European Innovation: Barcelona is Smart City Frontrunner

BARCELONA, a leader in Smart City and Future City innovation is tipped to win the European Capital of Innovation Award.

BARCELONA is tipped to win the European Capital of Innovation Award. The €500k  iCapital prize is awarded by the European Commission. The prize rewards innovation within Europe and provides funding for high potential projects. It recognises Smart City innovation and encourages its development and the sharing of ideas across member states.


Barcelona visto desde el Parc Güell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barcelona was ranked 4th Smartest City in Europe behind Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Vienna in a previous FastCompany study. European Innovation is world-leading and many European capitals are experimenting with advanced ‘Smart City’ projects. Barcelona will face stiff competition from across member states. It is a frontrunner because of the volume, diversity and maturity of its Smart City services. The city has also made significant contributions to Open Innovation, mentoring and acting as a reference for other urban, economic and social innovation. It has a booming innovation and tech cluster in the Districte de la innovació ([email protected]).

Smart Cities – Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia

The City Protocol

Barcelona is at the forefront of Smart City thinking and announced strategic initiatives with Cisco back in 2012. A lot of work has gone into creating a reference model for future urban development including collaboration between government, municipality and private sector. The work of the City of Barcelona is being codified by the City Protocol initiative which is a reference model by which to define and measure Smart Cities. City Protocol is based on 5 core objectives:

  1. To facilitate and foster a new science of cities.
  2. To establish a cooperation framework among the city council, academia, companies, organizations and people/society.
  3. To lead and pave cities’ futures.
  4. To understand the common driving forces of urban evolution and find common game-changing solutions.
  5. To find innovative economical opportunities and synergies: and deliver value-adding products and services.

Future Cities: 42 Insights and Interviews with Influencers, Startups, Investors

Smart City Innovation in Barcelona

Smart City Innovation in Barcelona focuses on Smart Mobility (Electromobility), smart energy and natural resource usage, smart transportation and other localism initiatives. These include:

  • Development of a Smart Bus network with better real-time information and route planning
  • Energy self-sufficiency, energy trading and more efficient monitoring of energy use
  • Smart Lighting and new consumption models including ‘pay per use’
  • More efficient use of rain water
  • Smart parking solutions
  • Adoption of the Internet of Things to create ‘Smart Spaces’ and new interactions between citizens, spaces and objects.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Barcelona is at the vanguard of sensoring technologies and has deployed large numbers of smart sensors to help deliver its Smart City objectives. These include monitoring environmental conditions such as air quality, noise pollution, traffic congestion and waste management.

A critical focus for Smart Cities is how to efficiently and effectively manage population growth and demographic change and offer ‘fit for purpose’ digital services to citizens. Barcelona has invested heavily in public access WiFi networks to enable internet service access and to distribute information from its numerous smart sensors.

The city has enjoyed strong and visionary leadership from Smart City pioneer Pilar Conesa. Conesa is a former Chief Technology Officer of the city and is currently Director of the Smart City World Congress. Barcelona is also a recognised leader in Open Data and Open Government.

The European Innovation winner of iCapital will be announced at the Innovation Convention 2014, which takes place in Brussels between March 10th and 11th.

Smart City Expo comes to Kyoto in Japan on March 26th and 27th. Smart City World Congress next meets in Barcelona in November. The call for papers for November’s Smart City Innovation event in Barcelona is already open.

Further Reading on Smart Cities

By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.