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The world in transition. From fossil to sustainable or from waste to raw materials, to name some. Amsterdam Smart City is working on better streets, neighbourhoods and cities for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, focusing on four transitions: Mobility, Energy, Circular Economy and Digital City. We don’t do this alone, but together. What is the role of Amsterdam Smart City in these transitions? How do we ensure better streets, neighbourhoods and cities?
A world in transition requires an independent place where changemakers can meet, enter into dialogue and collaborate. A place where companies, knowledge institutions, governments and societal organisations come together to work on the city and region of the future. And that's our place. We are that open and safe space for collaboration and innovation, and we are always trying to encourage this even further. We do this together with our partners and community using a number of instruments. We regularly highlight one of these instruments on our platform: the Demo Days. But there are more, and one of the most important will take place soon: The Transition Days (Dutch: De Transitiedagen).
The Transition Days are annual events that take place in the autumn. The Amsterdam Smart City core team organizes this for and together with the partners. This is the moment for the partners of Amsterdam Smart City to share with each other on which issues and ambitions they will focus in the coming year. Can common ground be found and which coalitions can be made? You cannot work on a transition alone, which is why it is important to find parties with whom you can tackle these issues together. We create the connections between parties to ensure that innovation can take place.
The Transition Days 2021 will take place on 25 and 26 November.
These two days will be all about previous results, ambitions for the future and new connections. Under the guidance of our partner RoyanHaskoningDHV, the Amsterdam Smart City team enriched by masterclasses devised by the network, our partners are provided with enough inspiration and energy to turn their questions into successful collaborations. Which will lead to the improvement of the streets and neighbourhoods in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
Due to the pandemic, the Transition Days 2020 took place online. A selection of the questions that were brought in then:
- How do we keep the more conscious mobility choices post-corona?
- The maximum reuse of items and materials at circular waste points.
- Scaling Government as a Platform (GaaP)
- Zero Emission Mobility in Hubs
You can read exactly what these issues entail in our report.
Ever wondered what life would look like in a sustainable, regenerative city?
With cities occupying only 3% of the global land surface but contributing to 70% of emissions, positive change can have a big impact. Metabolic CEO Eva Gladek reflected on how we can all become city makers. In light of COP26, it might be time to refocus on our cities.
Ready to take action? Find out how in the link below.
This post is about the rise of the smart city movement, the different forms it has taken and what its future can be. It is the third edition of the series Better cities: The role of digital technologies.
The term smart cities shows up in the last decade of the 20th century. Most definitions refer to the use of (digital) technology as a tool for empowering cities and citizens, and a key to fuel economic growth and to attract investments. Some observants will add as an instrument to generate large profits.
Barcelona, Ottawa, Brisbane, Amsterdam, Kyoto, and Bangalore belong to the forerunners of cities that flagged themselves as ‘smart’. In 2013 approximately 143 ‘self-appointed’ smart cities existed worldwide. To date, this number has exploded over more than 1000.
Five smart city tales
In their article Smart Cities as Company Story telling Ola Söderström et al. document how technology companies crafted the smart city as a fictional story that framed the problems of cities in a way these companies can offer to solve. Over time, the story has multiplied, resulting in what I have called the Smart city tales, a series of narratives used by companies and city representatives. I will address with five dominant ones below: The connected city, the entrepreneurial city, the data-driven city, the digital services city and the consumers’ city.
The connected city
On November 4th 2011, the trademark smarter cities was officially registered as belonging to IBM. It marked a period in which this company became the leader of the smart city technology market. Other companies followed fast, attracted by an expected growth of this market by 20% per year from over $300bn in 2015 to over $750bn to date. In the IBM vision cities are systems of systems: Planning and management services, infrastructural services and human services, each to be differentiated further, to be over-sighted and controlled from one central point, such as the iconic control center that IBM has build in Rio de Janeiro (photo above). All systems can be characterized by three 'I's, which are the hard core of any smart city: Being instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.
The corporate smart city
In many cities in the world, emerging and developing countries in the first place, administrators dream about building smart towns from scratch. They envisioned being 'smart' as a major marketing tool for new business development.
Cisco and Gale, an international property development company, became the developers of New Songdo in South Korea. New Songdo was in the first place meant to become a giant business park and to enable a decent corporate lifestyle and business experience for people from abroad on the first place, offering houses filled with technical gadgets, attractive parks, full-featured office space, outstanding connectivity and accessibility.
Quite some other countries took comparable initiatives in order to attract foreign capital and experts to boost economic growth. For example, India, that has planned to build 100 smart cities.
The data driven city
The third narrative is fueled by the collection and refined analyses of data that technology companies ‘tap’ for commercial reasons from citizens’ Internet and mobile phones communication. Google was the first to discover the unlimited opportunities of integrating its huge knowledge of consumer behavior with city data. Sidewalk Labs - legally operating under the umbrella of Alphabet - responded to an open call for a proposal for redevelopment of Quayside, brownfield land around Toronto's old port, and won the competition. Its plans were on par with contemporary urbanist thinking. However, that was not Sidewalk Labs’ first motive. Instead, its interest was ‘ubiquitous sensing’ of city life’, to expand Google’s already massive collection of personalized profiles with real-time geotagged knowledge of where people are, what they are whishing or doing in order to provide them with commercial information.
