Reflections after meeting the leading innovation ecosystems of the world

By Mia Rolf, CEO Ideon Science Park

Mia Rolf, CEO Ideon Science Park

At the High-Level Forum for Innovation Ecosystems, #HLF_2017, delegations from 23 countries from all over the world met around the theme “Innovation and smart living”. Prominent guest speakers were Yoriko Kishimoto, former Mayer of Palo Alto and Professor Paul Lewis, professor of Urban Planning and Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design at Université de Montréal – Québec – Canada. The delegation from Lund-Sweden included, apart from Ideon Science Park, leaders from Lund University, Lund Municipality, Innovation Skåne, Science Village, Medicon Village, Kraftringen, Siemens and Skanska.

Being a strong group from Lund amongst the 120 delegates, we were able to follow several panel discussions as well as joined activities staged for networking during three days.

Lund Delegation HLF
Lund Delegation, HLF

First of all, I have to reflect on the fact that the definition of a smart city or smart living is different depending on where you come from. In Lund, it may be a connected test arena for applications and services, or reusing waste energy from a neutron lab (ESS) to heat a part of the city, as presented by Sylvia Michel, CEO Kraftringen.  While in Taiwan, the main focus of the smart city was providing fossil free transportation for citizens, in a business model combining public transportation, biking and a commercial loyalty program, as presented by Hau Chen Mike Lee, Tainan, Taiwan. For Montreal, it also included controlling the city bridge lightning with data from the weather and the flow of the Montreal hashtag tweets on Twitter. Infrastructure for transportation, connected data and energy flows seem to be common themes, but where do the limits go for calling something smart living or a smart city? And are we all not just trying to drive a change into a new more digital and environmentally friendly paradigm? So, in the future, will all cities be smart? If so, what do we call them?

At least we agreed on one thing. The users, the citizens, are the centre of the solutions. They are the ones to use them, and many times are expected to change their behaviour in doing so. The citizens thus need to be more involved in the planning, creation and implementation of a Smart city. This was stated several times during the meetup. Looking around me, I saw representatives from the innovation ecosystem in the shape of leaders of Universities, Science Parks, City government, large corporations, Regions and Incubators. Missing from this think tank – as so often when we discuss science –  was the user herself. Perhaps it would be impossible to add a regular man or woman from the street, but there are scientists that do nothing else but to study people – the behavioural scientists and the social anthropologists. My suggestion to the next High-Level Forum was to invite them to the meeting. In fact, that is exactly what is needed in our own Science Park and we have started by bringing in behavioural science students to help our engineers find the best way to test their ideas in the development process. Smart living – no matter how sophisticated – will not happen without the people willing to be living smart.

Finally, I want to emphasize the feeling of hope that was conveyed during these days. The entire world is trying to change to the better. We are all very aware of the climate challenges, the health challenges and the UN goals for humanity, and all ecosystems of the world are trying to create a better tomorrow. The unifying force in this leaves me with hope and a feeling that if we wanted we could even reach world peace through the friendships we create.


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