An Interview with Anette Scheibe of Kista Science City in Stockholm

A conversation with Anette Scheibe of Electrum Foundation and Kista Science City about Stockholm’s commitment to innovation in mobility. Plus, contribute your own solutions to Living Labs Global.

Stockholm. Flickr user ichimusai

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Editor’s Note: This entry is the first in a series of interviews conducted by Cluster in collaboration with Living Labs Global (LLG) in occasion of the second edition of the Living Labs Global Award, an international technology award for digital services that add high value to users in cities around the world. 8 global cities partnered with LLG to search for solutions to their most pressing local problems in a global context. You can submit your own solutions here.

Cluster spoke to Anette Scheibe, CEO, at Electrum Foundation and Kista Science City about Stockholm’s commitment to innovation in mobility and its effort to find best solutions in the field. Kista Science City is the most important ICT cluster in northern Europe, a hotspot for Information and Comminication Technology (ICT) where business and academia join forces to form one of the world’s foremost business regions for ICT. Communication giants like Ecrisson, Nokia and IBM have established business centres in Kista.

Marcia Caines: Please tell us a little about Kista Science City and why ‘Intelligent Transport Solutions’ are core to its development.

Anette Scheibe: Over time, Stockholm has been able to meet growth challenges by exploiting new land areas and through densification while successfully developing the transportation system to cope with growing needs. However, a few years ago we had critical levels of cars travelling into the downtown area on the main routes as the new ITS industry developed.

Since Stockholm is known as a city with extremely high internet penetration where everyone had early access to cell phones, and since it has a very large internationally recognized IT industry that is intensively engaged in research, it was natural to direct interest to this area. The city street department, Swedish Road Administration, and Stockholm Public Transport began collaborating in 2000 on a common vision for traffic solutions using IT and telecom, and by mid-decade a common portal for traffic information was available:

Kista Science City is a common city, business, research, and academic communication platform whose mission is to create forums for regional players. As an ICT cluster with more than 1,000 companies and strong growth, we believe that a new ITS focus area can contribute greatly to developing Stockholm’s transportation system while generating new innovations and promoting new export solutions. To create the best possible environment for such development, we are now working to create a national testbed for innovative new services, and we found that Living Labs Global (LLG) is a fantastic partner with which to strengthen that development. LLG shares our view that transparency is crucial in order for cities to learn from each other and for innovations to be shared by many in a global market.

MC: Over the years the city of Stockholm has earned recognition for its persistent commitment to the environment and improving the quality of life. It has set very high standards and adopted ambitious goals, among them that of becoming a Carbon emission free city by 2050. In 2010 the European Union chose Stockholm as the first European city to be nominated ‘Green Capital’, and city dwellers and stakeholders worldwide envy the ‘Stockholm approach’ to integrated urban management and energy efficiency. What are you doing to replicate your successes and how do you share knowledge with other cities across the EU and the rest of the world?

AS: As a metropolis, you have to dare to stand out yet remain humble. Daring to say that you’re a world leader means that you have to focus on your efforts but that you will also be critically scrutinized. It’s important for Stockholm to participate in the global debate on our future. Since we are also confident that we have important things to say and present, we see LLG as a good venue for this.

Federico De Giuli: Urban transportation systems are very complex, as they are made up of different elements, and rely on combined – but very specific – policies. I would like to understand what Kista Science City expects from the project entries from this point of view.

AS: The more complex the systems are, the more reasons to try developing them using new technologies. It’s all about finding new ways to provide users with better information that helps support decision-making. It’s about purposefully turning away from dependence on fossil fuels. It’s about creating a transportation system without injuries or deaths. With the combined forces of science and industry and with the city as an experimental field, Kista Science City has all the makings for finding solutions that help create an efficient transportation system for smart cities.

FDG: Does Stockholm aim to become a car-free city one day?

AS: No, and current arguments for a car-free city will be dispelled by technological developments. Fail-safe vehicles powered by renewable energy will eventually lead to the car no longer being harmful to either humans or the environment. Instead, the challenge will continue to be developing a city based on accessibility, where the focus will be on finding new ways to get traffic flowing smoothly – always and everywhere. This is done by integrating all parts of the transportation system while offering opportunities for everyone to always choose the right solution for their transportation needs, whether it be walking, bicycling, car, bus, train, video conference, or combinations of these. This gives individuals the opportunity to choose the best solution and also offers the community an unprecedented opportunity to optimize transportation solutions.

I believe very strongly that many trips will simply not be made because the alternatives are as good or even better.

MC: Stockholm has been working hard towards clean transport for some years now, and the results are positive. 3 out of 4 citizens use public transport during rush hour and Stockholm’s inner city vehicles run of locally produced biomass fuels. A massive waste-management scheme run on renewable fuels is underway and the congestion charge implemented has improved the city’s air quality by 10 – 14%; what can new technologies and service innovation bring to the table that hasn’t already been done?

