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Smart Cities and Communities lighthouse projects


Lighthouse cities develop and test integrated innovative solutions at district scale. These lighthouse cities should act as exemplars for their region helping to plan the replication of these solutions, adapted to different local conditions.. Links with the broader Sustainable and Integrated Urban Development Strategies in the framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds should be sought as well as the funds available for the upscaling and replication of the projects (in particular ESIF).

A city can be funded as a lighthouse city only once under Horizon2020.

Technologies must be at least ""very near-to-market"" (technological readiness levels TRL 7 and more, see part G of the General Annexes). The innovation is in the combination of these technologies.

It is compulsory to develop and test innovative business models that enable deployment at large scale at different locations during the execution of the project.

An important focus of this call is on replication of solutions: Follower cities are cities that have yet to acquire the technical competence to become a lighthouse city. However, they shall be fully involved in the project from the beginning and commit sufficient resources within the project to deliver a business model that allows the financing of an ambitious replication of most of the solutions developed within the project and deliver it within a few years of the project's end (perhaps using ESIF). Proof of long term commitment of follower cities to replicate validated solutions as well as measures for active knowledge transfer (e.g. active mentoring or staff exchange between cities) will be evaluated.

It is essential that proposals cover all of the following aspects (the coverage of these aspects will be evaluated under the ‘Impact’ criterion):

  • Districts of buildings – old or new or mixed and ideally nearly zero or low energy – that should be chosen in relation to the size of the respective city and the local conditions and should guarantee high positive impact of the project. Each building in such a district shall become smart, more efficient, reliable and well integrated in the energy system of the district. It should feature latest generation ICT, smart meters, smart appliances, smart energy management, smart use of the thermal mass; smart management of cooling (where applicable) etc. and capitalize also on synergies between these single components. These smart buildings shall be integrated to form a smart district with intensive interaction between the buildings for increased synergies and eventually increased efficiency and decreased costs.
  • Smart interaction and smart management of different energy systems (electricity, heat, cold, gas or other grid systems (including water)) at district level and going far beyond classical electricity grids management only (e.g. smart solutions for storage including the intelligent use of the thermal mass of buildings that exploit synergies between these urban grids in order to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs).
  • Integration with and/or consolidation of low carbon ICT systems at district level.
  • Electromobility (in line with Directive 2014/94): smart electrical vehicle (EV) charging (grid to vehicle and vehicle to grid) while ensuring a positive impact on the whole energy system from a technical and economic point of view. The impact of the deployment of EV on locally weak or old grids must be assessed during the project.
  • Include partners from industry, public authorities, research communities and small and medium-sized enterprises.

It is essential that all lighthouse cities cover all of the following aspects (the coverage of these aspects will be evaluated under the ‘Impact’ criterion):

  • Significantly improve energy efficiency: Innovative integration of existing buildings with new buildings (especially in areas of mixed use such as university campuses, innovation districts, etc.). Proposals shall group energy efficiency measures by buildings or group of similar buildings in the BEST tables (available at the participant portal).
  • Incorporate renewable energy sources (RES) maximising the use of local resources (including waste heat, electricity and/or heat storage) and high shares of self-consumption. The active participation of consumers (e.g. use of aggregators) must be demonstrated.
  • Integrate electricity fuelling infrastructure for electric vehicle fleets. The impact of the deployment of high numbers of vehicles on the electricity grid must be assessed (costs of the recharging infrastructure and the vehicles are not eligible).
  • Use ICT solutions for improved planning management, control and maintenance of physical urban infrastructures and operational technologies in buildings, energy and transport, and that enable better services for individuals and businesses.
  • Prove interoperability between software modules to allow an effective management of components and information flows. To this end, and to ensure adaptability as new user requirements and technologies evolve, urban ICT platforms must be based on open specifications, including the data structures and application program interfaces (API). Concerns about security, privacy and confidentiality need to be addressed.
  • Develop innovative Business Models to demonstrate that both technical and financial risks are low enough for large scale investments in other EU cities with similar characteristics. Deployment plans for the lighthouse cities and quick replication in the follower cities and potentially other cities shall be submitted (and will be part of the evaluation).

