This is how Eindhoven runs its Smart Society Programme

Guus Sluijter

In our series of interviews with thought leaders in smart city initiatives, we talk to Guus Sluijter, programme manager for the Smart Society Programme of the Municipality of Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Mr. Sluijter tells us about the initiatives, how they are managed, funded and secured.

Eindhoven is very ambitious in their smart city initiatives, and is a cornerstone city in the overall Smart City Strategy of The Netherlands.

What Smart City initiatives is your city working on?

“We have a comprehensive Smart Society programme, which features a couple of star projects. Some people are a bit confused when we use the term Smart Society instead of Smart Cities. However, the name clarifies an essential difference in the way we work, which is that for us, our citizens are key in addressing problems and central to solving them.

“This means that they give direction to the drive for innovation, and this in turn makes us human-driven, supported by technology and design. And we just happen to excel in technology and design!”

Let me tell you about one of them. The first one is located in the city centre, in Stratumseind, the street with the highest concentration of clubs and bars in the Netherlands. Here, we are collaborating with Eindhoven University of Technology and a number of businesses to research the effect of light on behaviour.

“This testing is carried out in a real live setting, to see whether the products really work outside the lab. In fact, Stratumseind has become a living lab.” What results are we hoping for? With lighting of the right colour and intensity, we can actually create a feeling of safety.”

How and where do you start implementing a smart city initiative?

“We have a clear vision of how a Smart Society will operate. We start by collecting social issues, from the bottom up. Citizens involved indicate what their frustrations, concerns or dreams are. We subsequently bring these social issues to the attention of potential partners, experts and designers from businesses, government and knowledge institutes. They then join with citizens to deepen their understanding of the issue at hand.

“The next step is to co-create conceptual solutions for these issues and test them in a real situation (living lab). From there on, this quadruple helix works towards a product with a solid business case which, if it turns out to be successful, can then be exported. In this context, ‘successful’ means that the product solves the social issues identified at the beginning of the process. And that’s what it’s all about for us.”

Who funds these initiatives?

“It depends on which of the multiple helix partners is involved in the project. But participating is also a form of funding too. Funding can mean giving your time, providing the knowledge or simply financing the Smart Society initiative.

“Let me explain that by telling you about the Smart Lighting project. In this project, the Municipality of Eindhoven gives to a consortium of Philips and Heijmans the money, several millions, which it had reserved for the maintenance of street lighting. This consortium uses the money to maintain the street lighting, while at the same time developing innovative concepts and new features for it, that are desirable in the relevant areas of our city.

“Philips and Heijmans give time, provide knowledge and finance the project too. As does the government, which works with citizens and entrepreneurs, in design method sessions, to discover what citizens, companies and other stakeholders actually want. The whole process is monitored by Eindhoven University of Technology. As you can see, everyone who participates contributes something.”

How do you set up a business case for smart city initiatives? And how do you justify the investments?

“We have a ranking for scoring Smart Society initiatives. Factors we take into consideration are how innovative the projects are, how integral the projects are to our organization, or to what extent the projects involve co-creation. Obviously, the required investment is another factor we take into account.”

Can you tell us your strategy for the security (privacy) of these initiatives?

There are many different interests involved in the public space. It’s our role to make sure the public interest, in particular the interests of our citizens, are served. To that end, we created the Open Data Principles and IoT Charter, which specify clear rules and guidelines for anyone wishing to collaborate with us. This actually also attracts businesses, since we offer them clarity and reassurance about what they can and cannot do.”

Can you describe the way the initiatives are managed? (Centralized, decentralized? Dashboard)

In October, the municipal council adopted the Smart Society programme, In which we outline five programme lines which make up the future vision of a Smart Society in Eindhoven. All Smart Society initiatives and projects are placed in one of these five programme lines, which are: data, infrastructure, living labs, community & ecosystem, and communication.”

“In collaboration with the Smart Society programme team, we make sure that projects deliver on their promises, because we only ‘subsidise’ the departments in our organization that want to work on these kinds of Smart Society projects. We want the departments themselves, together with their external partners, to become the owners of these projects, rather than just being a small team somewhere in the organisation. In this way, we facilitate a broad transition to a Smart Society.”

Can other cities use your expertise and copy this approach for their city?

“We’d love to have them copy our approach. One important element in the development of Smart Cities and Societies is to stop having everyone invent the wheel themselves, and look at ways of cooperating. Something that would make us very happy is if other municipalities were to use the Open Data Principles. These Principles describe how everyone can make safe and secure use of data in our city. You need to adopt these Principles if you want to collaborate with the Municipality of Eindhoven on data in our city.”

What is your vision of the smart city of the future?

“We see it becoming a society for the people, by the people, in which citizens actively identify issues in their city, and every citizen is able and allowed to indicate these issues. They subsequently collaborate with others, using technology and design to create smart solutions. Solving these problems raises the quality of life of the citizens of Eindhoven. And through this way of solving these problems, we gain broad support for the solutions, citizens are really involved and we know for sure that the solutions respond to a need in society. This also means a changed division of roles between citizens, businesses, government and knowledge institutes and new ways of cooperation. This really is the way forward.”

Where do you gain your knowledge of Smart Cities?

“Well firstly, we already have some great Smart Society-experts working for Eindhoven itself. So, we organize what we call Smart Society cafés, where we try to free up this internal knowledge. Our experts meet there to exchange knowledge and surprising connections can be made.

“Externally, we ensure we are linked to the right cities and networks, and we visit other interesting Smart Cities. Just recently, we went to Tallinn, the Estonian capital, to experience their e-government, which was a great learning experience. In our own region we collaborate with many partners (companies, institutions, citizens) in the Brainport region Eindhoven ecosystem, and other national and international networks. And most importantly, we get our knowledge from the Smart City Hub ;-)”

*) Are you a smart city leader and want to participate in this series of interviews, please contact us at info@smartcityhub.com.

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