Cities need to innovate to survive. Here are four ways they can do it

Alice Charles: “…The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities chronicled a list of Top 10 Urban Innovations from around the world, that are providing best practice examples of how cities are creating innovative solutions to a variety of urban problems.

Top 10 Urban Innovations

Top 10 Urban Innovations

Within these innovations, four principles surface again and again. They can be seen as a core framework to find innovative solutions to complex urban problems:

  • Unleashing spare capacity: Many innovations cleverly make use of existing yet underutilized resources. Airbnb, for example, enables the renting out of unused private homes; co-locating schools and recreational facilities enables public-private sharing of space; and the circular economy provides opportunities to reuse, recycle and upcycle.
  • Cutting out the peaks: From electricity and water to roads and public transport, upwards of 20% of capacity sits idle for much of the time ready to cope with demand peaks; cutting out these peaks with technology-enabled demand management or innovative pricing structures can significantly limit the burden on financial and natural resources.
  • Small-scale infrastructure thinking: Cities will always need large-infrastructure projects, but sometimes small-scale infrastructure – from cycle lanes and bike sharing to the planting of trees for climate change adaptation – can also have a big impact on an urban area.
  • People-centred innovation: The best way to improve a city is by mobilizing its citizens. From smart traffic lights to garbage taxes, innovations in technology, services and governance are not ends in themselves but means to shape the behaviour and improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants. All innovations should be centred on the citizen, adhering to the principles of universal design and usable by people of all ages and abilities.

Cities are expected to provide a better standard of living, increase community cohesion, wellness and happiness while progressing towards sustainable development. To be successful in meeting these requirements, cities need to transform their strategies to include innovation and enable the convergence of the digital and physical dimensions. Cities need to support the design and development of cutting-edge solutions and processes in collaboration with the private sector, scientific research institutions, academia, citizens and start-ups, to maintain the competitive edge, while progressing towards better performance and urban service deliveries….(More)”