As could be expected, privacy issues dominated the discussion over the urbanist merits of the plan and most observers believe that therefore the company put the plug out of the project in May 2020. The official reason was investors’ restraint, due to Covid-19.
The consumers’ smart city
The fourth narrative is focusing on rise of urban tech targeted on consumers. Amazon, Uber and Airbnb are forerunners disrupting traditional sectors like retail, taxi and hotel business. They introduced a platform approach that nearly decimated the middleclass in in the US. Others followed, such as bike- and scooter-sharing companies Bird and Lyme, co-working companies like We Work and meal delivery services like Delivero.
City tech embodies the influence of entrepreneurship backed by venture capitalists and at the same time the necessity for city governments to establish a democratic legitimized framework to manage these initiatives.
The smart services city
Thanks to numerous ‘apps’, cities started to offer a wealth of information and services to citizens concerning employment, housing, administration, mobility, health, security and utilities. These apps enable city administrators, transit authorities, utility services and many others to inform citizens better than before. With these apps, citizens also can raise questions or make a request to repair broken street furniture.
Some cities, for instance Barcelona and Madrid, started to use digital technologies to increase public engagement, or to give people a voice in decision making or budgeting.
All aforementioned narratives suggest a tight link between technology and the wellbeing of citizens, symbolizing a new kind of technology-led urban utopia. In essence, each narrative puts available technology in the center and looks for an acceptable rationale to put it into the market. The fifth one witnesses an upcoming change into a more human-centric direction.
An upcoming techlash or a second wave of smart cities
It is unmistakably that business leaders, having in mind a multi-billion smart city technologies-market overstate the proven benefits of technology. Garbage containers with built-in sensors and adaptive street lighting are not that great after all, and the sensors appearing everywhere raise many questions. According to The Economist, it is not surprising that a techlash is underway. As I accentuated in last week’s post, politicians are becoming more critical regarding behemoths like Google, Amazon and Facebook, because of their treatment of sensitive data, their lack of transparency of algorithm-based decision making, their profits and tax evasion and the gig economy in general. Skepticism within the general public is increasing too.
Nevertheless, a second wave of smart cities is upcoming. The first wave lacked openess for the ethics of urban technology and the governance of urban development. The second wave excels in ethical considerations and intentions to preserve privacy. Intentions alone are insufficient, politics will also have to break the monopolies of Big Tech
Besides, in order to gain trust in the general public, city governors must discuss the city’s real challenges with residents, (knowledge) institutions, and other stakeholder before committing to whatever technology. Governance comes prior to technology. As Francesca Bria, former chief technology officer of Barcelona said: We are reversing the smart city paradigm. Instead of starting from technology and extracting all the data we can before thinking about how to use it, we started aligning the tech agenda with the agenda of the city.
Apart from Barcelona, this also happens in cities such as Amsterdam, Boston, Portland and the Polish city of Lublin. The question is no longer which problems technology is going to solve, but which exactly are these problems, who is trusted to define them, which are their causes, whose intersts are involved, who is most affected, and which ones must be solved most urgently. Only after answering these questions, the discussion can be extended to the contribution of (digital) technology. In a next contribution, I explore digital social innovation, as a contribution to a revised smart city concept.
This post is a brief summary of my article Humane by choice. Smart by default: 39 building blocks for cities in the future. Published in the Journal of the American Institution of Engineers and Technology, June 2020. You will fine a copy of this article below:
Manon den Dunnen is the Dutch police force’s strategic specialist on digital transformation and co-organiser of the IoT Sensemakers Community.
“The IoT Sensemakers Community has over 7,000 members worldwide. Our members share knowledge and experiences about Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and AI. IoT plays an important role in the smart city, as sensors are often used to make the city smarter. We believe you should do this in a responsible manner.”
“In the offline world, we fight discrimination and exclusion, but digital solutions introduce new forms of discrimination and exclusion that undermine our constitutional values. This may be caused by poorly chosen sensors (check out this viral video of the ‘racist soap dispenser’), the algorithms used in ‘smart’ applications or by data being unnecessarily collected and stored.”
“Sensemakers joined forces with Waag, Sensing Clues, Ombudsman Metropool Amsterdam and the City of Amsterdam to use sound sensors to analyse the noise nuisance in the city centre. At Marineterrein, a test area for creating liveable cities, we are now testing a sound sensor that can classify different types of noise. The sensor does not store data, but labels the different types of sound. A few years ago, we also tested sensors for measuring water quality, and we’re still testing indoor air quality.”
Tinkering with technology
“Every first Wednesday evening of the month, we meet at the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA) Makerspace to tinker with technology. People can work on their own projects and discuss their ideas with the likeminded, but they can also start learning with Arduino or 3Dprinting. We also organise lectures, for example with Schiphol Real Estate about smart buildings and with designer Anouk Wipprecht about robotic wearables like her Spider Dress. In January we’ll have interesting speakers making sense of the Metaverse, the latest hype, or isn’t it…?”
