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ERA-NET Smart Cities and Communities

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENSCC (ERA-NET Smart Cities and Communities)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2020-05-31

The ERA-NET Smart Cities and Communities (ENSCC) is set in the context of the grand societal challenge of urbanisation. Its goal was to stimulate successful practice and facilitate replicability in the field of Smart Cities and Communities. The ERA-NET was proposed and established by the transnational R&I funding platform JPI Urban Europe with the ambition to develop and implement new technologies and solutions towards achieving the energy efficiency targets for 2030 and 2050.
Addressing the grand societal challenges of our time requires transdisciplinarity, i.e. the collaboration of all stakeholders from the quadruple helix (government, industry, academia, civil society). Such an approach asks for new concepts in R&I funding, especially in bringing together the implementation capacities of national and local problem owners, the ingenuity of solution providers, the inspiration of researchers, and the collaborative feedback of citizens.

Since the innovation cycles and value chains of our time reach across continents, and even across the globe, the same should be true for developing the solutions for our problems. However, transnational R&I funding collaboration comes with the challenge of bringing together funding agencies (FA) from various parts of the funding chain, or better, the innovation cycle. Each type of FA addresses specific groups of stakeholders, in very different competitive environments. Funding them in shared projects, requires new sets of funding instruments and skills, specifically from the part of the FAs.

Besides the joint call, the ERA-NET originally aimed at conducting two additional activities: (A) to work towards a joint call with China and (B) to work towards the alignment of national R&D funding with nationally or regionally operated Structural Funds. While the efforts regarding R&I funding collaboration with China proved to be successful, it became clear very soon that the alignment of R&I funding with ERDF funds would not be feasible due to the diversity of stakeholders addressed, funding instruments used, and conflicting interests of the policy stakeholders involved.
The call of ENSCC was the first major joint call (after two Pilot Calls) opened by JPI Urban Europe and the Smart Cities Member States Initiative in December 2014. The call was positioned to complement the larger “lighthouse city” approaches supported within Horizon 2020 at the time in support of smart city development. The programme integrated the challenges of urban stakeholders with the requirements of researchers and funding agencies in an effort to harness European smart city approaches for integrated urban development.

Funding agencies from twelve countries participated in the call with a total available budget of more than 28 million Euro. The joint call resulted in the selection of 17 R&I projects, which received their funding contracts in 2016 and ran until early 2020. They delivered a broad variety of concepts, tools and demonstration activities from city planning to participatory energy management platforms and newly established transnational research networks.

ENSCC co-evolved with several other national and European initiatives and during a period notable for a growing interest in a multidimensional approach to urban challenges. In this context The evolution of the PED Programme provided ENSCC with an unforeseen opportunity of getting a second shot at bringing R&I budgets and implementation funding into one comprehensive strategy. The new chosen mission of the PED Programme (100 PEDs on their way until 2025) seems to offer a compelling case of making this a reality. Insights from ENSCC have proven important to the ongoing development of the PED concept as well as the realisation of specific pilot areas across Europe. Beyond the obvious importance of allocating funding to PEDs, ENSCC had begun to broaden the narrative of what is meant by a “smart and sustainable” city.

As a result, ENSCC supported the establishment of the PED Programme, which is at the core of the activities of the SET Plan Action 3.2 “Smart Cities and Communities”. The Steering Committee of the PED Programme is supported by a PED Funding Agencies Working Group, which works in variable geometry, partially in continuation of the ENSCC Consortium. Activities in ENSCC have paved the way for the pillar on 100 Positive Energy Districts and Neighbourhoods to continue transforming the urban energy system.

The ENSCC Grant Agreement formulated the cautious ambition to ‚explore the potential’ of a joint call with Chinese funding parties for RDI projects in Smart Cities and Communities. A structured approach towards a joint call with China was implemented leveraging existing relations, activities and experience of ENSCC Members and yielded the successful implementation of a first Joint Call of the JPI Urban Europe and China (JPI-NSFC).

This Joint Call addressed sustainable urban transformation as an answer to the global urbanisation challenge. The experiences gained in the preparation of the joint call confirmed that there are substantial potentials in strengthening Sino-European knowledge exchange, mutual learning and understanding, and collaborative research. NSFC and JPI Urban Europe agreed to work towards a long-term cooperation programme in the area of sustainable urbanisation, with different topics to be addressed in due time.
The goals of ENSCC were embedded in a wider policy context of the challenge of urbanisation and the clean energy transition towards a climate-neutral society. Within this context, ENSCC was an important stepping stone for the JPI Urban Europe on its way towards the establishment of the Positive Energy Districts Programme (PED Programme) which is at the core of the activities of the SET Plan Action 3.2 “Smart Cities and Communities” and the preparation of the European Partnership on Driving Urban Transitions for a Sustainable Future (DUT).
ENSCC had a structural impact on the European Research Area (ERA) by developing cooperation and alignment of national R&I programmes on a transnational level. The main structural impacts of ENSCC were:
1. Increased alignment on programme level with the perspective to intensify cooperation with the planned Driving Urban Transitions Partnership: funding agencies jointly allocating budget for the funding of research projects and additional activities in the area of Smart Cities.
2. Establishment of the PED Programme: Implementation of a programme structure to support the planning, deployment and replication of 100 ‘Positive Energy Districts’ by 2025 for sustainable urbanisation. The programme will form one of the three innovation pillars of the prospective co-funded European Partnership “Driving Urban Transitions to a Sustainable Future” in Horizon Europe.
3. Increasing cooperation with China: Implementation of a Joint Call and preparatory steps for future collaboration.
4. Establishment of a low-threshold entry-point into European R&I networks for urban implementation stakeholders, including the creation of transnational networks among researchers, practitioners and urban stakeholders.
5. Capacity Building and Learnings on city cooperation, joint call management and project monitoring.
Participating Cities & Regions