Right now, cities all over the world are grappling with the detrimental effects of climate change such as sea level rise and increasingly extreme and frequent weather events. Moreover, urban air pollution and the “urban heat island effect” continue to be some of the most critical and urgent issues challenging urban populations.
Compared to many international cities, the Access Cities partners New York City and Copenhagen have been making positive progress in addressing challenges such as air quality and urban heat issues through strategies developed and implemented over the past decade. Still, there are improvements to be made, and with global temperatures rising, the challenges facing these cities will only increase in scope. Here Open Innovation can make a difference.
Inviting stakeholders to join the innovation
Unlike traditional research and development (R&D), which is often an internal activity, Open Innovation encourages the exploration of both internal and external ideas, knowledge, technologies, and competencies by working with customers, users, citizens, and other stakeholders. This collaboration is characterised by the cross-fertilisation of knowledge from stakeholders with different backgrounds. Furthermore, Open Innovation processes also allow immature ideas, technologies, and information to be incorporated into active innovation processes.
Why is Open Innovation important for cities?
The “closed” business models of cities and municipalities tend to prevent administrators from utilizing the newest technologies, knowledge, and processes for the benefit of their citizens – no matter how motivated they are to do so.
Open Innovation, however, represents a way in which a city can open up its procurement model and create a variety of benefits for itself as the instigator, as well as for other stakeholders more widely. The most obvious of these benefits relates to the efficiencies and added value it can bring to the process of developing solutions, both with regards to the resources used and the results achieved.
Additional benefits include solving complex multi-faceted problems such as sustainable waste management, flood protection measures, renewable energy generation, and other forms of climate action, which are difficult to overcome in cities due to the complexity of the socio-economic systems they tend to harbour.
By adopting an open approach, cities can ensure greater public involvement, widen its economic base through the cultivation of entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs – which is one of the aims for the Access Cities project – and capture the most up-to-date knowledge, thinking, and competencies. Furthermore, given their role within their own jurisdiction, administrations possess significant influence in determining the direction of Open Innovation processes.
Potential for Danish companies in New York City and vice versa
One aim of the Access Cities project is to identify joint challenge definitions and solutions to avoid parallel work and experiences not being sufficiently channelled to other cities that struggle with similar challenges.
Access Cities is therefore trying to pool key challenges as to work on these with more engaged stakeholders to let solutions and experiences flow more easily between the cities – but also to expand the number and profile of the potential solution providers (i.e. companies), when marketing the specific challenges, thereby enlarging the list of companies that are able to come up with solutions to the challenges.
By doing this, the companies will gain exposure to a much bigger market and strengthen their visibility at the foreign market, and the cities will have a larger number of solutions providers with more qualitative ideas and solutions to choose from and get in dialogue with.
The Access Cities partner organisations are looking forward to discussing the potentials of the Open Innovation approach with city representatives as well as solution providers across the markets in the near future.