“We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and are working on a lot of fun little projects. I really love the diversity and creativity. Recently, someone built an insect recogniser. We had an older volunteer in a care institution who wanted to program games for the elderly on a care robot. That evening, a teenage boy came to learn how to build a robot car. They were helping each other. I love that serendipity.”
“A lot of technology is supplier-driven. But as a society—as buyers of these solutions—we are insufficiently trained to ask the right questions to truly assess this new technology and its long-term risks. We sometimes even forget to critically analyse the problem we’re dealing with, overlooking obvious low-tech or no-tech solutions. With my work for Sensemakers, I hope that we all become more critical and have a network we can consult.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Manon, you can find her on this platform.
This interview is part of the series 'Meet the Members of Amsterdam Smart City'. In the next weeks we will introduce more members of this community to you. Would you like to show up in the series? Drop us a message!
Interview and article by Mirjam Streefkerk
Een groene en gezonde wereld begint in je eigen stad. Nergens in Nederland bouwen ondernemers en bewoners van zo dichtbij mee als in Almere. Verhalen van deze bewogen Almeerders hoor je in de podcast ‘Groen en Gezond Almere’.
Het is alweer tijd voor het derde seizoen, waarin Floriade Expo 2022 centraal staat, want die staat voor de deur! Het gebied rondom het Weerwater staat in de steigers, de groene loper wordt door de stad uitgerold. Maar wat houdt de Floriade nou precies in? En nog belangrijker: Wat blijft er allemaal over ná het evenement? De podcast wordt gepresenteerd door Kookboekenschrijfster, TV-kok en vooral betrokken Almeerder Nadia Zerouali. Nadia bespreekt de fysieke impact van de Floriade Expo op onze stad en spreekt met gebiedsontwikkelaars, energieleveranciers, bruggenbouwers en landschapsarchitecten.
Groen en Gezond Almere is het programma van de gemeente Almere waar jij mee kan bouwen aan de groene stad van de toekomst. Een groene en gezonde stad bouw je namelijk niet alleen, maar samen. Het platform laat lokale Almeerse initiatieven en projecten zien die de stad verduurzamen en klaarmaken voor de toekomst. Een inspirerend palet aan stadsmakers!
This post is about the omnipotence of Big Tech. So far, resistance mainly results in regulation of its effects. The core of the problem, the monopoly position of the technology giants, is only marginally touched. What is needed is a strict antitrust policy and a government that once again takes a leading role in setting the technology agenda.
A cause of concern
In its recent report, the Dutch Rathenau Institute calls the state of digital technology a cause for concern. The institute advocates a fair data economy and a robust, secure and available Internet for everyone. This is not the case now. In fact, we are getting further and further away from this. The risks are pressing more each day: Inscrutable algorithms, deepfakes and political micro-targeting, inner-city devastation through online shopping, theft of trade secrets, unbridled data collection by Google, Amazon and Facebook, poorly paid taxi drivers by Uber and other service providers of the gig economy, the effect of Airbnb on the hotel industry and the energy consumption of bitcoin and blockchain.
The limits of legislation
Numerous publications are calling on the government to put an end to the growing abuse of digital technology. In his must read 'the New Digital Deal' Bas Boorsma states: In order to deploy digitalization and to manage platforms for the greater good of the individual and society as a whole, new regulatory approaches will be required… (p. 46) . That is also the view of the Rathenau Institute, which lists three spearheads for a digitization strategy: Strong legislative frameworks and supervision, value-based digital innovation based on critical parliamentary debate and a say in this for citizens and professionals.
More than growing inconvenience
In recent years, the European Commission has launched a wide range of legislative proposals, such as the Digital Services Act package, the Digital Market Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, these measures do not get to the kernel of the problem. The near-monopoly position of Big Tech is the proverbial monster behind the curtain. The Rathenau Institute speaks in furtitive terms of "the growing inconvenience" of reliance on American and Chinese tech giants. Even the International Monetary Fund is clearer in stating that the power of Big Tech inhibits innovation and investment and increases income inequality. Due to the power of the big technology companies, society is losing its grip on technology.
To curb the above-mentioned risks, the problem must first be named and measures must then be tailored accordingly. This is done in two recent books, namely Shoshana Zuboff's 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power' (2019) and Cory Doctorow's 'How to destroy surveillance capitalism' (2021). Zuboff describes in detail how Google, Amazon and Facebook collect data with only one goal, to entice citizens to buy goods and services: Big Tech's product is persuasion. The services — social media, search engines, maps, messaging, and more — are delivery systems for persuasion.