Each project should:

  • Address concrete urban challenges identified by the respective urban authorities.
  • Have a performance monitoring which lasts for a period of at least 2 years during the project.
  • Develop a convincing replication and investment plan for each lighthouse city and each follower city that describes (a) what the partners in each city will do in order to ensure a large scale replication in their city after the successful end of the project and (b) where the funding will come from (in particular whether ESIF would be used). The initial investment plans (to be refined during the execution of the project) shall show that after successful demonstration private capital can take over further investments at low technical and financial risks so that the economically weakest regions and cities of all sizes become attractive for investors.
  • Have a consortium with clearly defined structure roles and responsibilities for all involved entities. The different actions in each city and between all cities (6 or more) must show excellent synergies. The added value of this cooperation versus each city alone must be clearly described.
  • Have a well-balanced geographical coverage between lighthouse and follower cities.
  • Commit to scientific and technical requirements to support reliability and sustainability: Open data and interoperability are necessary conditions to allow for ease of innovation for improved replicability and economies of scale, and so that solutions can be extended and lock-in of customers to specific solutions and/or vendors can be avoided.
  • Contribute to common long term data collection systems, measurement and disclosure methodology, in order to facilitate a common footprint calculation methodology and other metrics (especially for energy saving; CO2 reductions, financial savings, number of jobs created, environmental impact etc.).
  • Feature a work package for cooperation with other selected projects on main project issues including business models and legal, regulatory and other market barriers (foresee about 2 % to 3% of the requested funds for inter-project cooperation).
  • Incorporate all performance data into the Smart Cities Information System database (SCIS)[[]] and cooperate with CITYKEYS, the support action selected in the 2014 call for performance measurement across sectors.
  • Use a robust and viable monitoring protocol, also valid after the end of the project so that future data can easily be introduced into the SCIS.

Each project must:

  • Be realised in 3 new lighthouse cities that are situated in different EU Member states or associated countries.
  • Involve at least 3 follower cities from at least 3 different EU Member states or associated countries (that are different also from the countries of the lighthouse cities of the project).

Each lighthouse city must:

Have Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), positively evaluated by the Covenant of Mayors (please attach proof in Annex) before submitting a proposal[[For more procedural details please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of this specific call available on the Participant Portal.]].

Non-eligible costs:

The costs of construction (including scale of unit costs), the costs of retrofitting (including scale of unit costs), the full cost of purchasing or leasing electric vehicles, the costs of acquisition of standard ICT tools, conventional RES and their mounting are not eligible. Insulation of the building envelope, good windows; heat pumps, and other appliances are not eligible costs.

Eligible costs:

Eligible costs cover all those innovative aspects that transform the city into a smart city, such as for example:

  • Integration of storage with all grids (across electricity, telecom, heating, cooling, gas, water, etc.).
  • Smart building management incorporating smart appliances, smart meters, domotics, of which only the smart/innovative part that is leading to a deep integration with the local energy system (electricity, telecom, heating and cooling, gas) is eligible.
  • Smart integration of the electricity grid with local RES (in and around the city), with electricity storage and heat storage (or cold storage for air conditioning or cooling or freezing, etc.) at the district level; the smart use of the existing thermal mass for better building management and the integration with energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is recommended and eligible.
  • Only the innovative parts of RES, suited for smart integration of PV modules, wind turbines, innovative integration of heat pumps or CHP combined with smart management of heat and electricity are eligible.
  • Economic research for and development of highly innovative approaches and testing of integrated business models that avoid lock-in situations and that lead to reduction of the energy bills for citizens.
  • Smart storage (electricity, heat or cold) and its management for maximising self-consumption is eligible.
  • ICT: only platforms based on open specifications with open application program interfaces (API), and that cater for data security and cyber-security are eligible.
  • Work on further refinements of the initially submitted replication plans and creating more ambitious targets during the project are eligible.
  • Training and education within and between cities is compulsory and thus eligible.
  • Including additional cities in the training and education (if the benefit is clearly stated) is eligible.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 12 to 18 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

To demonstrate solutions at district scale integrating smart homes and buildings, smart grids (electricity, district heating, telecom, water, etc.), energy storage, electric vehicles and smart charging infrastructures as well as latest generation ICT platforms which must be based on open specifications. This should be accompanied by energy efficiency measures and the use of very high shares of renewables at the level of districts. The goal is to facilitate a successful transformation towards intelligent, user-driven and demand-oriented city infrastructures and services.

Each project shall significantly contribute to the impacts described below:

  • Put in practice a bankable solution for a challenge identified by the city;
  • Increase the energy efficiency on district scale;
  • Increase significantly the share of renewable energies, their integration into the energy system, stimulate self-consumption, reduce curtailment to the minimum;
  • Increase local air quality;
  • Reduce the technical and financial risks in order to give confidence to investors for investing in large scale replication
  • Make the local energy system more secure, more stable and cheaper for the citizens and public authorities;
  • Ensure the roll-out of electric vehicles in cities while containing the need for excessive upgrading of the electricity grid);
  • Reduce transport based CO2 emissions, on the basis of CO2 intensity of the European electricity grid of 540 CO2/kWh (coherent with TEST format - available on the Participant Portal);
  • Create stronger links and active cooperation between cities in a large number of Member States with a large coverage of cities with different size, geography, climatic zones and economical situations.