An insightful smart-city event

The attendees – active in fields such as mobility, renewable energy and urban planning – shared their experiences and knowledge on topics such as international growth opportunities, the challenges of global expansion and ways of overcoming those challenges. The event, which was organised by Amsterdam Trade and Amsterdam Smart City, took place in Amsterdam’s World Trade Center.

Smart-city projects present a unique set of challenges, especially when entrepreneurs try to launch them internationally. “We don’t always know how things work in a new local market,” said architect and urban planner Bas Horsting. “And it takes a lot of time and energy to find the right knowledge. It can be difficult for smaller companies to find the best means of going international; for big companies like Philips and Shell, they already have people who focus specifically on that, but it’s harder for small companies. That has, in part, to do with the varying norms and legislation in different countries.”

That particular challenge was confirmed by Paul Voskuilen, who works on international R&D alliances for the Dutch energy distributor Alliander. “It's easier for a large company to contact a new city,” he said, “because then you can explain to them what your company has already done for other cities.” By way of example, he explained how a unified smart-city strategy for the Netherlands was drafted by dozens of representatives from the Dutch government, the business world and universities. This resulting strategy, which typifies “triple helix” collaboration, was then presented during a successful Dutch trade mission in Texas.

“Having a working example can indeed make things easier, said Yvette Entius, a regional business developer for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is very important that you have a use case or a showcase to prove that your idea works,” she said.

Amsterdam's successes and future challenges

Participants also mentioned other challenges, such as technologies that don't work well together, or the legislative maze between countries. Events such as Going Global with Your Smart City Solution help to solve these bottlenecks, in part by connecting communities that might otherwise remain unknown to one another. “You come into contact here with people you normally never would, people who have another perspective, and that’s the great added value,” said Bas Horsting. “Otherwise people tend to stay in their own silos.”

Horsting also praised the wide range of smart-city expertise that’s already available in Amsterdam, as this critical mass helps encourage an even more collaborative approach. “Amsterdam doesn’t only offer small solutions, but we can also think big, and offer total solutions with our various expertise, and then also present them internationally,” he said.