Big tech's monopoly
The unprecedented power of Big Tech is a result of the fact that these companies have become almost classic monopolies. Until the 1980s, the US had strict antitrust legislation: the Sherman's act, notorious for big business. Ronald Reagan quickly wiped it out in his years as president, and Margareth Thatcher did the same in the UK, Brian Mulroney in Canada and Helmut Kohl in Germany. While Sherman saw monopolies as a threat to the free market, Reagan believed that government interference threatens the free market. Facebook joins in if it sees itself as a 'natural monopoly': You want to be on a network where your friends are also. But you could also reach your friends if there were more networks that are interoperable. Facebook has used all economic, technical and legal means to combat the latter, including takeover of potential competitors: Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
In the early 21st century, there was still a broad belief that emerging digital technology could lead to a better and more networked society. Bas Boorsma: The development of platforms empowered start-ups, small companies and professionals. Many network utopians believed the era of 'creative commons' had arrived and with it, a non-centralized and highly digital form of 'free market egalitarianism' (New Digital Deal, p.52). Nothing has come of this: Digitalization-powered capitalism now possesses a speed, agility and rawness that is unprecedented (New Digital Deal, p.54). Even the startup community is becoming one big R&D lab for Big Tech. Many startups hope to be acquired by one of the tech giants and then cash in on millions. As a result, Big Tech is on its way to acquire a dominant position in urban development, the health sector and education, in addition to the transport sector.
Thanks to its monopoly position, Big Tech can collect unlimited data, even if European legislation imposes restrictions and occasional fines. After all, a lot of data is collected without citizens objecting to it. Mumford had already realized this in 1967: Many consumers see these companies not only as irresistible, but also ultimately beneficial. These two conditions are the germ of what he called the megatechnics bribe.
The only legislation that can break the power of Big Tech is a strong antitrust policy, unbundling the companies, an absolute ban on acquisitions and rigorous taxation.
Technology does not develop autonomously. At the moment, Big Tech is indisputably setting the technology agenda in the Western Hemisphere. China is a different story. With Mariana Mazzocato, I believe that governments should take back control of technological development, as they did until the end of the last century. Consider the role of institutions such as DARPA in the US, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and TNO in the Netherlands. Democratic control is an absolute precondition!
In the chapter 'Digitally just cities' in my e-book 'Cities of the future: Always humane, smart where it helps' (link below), I show, among other things, what Facebook, Amazon and Google could look like after a possible unbundling.
On 4 October 2021, Startup in Residence published 12 new challenges on the themes of sustainability & circularity. The City of Amsterdam is looking for the best entrepreneurs (start-ups, scale-ups, innovative SMEs, and social entrepreneurs) with creative and innovative solutions for the city’s issues. The application deadline is almost here! Finish your application before 24 November 23:59 (CET).
Solutions are sought for the following challenges
What's in it for me?
Join the 7th edition of Startup in Residence Sustainability & Circularity and get:
- an intensive six-month training programme;
- support from an experienced mentor;
- access to the entire network of the City of Amsterdam;
- opportunity to test and validate your product or service with and within the City of Amsterdam;
- the City of Amsterdam as your potential launching customer.
Don’t wait, apply now! www.startupinresidence.amsterdam
Next months, I will post a weekly contribution answering the question how digital technologies can contribute to the development of better cities. Here's what to expect from these posts:
According to the WEF Global Risk Report, anyone committed to the contribution of digital technology to solving the problems facing society should realize that technology and the underlying business model itself is one of those problems. The last thing to do is uncritically follow those who see only the blessings of technology. Some of their prophecies will send shivers down your spine, like this one from tech company Siemens: In a few decades, cities will have countless autonomous, intelligently functioning IT systems that are perfectly aware of users' habits and energy consumption and provide optimal service. The aim of such a city is to optimally regulate and control resources through autonomous IT systems. The company precisely articulates the fear expressed by Lewis Mumford who wrote in his seminal book The Myth of the Machine: Emerging new mega-techniques create a uniform, all-enveloping, super-planetary structure, designed for automatic operation in which man will become a passive, purposeless, machine-conditioned animal. This was in 1967, before anyone could even think about the impact of digital technology.
Fortunately, there are of governments, companies and institutions committed to developing and adopting technology to address the challenges the world faces: Energy transition and other impacts of climate change, pressure on mobility, setting up a circular economy; making society inclusive and improving the liveability of cities. However, technology alone cannot reach these goals. Far-reaching social and economic reforms are needed, also to ensure that the benefits of digitization are shared by everyone.
I join those who 'believe' in the potential of digital technology for society, if done in a responsible and value-driven way, but also are skeptical whether this will happen indeed. This ambivalence will not have escaped the notice of those familiar with my previous publications. In my first ebook Smart city tales (2018) I explored the use and abuse of technology in so-called smart cities. In the second ebook Cities of the future, always humane, smart if helpful (2020) I presented the problems of contemporary cities, collected possible solutions and mapped out which digital techniques can contribute. The conclusion was that humane cities are still a long way off.
What you are reading now is the first post (Read the Dutch version here) in a new series that focuses on digital technology itself. In the first part of this series, I discuss the demands that can be placed on the design of digital technology for the sake of better cities. In the second part, I apply these requirements to a broad range of technologies. The integration of digital technology into urban policies will be discussed in part three.
I foresee the publication of about 20 articles. The link below opens a preliminary overview of their topics. I will take the liberty of adapting this plan to the actuality and advancing insight.
Boaz Bar-Adon is the founder of Ecodam, a startup that wants to create a place where children can actively learn about sustainability and the circular economy.
“Our big dream is a physical place where children can come to get acquainted with all aspects of sustainability—a kind of science museum, but with more focus on the concept of circularity and the role young people can play in the new economy.
