Innovation is on the agenda again. No, I am not saying innovation had ever disappeared from the agenda of important things, but the term seemed to have somewhat disappeared from the agenda of public debate for the last couple of months, replaced by intensive and – of course important – discussions on the economic crisis, recession, credit crunch, climate change, as if all these negative terms and cirumstances should not be mentioned in connection with something positive like innovation.
And yet this comes as a surprise given how important innovation is, especially in times like this, for growth, productivity and job creation: Not only, as well known, at a national level, but also at a company level as evidenced and confirmed by more than 1,100 CEOs we interviewed in our CEO Study 2008.
But it is innovation for cities that I want to talk about today.
Of course, the need for innovation in cities is nothing new and the important role of innovation for cities has already been highlighted in the work by Richard Florida and CEOs for Cities in their ‘City Vitals’ report. Indeed, it is interesting to see that Richard Florida has just picked up the discussion on innovation again in this week’s blog where he discusses the role and status of innovation in the US today.
Measuring innovation is notoriously difficult – whether it is at a company or national level – and good reports on innovation at country level are published each year by, for example, the INSEAD Business School and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Measuring innovation at city level is a more recent endeavour, driven by the increased recognition of the key roles cities play in the world economy and somewhat hampered by the difficulty of getting high quality and relevant city data that help to measure city performance. The Innovation Cities Index is a relatively new initiative in this space, introduced in 2007 covering only 21 cities, and expected to cover 256 cities when its 2009 version gets published later this month. I am very excited to see the new report, which as a preview of the report indicates, will have increased focus on measuring cities’ innovation by looking at indicators related to a city’s infrastructure and its ability to deal with environmental challenges, thus aligning well with some of the objectives driving IBM’s Smart City approach.
Do you agree with the results of the above innovation index for 2008 ? How did your city do in the ranking ? Which, in your view, is the most innovative city in the world, and why ?
Sometimes it’s best to hear straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So a post yesterday on Planetizen from Vancouver’s director of city planning, Brent Toderian, intrigued me with their ambitious goals to be the greenest city in the world:
Since their election late last year, our new Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council have significantly upped the bar once again. Not satisfied with being the North American leader in many aspects of sustainable city building, Mayor and Council have noted how other cities on the continent do better in many aspects, and how global cities significantly outperform us in key areas such as district energy, urban agriculture, cycling, etc. His challenge: for Vancouver to become the greenest city in the world (yes, that’s right, not in North America, in the world), by 2020. And Council takes this goal seriously, challenging other cities (in a friendly competition since) to try their best to out-do us. Its an inspiring challenge, a rallying cry, that I for one also take very seriously. No rolling of the eyes here. It may seem like a long shot for any North American city to really become the global green leader, but like the Mayor, I say we’re up for it. And our city, and all others that look to us as a model, will be better for the effort.
Clearly, there’s a favorable culture in Vancouver that makes this kind of endeavor possible. It’s a culture most cities would be enviable of, no doubt. One hopes it’s a culture that can continue to spread. Toderian closes his post with a great, open challenge to all cities:
Care to race us to being the greenest city in the world? Our Mayor and Council welcome it – just one more chance to raise the bar on green city-building.
The entire post is worth the read to get more insights into Vancouver’s EcoDensity initiative and other related activities.
For you Vancouver residents, what’s your take? Is it working? And for other residents around the world, how likely are your cities to take up the challenge?
Following is a guest post from David A Murray, General Manager, Communications Sector, A/NZ
I’m very pleased to share the IBM Australia Smarter Planet: Energy video, which is a light-hearted introduction to the concept of a smarter planet, and what it means for Australia’s energy systems. This short episode provides a unique view of what is possible when a system is instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.
The video cleverly describes the transformation taking place within the energy network that will lead to a smart grid that will enable distributed generation, reduce carbon emissions and provide reliable and secure energy for today and the future. As described in the video, the transformation will enable us as consumers of energy to have greater knowledge and therefore choice in our energy usage. The Energy industry is embarking an a transformation that will change the way we use energy in a way that will benefit our planet and future generations.
Smart Grids have been a pretty common topic at IBM and here on this blog over the past year. In the past two days, we made two more announcements involving smart grid projects – one with the City of Amsterdam, and another with Oncor. To get a little more perspective on the topic, we asked some questions of Michael Valocchi, IBM’s lead consultant for the Energy & Utilities industry. Below are some highlights from the Q&A.
Why Smart Grids, why now?
Infrastructure investments are at the forefront of stimulus packages around the world to spur economic growth—smart systems are transforming energy grids, supply chains, water management, the healthcare industry to name a few. Think of the rate cities are being built – it’s staggering. Urbanization is a massive strain on the planet’s infrastructure and the delivery of a city’s core elements — energy, water, gas — needs more intelligence to support the shift. That “intelligence” requires technology to capture and analyze data at all levels within a system. Continue Reading »
The July 10 article in the New York Times, Digital Eyes Will Chart Baseball’s Unseen Skills, jumped out at me as a sterling and illustrative example of what IBMers mean when we talk about “new intelligence” – and why business analytics has become one of the key fronts where such novel insight can change how businesses operate. The story describes how new sensing technology can enrich the statistics-driven model of baseball management called sabermetrics:
“A new camera and software system in its final testing phases will record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the field, allowing the most digitized of sports to be overrun anew by hundreds of innovative statistics that will rate players more accurately, almost certainly affect their compensation and perhaps alter how the game itself is played.
