Innovation is critical to create a smart city but technology must work hand in hand with human capital, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s ‘Innovation – driving urban development’ Investment Briefing, which was held at MIPIM recently.
‘Innovation is bred by partnerships between stakeholders, companies, employees and local government,’ said Harry Hoodless, Regional Board Director, Broadway Malyan. ‘It is crucial to look at different models and examples from around the world and then make a city unique’.
The challenge for many European cities is to preserve the historical centres and traditional ways of life while promoting innovation, attracting tech companies and young people and at the same time preserving the environment.
Italy has two good examples of how to go about it. Bologna, capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is creating a Technopole, a 120,000 m2 data and artificial intelligence centre in an old industrial area
‘The Technopole will have the highest supercomputing capacity in Europe ,’ said Ruben Sacerdoti, Director of the Regional Department for Business Internationalisation and FDI Attraction, Emilia Romagna Regional Government. ‘We know that everything that happens in the next 5-10 years will be based on data’.
The Technopole is a 20 minutes’ walk from the centre of Bologna and dedicated cycle lanes will lead to it, to encourage people to leave their cars behind. The airport is 6 kms away and the fast train links Bologna to Milan in 1 hour and to Rome in less than two hours.
‘Investments in infrastructure are difficult, so it is better to rely on the existing transport system or, even better, cycle or walk whenever possible,’ said Sacerdoti. ‘We believe that in 10 years’ time, Technopole will have completely transformed and modernised our city’.
In Genoa, the biggest science park in Italy is being created in a former industrial space 10 minutes from the airport and 15 mins from the city centre. It will include offices, labs, co-working spaces and a big hospital, but 50% of the land is devoted to green spaces.
‘We are planning to attract high-tech companies,’ said Maria Francesca Silva, Chief of Real Estate Development, Genova High Tech. ‘But for us innovation is not just technology but also a new approach to community and services. We have introduced car-pooling, for example. We believe that to have a smart city you need smart people’.
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