It’s almost a cliche, but our children are the future. If we make them realise that we need to use resources in a different way, they will take that with them for the rest of their adult lives — no matter what profession they enter later. As a museum and exhibition designer, I see there is too little awareness among clients, designers and builders about the scarcity of materials. That should really change for future generations.''
''Recently, my associate, Pieter de Stefano, and I decided that we want to start making an impact as soon as possible. We designed a plastic-themed mobile pop-up lab. We recently gave our first successful workshop, and we plan to do it more often. In our school workshops, we give a brief explanation about circularity and the impact we have on the environment. But the most important part is when the children work on the concept of circularity. Together, we invent solutions and build prototypes. We let the children think about the problem and then let them come up with solutions themselves.”
“Once it got going, the group we gave the workshop to was unstoppable. A few girls designed an entire landscape from old waste, which was a prototype of an environment where children do not throw away their old toys but collect them. Another group built a submarine to remove plastic from the sea, inspired by the Dutch nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup. The workshop ended with children creating, with specialised machines, new products from plastic waste. In the future, Ecodam could be a place where schools and universities test or show new materials or techniques. Local authorities that want to promote new policies around waste or the circular economy can also work with us. In Ecodam, they can see how children react to their policies. Maybe they will come up with new ideas.''
''We would like a permanent space so we can work with large machines: a shredder, for example, that cuts plastic parts into small pieces or a machine that melts them and can then press the liquid plastic into a mould. Children can create new building materials with these machines, making technology something very tangible and rewarding.
I'd love to hear of any tips people may have for a permanent space. We are a social enterprise, still investigating which business model works best for us. We will probably be partly supported by subsidies, but we are also looking for fresh ideas for smart new financing methods. How can social value be translated into financial value? Our final goal is being able to facilitate as many visitors as possible and provide them with a meaningful and high-quality experience.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Boaz, you can find him on this platform.
This interview is part of the series 'Meet the Members of Amsterdam Smart City'. In the next weeks we will introduce more members of this community to you. Would you like show up in the series? Drop us a message!
Interview and article by Mirjam Streefkerk
Ben jij een MKB-er, start-up of scale-up die wil bijdragen aan een schone, duurzame en gezonde wereld? Dan weet je als geen ander hoe lastig het soms kan zijn om je idee of product aan de man te brengen. En je bent niet de enige! Provincie Noord-Holland heeft speciaal voor ondernemers zoals jij het GO!-NH versnellingsprogramma ontwikkeld om je te helpen bij het op de markt brengen en opschalen van jouw innovatieve, duurzame product of dienst. Ons doel is om jou te helpen impact te maken op de maatschappij!
GO!-NH biedt drie verschillende trajecten die aansluiten bij de fase en omvang waarin je bedrijf zich bevindt: het Accelerator traject voor MKB bedrijven en start-ups met een idee maar nog geen of beperkte markt, het Growth traject voor bedrijven die in de volgende fase willen groeien, en het Scale traject voor grotere MKB bedrijven en scale-ups die al flinke omzet hebben maar nieuwe markten aan willen boren.
In het voorjaar starten de Accelerator en het Growth traject. Je kunt je vanaf nu aanmelden voor de selectie! Surf voor meer informatie naar de website van GO!-NH: https://go-nh.nl/meer-informatie/
The Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht Universities of Applied Sciences have received a SPRONG grant from Regieorgaan-SIA, with which they - together with 24 partners from the field - can build an infrastructure for a powerful research group. A group that is regionally and nationally recognised as the centre for practice-based research in the field of Responsible Applied AI.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing rapidly with far-reaching consequences for the whole of society (all sectors, professions and citizens). Although AI offers new opportunities for institutions and (SME) companies, there are also many questions.
For example, there is a demand for research methods to meaningfully implement AI technology in a specific context (e.g. retail and care), taking into account the user and other stakeholders. There are also questions about the design process of AI solutions: how can you take ethical and social issues into account?
METHODOLOGY FOR RESPONSIBLE APPLIED AI
Current AI research is mostly fundamental and focused on technology. As such, it hardly provides answers to the questions mentioned above. The three universities of applied sciences in the SPRONG group conduct practice-oriented research into responsible AI solutions for companies and institutions. With these research experiences and results, the SPRONG group aims to develop a Responsible Applied AI methodology that helps to design, develop and implement responsible AI solutions.
CO-CREATION IN HYBRID LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
To develop this methodology, knowledge building and sharing is needed, which the universities of applied sciences develop together with companies and organisations. The starting point of the project is the development of three hybrid learning environments around the application areas of retail, business services and media. AI developers, problem owners, end users, researchers and students work together in these environments.
The goal is to develop practical tools, instruments, education and training from the learning environment that can be widely used for the application of AI in the relevant sector. Each learning environment is linked to specific courses of the participating universities and practical partners who contribute to the programme. During the SPRONG programme, the number of application areas will be expanded and, where possible, scaled up nationally.
A central supporting infrastructure will be developed, including processes and facilities for data management and strategic human resource management, an IT infrastructure, training courses and an impact model.
On the 28th of October 2021 Amsterdam Smart City and Datalab hosted an international event on the costs and benefits of accommodating data centres. Together with partners we discussed the complexity of the weighing of these aspects and the management by future policies.
