspiration for numerous attempts to transplant it onto other locations in US and around the
globe. However, these attempts have been largely unsuccessful – obviously because one or several of
critical ingredients were missing. There are brilliant researchers and innovators, as well as ambitious and
aggressive entrepreneurs in many parts of the world. But the right mix of entrepreneurial and innovative
culture – combined with abundantly available venture capital, favorable tax incentives and government
support for young companies, and a large, highly competitive, sophisticated market, eager to accept new
products and technologies – cannot be easily transplanted from California, even to many aspirant cities
and regions in the US.

And strangely enough, the concept of knowledge city has not been used in reference to Palo Alto,
California which developed by itself and was not created “top-down” by a government decision or by an
ambitious private investor. It is an initiative that grew organically from below. However, the concept
appeals to others who decided to create an intensive knowledge-production entity in a geographically
limited, urban area. Historically one of the earliest “science cities” have been created in Soviet union
already in the 1950s, focusing on secret research on nuclear arms and space, with particular motivation
and concern of communist authorities of the day to achieve total isolation of those scientists from the rest
of Soviet society, let alone the wider world.

During the 1960s Western Europe has experienced intensive development of “science and technology
parks” – called “technopolis” in France. They were normally linked to research intensive universities and
located at the outskirts of major cities. Many of them managed to provide a support environment to
university spin-offs and other young technology companies predominantly from the region. With a number
of positive exceptions (e.g: the largest and one of the oldest in Europe “Area Science Park” near Trieste,
Italy) most of technology parks achieve modest results in boosting R&D activities in their regional
environment, simply because there was limited research and business interaction among the companies
in the park, and the main reason for members of the park to be there remained in utilizing the physical
facilities (mostly subsidized office and laboratory space). Also, most of the park management teams did
not have the capability to be involved in marketing the products and helping members obtain the needed
R&D funds.

The most notable and grand example of modern knowledge city is the Qatari Foundation’s “Education
City” – built completely from scratch and covering an area of 14 million square meters. The Education City
aims to be the center of educational excellence in the Gulf, and has partnered with world class
universities (such as Cornell University, Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University). Qatar
Foundation has also launched the World Innovation Summit for Education – WISE – a global forum which
discusses exclusively educational issues.

What makes a city smart remains rather arbitrary and can encompass various concepts. From soft
infrastructure (such as knowledge networks, e-participation techniques) to business-friendly environments
(science and technology parks, business clusters) or its overall sustainability (think tourism and natural
resources). Of course, technology can play a big part in this and reflect the city’s future ambitions
(wireless sensor networks informing inhabitants of traffic jams, free parking, pollution concentrations,
noise maps all via smart phones or other handheld devices). In 2007, the University of Ljubljana, Vienna
University of Technology and Delft University of Technology defined the characteristics and factors of a
smart city.

                            Characteristics and factors of a smart city

                   Source: Smart cities: Ranking of European medium-sized cities

Further information and sources used:

        UN Habitat: State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011
        Buildings and Climate Change: Summary for Decision-Makers
        Hot spots: Benchmarking global city competitiveness
        Gulf State, Qatar, Transforms into Knowledge-based Society

Prepared by Boris Cizelj and Bostjan Sinkovec

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