Can we tender innovation? Transform post #17


Smart city development is –to my opinion- all about finding new ways to improve liveability of cities with the support of ICT. But what a smart city really is; nobody seems to know. I think because it sounds nice: cities want to be called smart; because the opposite is what you don’t want to be: a stupid city.

But what is it? Smart is too a vague word to express what it intends to be. For me, innovation is a key word. Innovation is what we need to build better and sustainable cities. Smart alone doesn’t represent that.

If being smart is all about innovation, what does it mean and how does it work?

Cities and other public institutions need to tender things they buy. If it is a product, a consult, an advise or a design. Before starting the tender they have to make a description of what it is they want to buy. But how do you describe innovation? How on earth can you describe something you don’t know? Because “it” is not there yet and has to be developed, designed or invented. Innovation is something you don’t know upfront. Innovation comes before a program of requirement, before a design and way before a product can be made.

During the Amsterdam smart city event the mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijsel, stated that this devilish problem is maybe one off the reasons ICT projects of governments often fail. And I think he is right. If, along the way, the planned innovation needs a completely different direction -and this is not unthinkable- this will be blocked by the rules of local or European procurement….

Do you think this will help Smart City development?

Back to smart. How can cities be smart? By tendering in the old way? Open procedures; restricted procedures; negotiation; competitive dialogue or framework agreements? Or is there a different way? Can we make procedures more flexible to overcome the above dilemma? By working with a step by step approach and slowly building up experience with the market to find smart solutions?

What is your opinion?

Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM


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