City of London’s smart lighting aims to complement the look of historic buildings and save energy ©Speirs+Major/Culture Mile
City of London’s smart lighting aims to complement the look of historic buildings and save energy ©Speirs+Major/Culture Mile

Smart cities special: six steps for smart city procurement

City of London Corporation’s commercial director Chris Bell on supporting innovation

The City of London Corporation is investing in several smart initiatives, supported by commercial director Chris Bell and team.

“There is no single rationale for a smart city,” says Bell. “Themes are cost reduction, increasing efficiency, positive environmental impacts and attempting to achieve a location that flourishes while being a great city to work, live and visit. It can be a difficult wish list. Smart city public procurement is much more likely to take the shape of services and performance-based contracts rather than the traditional approach of supply and specification-oriented contracting. Procurement is more complex, in need of innovation.”

To achieve success, follow Bell’s six steps: 

1. Market research and intel of other cities

There are many smart city initiatives globally, and lots of resources. Research those that closely align with the objectives of your strategy. 

2. Review assets (data sources)

Knowing what assets are owned is vital to shaping what infrastructure needs developing, retrofitting or building. You need to understand the range of data available, the data gaps and supporting infrastructure to provide a baseline for investment. 

3. Take an innovative approach to market engagement

A strategic, well-planned engagement approach is key. You need the right type of specialists. Once they are engaged, it is a great testbed.

4. Engage internal and external stakeholders

Bring all stakeholders on the journey – the smart city agenda touches all parts of the business. There is a significant amount of work to align strategies and needs. External stakeholders – from asset owners through to the public – must be kept informed.

5. Collaboration

Many parties need to play their part. Having them engaged and working in partnership to achieve common goals, while delivering their local requirements, is vital.

6. Dialogue, flexible contracts and risk

Innovative procurement requires public bodies to have higher risk appetites. They are required to expand and regenerate services, such as in infrastructure retrofits. A procurement process that allows dialogue and specification development is key. This gives the best opportunity to find the ideal partner. Aim for flexible contracts, allowing for emerging technology to be introduced through the life of the contract, with agreed parameters around continuous innovation and outputs.

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