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Designing future cities requires tech with a human touch
17. June 2016
By Christopher Reeves
We need to combine technology and a human touch when designing our future cities. Also, the role of politicians crucially needs to be redesigned to pave the way for urban innovation. These were key take-aways at the Inspiring Future Urban Innovations event in Copenhagen.
Highlights: Inspiring Future Urban Innovations Copenhagen

When a highly respected, international panel debated the role of urban innovations at BloxHub in Copenhagen, some progressive future solutions were brought forward.

The panel debate zoomed in on three of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Future Cities’ Top 10 Urban Innovations. Focusing on energy planning, transportation systems, urban planning and digital infrastructure, the energetic expert panel debated inspiring urban innovations and tomorrow’s to-dos when designing our future cities and common urban future.

We need the combination of design and functionality to create global standards

Anil Menon, Cisco

100 pct. renewable energy requires tech and investments
“We can transition into a future of 100 pct. renewable energy, but it does require tech and long term investments” said Brian Vad Mathiesen, Professor at Aalborg University, Copenhagen and leading global expert in renewable energy systems. He presented this progressive learning from his recent study entitled Heat Road Map Europe. ”In Europe, there is enough waste heat from power plants and industry to heat all the building stock. But to do so, governments and local authorities need to take responsibility for providing the framework.”

People want bigger bikes and smaller cars
Jens Martin Skibsted, designer, entrepreneur, and Chairman of the Danish Design Council talked about new trends in urban mobility solutions: “People in cities want bigger bikes with electrical assistance, with room for kids and grocery shopping” he said with reference to a new battle in the streets between bigger bikes and smaller cars. In cycling cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, the hype will be bigger bikes. Other cities will look to cycling cities and learn from them, Skibsted concluded.

Global standards come with design and functionality
Anil Menon, President of the Smart+Connected Communities at Cisco stressed that the biggest error is to only frame the smart city concept as a matter of technological innovation: “We need the combination of design and functionality to create global standards”, he said. To provide digital infrastructure to cities, there is a need for standards, like we have with WiFi. Universal standards are missing for electricity, heating and water supply. A global standard is the key to scalable solutions.

We need technological innovation happening in conjunction with social enterprise and municipal initiative.

Finn Williams, Common Office

Technological and social innovation go together
”We’ve already made the error of designing the city around technology and around cars”, pointed out Finn Williams, Founder of Common Office in London. The plea is to not do the same and build the smart city solely around new technologies. Instead, a solution could be to involve communities and embrace new concepts such as crowdfunding for public sector projects. Social engagement and smart governance is the key to future urban innovation. “We need technological innovation happening in conjunction with social enterprise and municipal initiative”.

We need to redesign the way we do things, so as a political leader you have to see yourself as a convener, as the one who has a vision and can bring everyone on board and move the agenda towards human needs.

Ida Auken, Member of Danish Parliament

Redesign the role of politicians
Ida Auken, Member of Parliament and Former Minister for the Environment of Denmark pointed out that too many people confuse technical problems with political problems. To create a political environment open to facilitation and implementation of future urban innovations, systemic change is needed. “And you cannot regulate your way to either systemic change or innovation of political roles” stated Ida.
“We need to redesign the way we do things, so as a political leader you have to see yourself as a convener, as the one who has a vision and can bring everyone on board and move the agenda towards human needs”

The selected urban innovation areas addressed by the panel and the biography of the panelists can be found on the Inspiring Future Urban Innovations Copenhagen event site.

Inspiring Future Urban Innovations Copenhagen was a collaboration between World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Future Cities, the Danish Design Council, Danish Design Centre and the International Federation for Housing and Planning. The event was supported by Cisco and Danfoss and was moderated by Anne Skare Nielsen, Future Navigator.

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