The digitization of our society produces an exponentially increasing amount of data, which causes an increased need for data centres and connectivity. In 2030, there is expected to see a twenty-fold increase in data traffic, consuming 5% of worldwide electricity at that point. A recent report in the Netherlands has shown quite some hesitance on whether or not the foreseen rise in data centres in The Netherlands is the right way to go.
Lots of reasons to shed some international perspectives on these issues. What are current datacentre strategies? How are datacenters driving economic value? And how can the digital economy become more sustainable? Check out the presentations and discussions in the video!
• Wout Rensink (Policy advisor Economic Affairs at Province of Noord-Holland)
• Thomas Moran (Technology and Sustainability Strategist at Lumen & techUK)
• Daan Terpstra (Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs · Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA))
- Jeroen Sipman, liaison at Amsterdam Smart City
Anne-Ro Klevant Groen is Marketing and Communications Director at Fashion for Good, a platform that connects established fashion brands with startups.
“Ever since I was a little girl, fashion has been my passion. But I also know that the fashion industry has a large, negative impact on people and our environment. We need to transform our current take-make-waste model into a circular fashion system. For me, it is very rewarding to work on solutions via Fashion for Good.
We connect sustainable and innovative startups to corporate fashion companies and manufacturers such as Adidas and C&A. Many startups have fantastic ideas for more sustainable fashion, but they don’t yet have the network or financial resources to connect with large companies. Others want to know more about intellectual property or marketing. Our mentors help these startups with tailor-made programs based on their maturity.
Corporations invest in us to help us do our jobs, but they also dedicate teams and time to our programmes. We help them with impact assessments so they can see where they will be most effective, and then we connect them to the startups that fit their goals. C&A, for example, was part of a pilot that used blockchain technology to improve transparency in the organic cotton industry. The technology helps trace the origin of organic cotton, similar to what is already being done with coffee and cocoa. Tommy Hilfiger has collaborated with a startup that makes vegan leather from the pectin in apples. We are also starting our own foundational pilot projects, including one with chemical recycling and another that’s working on developing circular polybags for clothes, such as the bags that are wrapped around our clothing when we order from webshops.”
The Amsterdam ecosystem
“Amsterdam offers us plenty of opportunities. It is a very creative city and home to many of the large fashion house’s headquarters. There’s also a good startup and investment climate. We have a co-working space in the heart of Amsterdam for innovative, sustainable fashion startups and freelancers. It’s a large open space where individuals or companies can rent desks and connect to other members of the Dutch circular fashion ecosystem. We always have some space available, so feel free to contact us if you want to be part of our network.
We are also working on an education program for MBO schools to ensure that the fashion industry’s future workforce understands the need to get rid of that take-make-waste model.
For consumers, we have the Fashion for Good Museum on the Rokin in Amsterdam, where we want to educate visitors so they can make better fashion choices. The museum industry is still fairly new to us, and we would like to get in touch with parties that can help us reach more people. Ultimately, it is consumers who either have to buy less or get to know more about the sustainable apparel our partners are developing, make better decisions and demand a better product.
We publish what we learn about sustainable clothing and textiles in our website’s Resource Library. It’s accessible to everyone—free of charge—so startups don’t have to waste valuable time reinventing the wheel. By working together better, we work more efficiently and can accelerate our transformation to a circular fashion system.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Anne-Ro, you can find her on this platform.
This interview is part of the series 'Meet the Members of Amsterdam Smart City'. In the next weeks we will introduce more members of this community to you. Would you like show up in the series? Drop us a message!
Interview and article by Mirjam Streefkerk
Het is nu officieel! Marineterrein Amsterdam en Amsterdam Smart City worden partners en gaan de samenwerking verder intensiveren. Het doel: kennis delen en samen aan de slag om tot oplossingen voor stedelijke vraagstukken te komen.
Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) zet zich vanaf het Marineterrein al jaren in voor open innovatie door als platform partijen en organisaties aan elkaar te verbinden. Kennis delen en samen aan de slag staan hierbij centraal.
Een voorbeeld van zo’n samenwerking op het Marineterrein is het Responsible Sensing Lab, waarbij een aantal ASC-partners in de openbare ruimte experimenteren met verantwoorde detectiesystemen om bijvoorbeeld geluidsoverlast of drukte in kaart te brengen. Verschillende partijen brengen bij deze experimenten hun expertise bij elkaar om samen tot oplossingen te komen. De lessen die we daaruit leren zijn waardevol voor heel veel Smart City projecten.
‘Het Marineterrein bestaat uit een levendige community die zich bezighoudt met het oplossen van allerlei stedelijke vraagstukken’, zegt directeur van Bureau Marineterrein Liesbeth Jansen. ‘Er is op het terrein veel kennis aanwezig over nieuwe manieren van leren, wonen en werken, en door ons aan te sluiten bij het ASC-netwerk kan die kennis nu breder gedeeld worden. En andersom kijken we uit naar interessante samenwerkingen tussen het ASC-netwerk en Marineterrein Amsterdam Living Lab die onze community verder kunnen helpen.’