Which shortstops reach the hard-hit grounders up the middle? Which base runners take the fastest path from first base to third? Which right fielders charge the ball quickest and then throw the ball hardest and most.” accurately?”
Quite simply, Business Analytics & Optimization extends this sort of data-intensive approach to how companies can measure and monitor — increasingly in realtime — all aspects of their performance and processes : marketing campaigns, supply chain efficiencies, workforce effectiveness, product development and management cycles, environmental sustainability, you name it.
In short, smarter analytics for businesses and organizations is a matter of being able to continuously know what’s going on — to know more and even phenomenon that weren’t accessible before — and to be able to act on these streams of knowledge for new kinds of benefits….faster decisions or adjustments to changing circumstances; better forecasts, predictions and simulations; new ways to compare complex variables of data (weather, buying patterns, geolocation) ; unprecedented ability to find patterns or isolate significant facts or information in very large data sets. Continue Reading »
I almost missed this article from Sunday’s Washington Post about that the Obama administration plan to create a national urban policy agenda. This will be the first main initiative of the new White House Office of Urban Affairs. The apparent first step along this path is to convene mayors, governors and others for a day-long session Monday. From the article:
The conference is the first indication that the White House could back its urban policy office with the kind of muscle that Obama suggested during his campaign, before the economic collapse. He called for a new kind of urban policy to address cities and also their suburbs, and urban advocates hoped that this could be a focus of his administration’s economic development approach.
From the article, it sounds like administration is intent on first gathering best practices from municipalities, states and various federal agencies:
Those gathered Monday will consider local initiatives that could become best practices to emulate, with the goals of increasing the competitiveness, sustainable development and opportunity of metropolitan regions.
The conference is to present an interdisciplinary approach to urban issues and include the heads of the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration.
We’ll be anxiously awaiting the outcomes of the sessions and the Administration’s vision for a national urban policy. Perhaps most interesting will be to compare some of the findings and ideas with the conversations we heard at the Berlin Smarter Cities summit and the recently published report from IBM’s Institute of Business Value, “A vision of smarter cities.”
Thanks to CEOs for Cities for the heads up on this article.
Abu Dhabi has established its leadership position by launching the Masdar Initiative.The Masdar Initiative driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), is a global cooperative platform for the open engagement in the search for solutions to some of mankind’s most pressing issues: energy security, climate change and the development of human expertise in sustainability.
Part of the initiative is quite some technology research on the use of power, transportation as well as various pilot programs.
“Why don’t these agencies talk to each other?!” You don’t have to live in a major metropolis to live the frustration of systems that seem vitally interconnected, but aren’t.
Yet as Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger shared in a recent post, “until recently, we did not have the proper technologies and tools so we can begin to analyze, model and attempt to optimize the city as a holistic system. Advances in technology, as well as in our understanding of complex systems are making that now possible, although we are still in the very early stages” (emphasis added).
Dr. Wladawky-Berger explores the different systems cities will use to grow and distinguish themselves: its infrastructure, its business, and its people.
But, in the end, the top asset of a city is its human capital, – its ability to attract and retain talented people. Doing so requires attention to a number of basic human services, like education, health care and public safety. But it also includes a rich variety of social, community and cultural services that will appeal to the people and families from all over the world that the city wants to attract, both as residents and visitors.
He further suggests that it’s more than just smart management of a city’s systems: it’s specialization in the things that matter most to its residents, and these things will vary from city to city, around the world.
Cities are hardly homogeneous. Each city has its own unique style and character, reflecting the key values that its citizens and their elected leaders choose to emphasize. The style and character of a city are particularly important in our increasingly global, mobile world. While poorer people will clearly go to those cities and regions where they can best get a job and earn a living, those with more education, marketable skills or financial means will choose to live in those places that offer them and their families the quality of life they are looking for. These are clearly the kind of talented, entrepreneurial and innovative people that cities are increasingly competing to attract.
What will your city be when it grows up? And what can a city’s leaders … and its citizens … do now towards those goals? Many cities are defining a new vision, and as Irving summarized from his Berlin experience, “The challenges are enormous, but so are the opportunities to now do something about them.”
Smarte Ideen gibt es überall… Jetzt ist es an der Zeit, diese umzusetzen. Erstaunlich, wie wenig Fläche benötigt wird, um Energie für die gesamte Welt zu produzieren. Klar, technologisch sicher sehr herausfordernd - sowohl die Installation als auch die Verteilung - aber dafür gibt es doch viele helle Köpfe :-)