AS: With developing sensor technologies, we’ll have access to many more checkpoints related to an increasing number of objects, such as traffic flow, road temperature, humidity, and driver behavior. A not-so-distant vision is for all these data to be available for the development of services. And it’s only our imaginations that limit what services can be developed.

FDG: Has the city of Stockholm had to make calculated investments in citizen education for lifestyle and behavior change to achieve its sustainability goals?

AS: Stockholm has long had a highly educated population that is very aware of its ability to influence and sets high standards on public services.

It also has a long tradition of separating waste and saving energy, and an autocratically large market share of public transportation. All this is combined with a high awareness of the world’s environmental challenges, making it very easy to work with citizens and businesses to drive the development of green solutions.

MC: Stockholm imposes tough regulations in order to drive change, how do you gain consensus? Have you experienced citizen resistance in any of your policies? Are all of the political parties in favour of these policies?

AS: A very good example of this is the introduction of congestion charges through a referendum after a comprehensive pilot study. Before the pilot study, a majority of the population was negative, and afterward they were positive. That Stockholm would choose a congestion charge solution was never given or obvious, but when the environmental debate gained momentum, opinions changed. Today, the Stockholm congestion charge solution is a model that attracts numerous international visitors each year.

FDG: Will Kista Science City take measures to face the challenges posed by citizen privacy in the flux and monitoring of data in intelligent transport solutions?

AS: We have, of course, open discussions on privacy issues in tandem with technological advancements – Stockholm is no exception. The things that make cities smart are density and proximity, which lead to positive effects like efficient use of energy, rapid development and innovation.

FDG: What is the role of the City Council of Stockholm in the transition to smart and greener techonologies? Who manages the finances of service innovation?

AS: The City Council of Stockholm has adopted “Vision 2030”, with the goal of becoming one of the world’s cleanest, safest – and indeed most beautiful cities, and where Stockholm is a world leader in information technology and the development, commercialization, and application of new environmental and energy-related technologies. Since 2010, Stockholm has adopted a green IT strategy on all levels and in all operations. Green IT is a strategic and management issue, which is why it is important for environmental issues to be considered from an operational viewpoint. Doing so clarifies the ways in which the municipality can reduce its environmental impact across all operations.

MC: Have you ever considered that technological mediation may have a negative affect of the human feel and/or social interaction of a city?

AS: The things that make cities smart are density and proximity, which lead to positive effects like efficient use of energy, rapid development and innovation.

Possible negative side effects is crowding and frictions in the transport system. The smart city is using the new technologies to be able to create even more dense cities and at the same time creating new solutions to avoid the negative side effects of crowding. The idea that technology can be used for the wrong purpose applies across the board and is not specific to cities.

MC: Stockholm boasts of a Green ICT program, which connects households and businesses through an open ICT structure with an optical fiber cable. By 2012 90% of households in Stockholm will be connected through this optical fibre network; have you already witnessed the benefits of this innovation? Could you tell us what they are?

AS: Evolution takes time, and I believe that we can already see that the development of the digital infrastructure has led to a more sustainable society. Through more efficient ICT use and the continued development of both mobile and fixed networks, Ericsson predicts that total CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 20 percent. Services like video conferencing and new forms of communication – say social media – are already providing Stockholm-based companies with significant environmental benefits, which naturally results in financial benefits.

FDG: Does the use and research of smart-tech favour the emergence of new commercial ventures and start-up enterprises in and around Stockholm? Will the Smart technology sector provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and strategic sustainable development?

AS: No doubt about it! We can’t predict the future, but surely new innovations will develop in this field. We have reached a point in the history of man where we suddenly are able to create growth and at the same time save the world with new technology solutions.

MC: New city infrastructure is not uncomplicated business, especially in such vulnerable economic and environmental climate, how does a city build enough confidence to take meditated risks in unexplored fields. Does business competence play a significant role in facilitating cities in this sense?

AS: What we usually call “The Swedish Model” is a close dialogue between government, academia, and business. Just one example: the world’s first ever complete mobile telephone system evolved through a intense collaboration between a monopole state owned telecom operator and the Ericsson company. Risks decrease significantly if they are shared and combined with the knowledge of different sectors.

In the mid-80’s in Kista the Electrum Foundation was created as a “triple helix” motor of innovation and growth of the ICT sector. I am perfectly safe in stating that this body commonly steered by the City of Stockholm, the Stockholm University, the Royal Institute of Technology and the enterprises like Ericsson, IBM and the real estate and land developers of Kista is critical to the success of Kista Science City on the global market.

FDG: How did you benefit from participating in the Living Labs Global Award 2010?

AS: By opening up the city’s challenges to a global society of developers while being able to browse hundreds of innovations offers new and hopefully unexpected opportunities, and I am amazed by the forces gathering in the Living Labs Global community.

MC: Does your participation in the Living Labs Global Award help Stockholm to activate the dynamic process of service innovation in the city?

AS: Yes, all activities and events of this kind force everyone to focus and keep pace, and it increases recognition of the strategies.

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Tags: built environmentstockholm

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