Leren in real life
Directeur van ASC Leonie van den Beuken ziet met de samenwerking veel kansen om nieuwe, innovatieve oplossingen in real life te testen. ‘Een van onze kernwaarden is leren door te doen. Het Marineterrein biedt een prachtig testgebied voor oplossingen die we in de praktijk willen uitproberen. We zijn daarom één van de partners in het Marineterrein Living Lab. Daarnaast staan wij beiden voor open innovatie ten behoeve van een leefbare stad. Aangezien het Marineterrein onze thuisbasis is, is het logisch om onze netwerken en ambities nog meer aan elkaar te verbinden.’
This post is the third and last in a series of articles about the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam Delta (Amsterdam metropolitan region). The first dealt with the dual challenge for start-ups to become socially and environmentally sustainable and to empower employees to be entrepreneurial through shared leadership. The second one was a review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem by the authors of the 2021 Global Startup Ecosystems Ranking.
Weaknesses and strengths
The 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Report revealed several weaknesses in the Amsterdam startup ecosystem, which – I accentuate - should not overshadow the city’s position of Amsterdam as the world number 13 startup ecosystem. In terms of market reach, the overall score is satisfactory (7), but the Amsterdam Delta startups are primarily focused on global markets and score low on the local market. In the field of talent, the overall score is more than sufficient (7), due to the quality of technology students and graduates, but their number is inadequate, resulting in high vacancies and salary costs. Partly related to this, the growth potential (scalability) of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem is also insufficient, due to a limited reservoir of experienced entrepreneurs. Overall knowledge success is assessed as poor (1!) due to the unsatisfactory number of life science patents.
Amsterdam Policy plan 2019 - 2022
Most of the underlying data of the 2021 report is from 2019 – 2021, a time frame that coincides with the start of the new policy plan for startups in Amsterdam in the period 2019 - 2022. The inventory of challenges in this report mirrors several weaknesses mentioned above. Looking at the future, the report states: We have reached a point where growth of the local ecosystem does not have to mean that the local government wants to encourage as many companies in Amsterdam as possible but encourages activity that adds value to the city in new ways. In the coming years, we must also lay the foundations for a more inclusive society, in which the local startup and scaleup ecosystem also plays a role. A step towards inclusiveness means significantly increasing the business sector’s ambitions for social responsibility. In other words, a focus on quality in general that is aligned with at least the first challenge in the first post I referred to above.
How cities can support their startup ecosystem?
Below, I discuss highlights from the policy report 2019 - 2022 within a broader vision of possibilities for municipalities to support start- and scale-ups, partly based on an earlier edition of a The Global Startup Ecosystem Report.
According to the 2021Global Startup Ecosystems Report, the funding of new businesses is not a big problem in Amsterdam Delta, also because of the generous tax facilities(!) in the Netherlands. However, investment relies heavily on local investors and governmental grants: 54% of the capital flowing into the ecosystem comes from domestic sources, 25% from the rest of Europe, and just 21% from the rest of the world.
The City of Amsterdam subsidized the Innovation Center for AI (ICAI) at Amsterdam Science Park, requiring that at least 20% of its revenues will be reserved for innovative SMEs and startups.
While funding is not an overriding problem, Amsterdam can improve its coordinating role in providing financial support, as for example Seoul has done by the creation of the Dream bank, a one-stop agency for all financial matters.
Growth of markets
The market position of Amsterdam start- and scaleups can be improved, especially in the home market, but also internationally. Besides, every new startup must start from scratch by creating a market. An agency called Amsterdam Trade and Innovate has commissioned trade developers to organize domestic and international activities that support promising companies in clusters such as technology, health, life sciences, and creative industry.
Expanding the reservoir of entrepreneurs
Amsterdam focuses on women and young people with a migration background, most of whom never received tech-related training. Initiatives such as House of Skills, Action Plan W&T, House of Digital offer a range of technology-based courses to make up for these shortcomings, alongside startup schools such as BSSA, Growth Tribe and The Talent Institute.
In December 2020, the City of Amsterdam announced it will invest yearly US$ 856,500 in RISE, the Female Hub Amsterdam. There is a high demand in sectors such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, life science and energy storage, while relatively many university students in technology seem to prefer media studies and gaming and the fintech market is almost satorized. Studying will become more attractive by combining study and jobs and affordable (co-)housing and childcare options, both of which are both are seriously lacking.
In addition, the ‘Warm Welcome’ program aims to attract ambitious tech talent from abroad. Unfortunately, the pandemic has significantly reduced the influx of potential talent from abroad while market opportunities for innovative tech startups and scaleups were improving.
Innovative and research-oriented start-ups prefer the proximity of comparable small and medium-sized companies in campuses. They also prefer locations in mixed urban environments. A campus offers space for complementary companies, large and small, and facilities to collaborate, such as shared laboratory spaces. Amsterdam develops urban innovation districts through regional development and transformation. These areas that can accommodate rapid growth and opportunity for clustering ‘anchor companies’, leading (knowledge) institutions, startups, scaleups, incubators and accelerators. The main areas are: West Innovation Park, Amsterdam Sciencepark, Marineterrein , AMC-Amstel III and VU-Kenniskwartier/Zuidas.
