Opinion | A smarter city requires smart partnerships

In January I had the joy of visiting Silicon Valley and New York to meet with a number of technology giants, architects and politicians. 

The aim of the trip was to use Copenhagen’s strong position within green technology to attract more foreign investments and business to the city. 

Together with Copenhagen Capacity and the Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster, I visited companies with a potential for new solutions within the intelligent management of water, energy and parking and offered them attractive partnerships to develop and test new green technologies. Thus we combine business and job creation with our ambition to make Copenhagen carbon-neutral. 

We want to speed up the process of attracting large international technology partners to test and develop the energy management and intelligent infrastructure of tomorrow.

Copenhagen is considered one of the world’s leading cities when it comes to green and smart energy, efficient public transportation and bicycle logistics, as well as water and wastewater management. We are home to the most advanced electricity grid in Europe, which means that we can offer unique testing facilities – for example, of the smart grid of the future. 

A green and smart value proposition

It is crucial that we become much better at marketing these value propositions towards potential partners. 

Copenhagen offers the companies access to 3.8 million people, eleven universities, 150,000 students and 10,000 PhD students. And the expected 20 percent growth in population means that we will be building 45,000 new housing units and 2.8 million sqm of retail, office, cultural and educational space towards 2025.

In order to achieve our goal of making Copenhagen carbon-neutral in 2025, we need a smart approach to green mobility initiatives, more energy-efficient buildings and renewable energy production. This is why we invite international companies and entrepreneurs with green ambitions to develop and test Smart City solutions in a real-life environment. The Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster offers to assist the companies in finding the right partners, to deploy and test solutions and to make them a part of the Copenhagen green brand.

Sharing ideas with New York

In New York, the agenda was broader. It was a pleasure to discuss how to ‘green’ and improve the quality of life in our cities with city planners, high-level policymakers and architects. I am impressed by how well people in New York know Copenhagen, our initiatives within sustainability, growth and quality of life and our efforts to make Copenhagen even smarter.

In Copenhagen, we are aware that when we invest in sustainability, the returns should be measured in more than just environmental terms. It also has financial benefits and it is often good business. A good example is the cleaning of the water in our harbour that has benefited business, tourism and real estate prices. 

Another example is our integrated public transportation system. In addition to reducing traffic congestion, it also keeps the city clean and easily accessible. This way of measurement will often make it easier to keep the investments in greening the city high on the agenda.

I also had a very fruitful meeting with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. We share a lot of ideas on green growth and sustainability. Through the C40 Network on Climate Change, Bloomberg has made great efforts to strengthen the voice of cities in the area of climate change. I am very happy that the mayor of New York has set a clear, green agenda to inspire other big cities around the world. I am confident it makes a significant difference. 

We also discussed initiatives in Copenhagen and New York regarding climate adaptation, preparing for climate change, and how to attract and create jobs in New York and Copenhagen. Copenhagen is chairing a network of cities from the C40, investigating how cities can work with the private sector to attract investment and create jobs as we are facing the challenge of meeting our environmental targets.

Though you should never count your chickens before they hatch, I am glad to learn that we have enhanced the dialogue with more than half of the companies we met in Silicon Valley. Many of them are making concrete plans to visit Copenhagen and learn more about the potential for collaboration. And I am indeed looking forward to raising the green agenda even further when Copenhagen becomes the European Green Capital in 2014.