Participation in the network of incubators and accelerators
Startups and scaleups need support. Incubators help companies to settle, accelerators help them to grow steadily. One of the best things any city can do is actively participation in these incubators and accelerators. They can become a one shop-stop for all prospective participants, providing virtually all the support start- and scaleups need. 31 of the 89 incubators and accelerators in the Netherlands, are active in the Amsterdam metropolitan area. A rich pallette of incubators and co-working spaces such as TQ, WeWork, Spaces, Startup Village, Rent24 and B.Amsterdam have been set up. Accelerators are Rockstart, Startupbootcamp, Fashion for Good, ACE and Collider.
Within an incubator or accelerator, the municipality can be primary responsible for legal matters, offering work- and living spaces (initially for free and later rented out at attractive rates), trade missions and procurement.
In some cities, startups can practice aspects of social and environmental sustainability in public administration. An example is the Startup in Residence program that started in Amsterdam and has now been spread over 20 other Dutch cities, regional governments, and ministries. The program is open to both Dutch and foreign entrepreneurs. Professional coaches provide intensive training and support. Workspace is available too. Under certain conditions, local, regional, and national governments become launching customers or partners. A report provides a detailed overview of the program in Amsterdam and its impact on the participants and the community.
Taking care of starters in general
Only a small but previously unknown part of all starters becomes a startup. Moreover, the number of starters outsizes that of startups and some can become valued companies too In the Netherlands, each year more than 100.000 starters are registered with the Chamber of Commerce.
Short evaluation Amsterdam policy plan 2019 - 12022
I doubt whether the current Amsterdam policy on start- and scaleups will result in a better ranking next year, also because in many cities startup ecologies are growing faster. Personally, I believe that consolidating a position in the top 20 is the best possible and still admirable result. This certainly applies if Amsterdam can achieve its ambitions in the field of qualitative rather than quantitative growth. Amsterdam wants to become an inclusive community and the first circular city in the world. The city wants that start- and scaleups becoming forerunners in reaching these objectives. I am partly disappointed in the content of the policy report 2019 - 2022 regarding this ambition. Indeed, becoming a more inclusive community is reflected in supporting the growth of the number female entrepreneurs. However, I looked in vain at policies encourage activity regarding developing start- and scaleups that add value to the city in new ways for instance contributing to the development of the circular economy. These businesses will make the difference in the future startup ecosystem.
I will regularly share ‘snapshots’ of the challenge of bringing socially and ecologically sustainable cities closer using technology if useful. These posts represent findings, updates, and additions to my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful, chapter 4 in particular. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.
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On the 28th of October, Amsterdam Smart City, together with the Province of North Holland and Datalab, will discuss the costs and benefits of accommodating data centres, the complexity of the weighing of these aspects, and how future policies could manage these. We will put the complexity in an international perspective.
Why would you need data centers in your region? What are reasons to refuse them on territories? What are the dilemmas and how do cities in Europe deal with this? We can now confirm the speakers for the event!
Wout Rensink – Province of North Holland
The Province of North Holland is developing a policy on data centres, with which they try to take a first step in minimizing the impact of data centres. The Province ensures that data centres generate their own sustainable energy, the residual heat (in the environment) is used, circular design is applied in the development of buildings which blend into the landscape and that the data centres are leaders in terms of energy and innovation. The man for the job? Wout Rensink! He is the Province’s policy advisor who will try and achieve these goals with other governmental institutions and the industry itself.
Thomas Moran – techUK
Beside his job as the Senior Lead Technology Strategist for Lumen, Thomas is the vice chair of the Climate Strategy and Resilience Council for techUK, which is the largest European trade group representing the technology industry. They support the UK national, regional and local governments in formulating policy around all things technology related, including data centres and infrastructure. He will provide us with the point of view and insights from another part of the FLAP-region: London.
Daan Terpstra – SDI Alliance
After years of working on sustainable energy projects at Vattenfall, Daan Terpstra has joined SDI Alliance last year to try and move the digital infrastructure sector to sustainability by 2030. As the new Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Daan can provide a view on future international digital infrastructure policies in Europe. SDI Alliance has derived a number of fundamental positions, beliefs and principles with which they hope to ensure the development of a vibrant European digital economy, without consuming unsustainable levels of resources.
The session will be moderated by Jeroen Sipman from Amsterdam Smart City.
Join this session of Data Dilemmas on the 28th of October, join the discussion and learn from an international audience!
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Helsinki and Amsterdam are inviting motorists to take part in a study that aims to offer the most socially responsible driving routes in each city.
Code the Streets – an EU-sponsored mobility initiative which will run throughout October and November – asks drivers to test new functions in the traffic navigation app TomTomAmiGO and Mercedes-Benz’ navigation planner, to better understand how to route motorists in a more environmentally aware way.
This includes suggestions on avoiding roads close to schools, residential areas, and parts of the city with high pollution.
The initiative is a collaboration between the City of Amsterdam, City of Helsinki, Aalto University, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), Forum Virium Helsinki, Technical University Delft and The Future Mobility Network, and is funded by TomTom, Mercedes-Benz and EIT Urban Mobility.
Read the full story here: https://cities-today.com/helsinki-and-amsterdam-invite-motorists-to-code-the-streets/