CommuniCity attends the “Digital Society, Digital Cities” Conference in Bordeaux, highlighting Europe’s role in Fostering City Innovation

On October 19th, the Conference on Digital Society, Digital Cities took place in Bordeaux, France, and provided a platform for experts and local authorities to discuss how Europe supports cities and communities in innovation and transformation projects. The session, titled “How Europe supports cities and communities in innovation and transformation projects: Presentation of major action programs, by their managers and feedback from local authorities,” brought together key figures in the field to share their insights and experiences.

The event featured presentations by Nicolas Rossignol of the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) , Christophe Colinet of Bordeaux Metropole, and Giacomo Lozzi, Senior Project Manager at the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). The speakers shed light on the benefits of European networks and initiatives, focusing on the role of Living Labs as open innovation ecosystems.

Nicolas Rossignol and Giacomo Lozzi introduced their respective organizations and highlighted the advantages of local actors participating in their networks. Giacomo Lozzi underscored the pivotal role of Living Labs in fostering collaboration among citizens, research institutions, businesses, and governmental agencies at the local level. He emphasized ENoLL’s extensive global reach, spanning five continents and 35 countries, and discussed the opportunities presented by the “Living-in EU” movement, which supports digital transitions in cities and regions.

Giacomo Lozzi also extended an invitation to attendees to join CommuniCity project, funded by the European Commission, which provides financial support for technological solutions addressing societal challenges in European cities.

In the second discussion round, Federica Bordelot of Eurocities elaborated on the digital contributions of cities to Eurocities and its role as a leading network leveraging EU initiatives such as “Living-in EU” and others. Marion Glatron of Rennes Métropole discussed the role of Europe in Rennes Métropole’s data projects.

The session reached its climax with a collective discussion centered on three core concepts: Europe as a source of rights, Europe as a funding source, and Europe as a collaboration space. A live poll conducted via Menti allowed attendees to express their views and share the challenges they are currently facing. The valuable insights garnered from the five main speakers provided a deeper understanding of the landscape of innovation and collaboration in European cities.

At the European Week of Regions and Cities, CommuniCity sheds light on citizen-centred tech pilots in EU Cities

On October 10th 2023, during the European Week of Regions and Cities, an inspiring discussion took place on how citizen-centered tech pilots can address the specific needs of EU cities and communities. The session, organised by the EU-funded CommuniCity project, was held at the SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre.

With an emphasis on enhancing the quality of life in marginalised communities through technology and innovation, the session showcased how urban challenges could be met with citizen-centric tech solutions. The panel featured Joana Moreira from Porto Digital, Neeltje Pavicic from the City of Amsterdam, and Josephine Di Pino from Open Agile Smart Cities. Giacomo Lozzi from the European Network of Living Labs moderated the informative session.

The CommuniCity project offers 100 pilot grants through its Open Calls, allowing companies and associations to co-create groundbreaking solutions. These solutions harness AI and other emerging technologies to address various city and community challenges. The experience of the 1st round, which focused on the needs identified in Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Porto, set the stage for expanding the project to more EU cities in subsequent rounds. The session also offered the opportunity to launch the Second CommuniCity Open Call for 2023-2024. With the application window running from 12th September to 31st October 2023, this represents a renewed opportunity for innovators across Europe.

The experience of the participating experts enriched the discussion. Joana Moreira and Neeltje Pavicic shed light on why Porto and Amsterdam joined the project and the challenges these cities faced during the 1st round of pilots. They also gave some insights into the selected pilots, and the progress and lessons learned from these initiatives. For instance, Amsterdam tackled issues like empowering low-literate citizens through AI and creating real-time audio translations for asylum seekers. Porto, on its side, is testing digital technologies to decrease loneliness and increase the autonomy of the elderly people in its communities.

On the other hand, Josephine Di Pino outlined the overarching goals of the CommuniCity project and discussed the significant role replicator cities like Aarhus, Breda, Prague, and Tallinn will play. She also discussed the 2nd round of CommuniCity Open Calls and briefly touched on the expectations for the 3rd round, which will open its doors to all EU cities.

Finally, the session also introduced CommuniCity’s technical framework, a robust set of assets that aids the design and development of these innovative solutions. This framework ensures interoperability between existing city IT infrastructures and developers’ solutions, aiming for replicability across different cities involved in the project.

Nieuw-West – A Challenge from Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, a significant gender disparity exists in sports participation among girls. To address this issue, the city is seeking a technological solution to motivate more girls in Nieuw-West to engage in sports and exercise. This initiative is not just about promoting physical health; it recognizes the social benefits of sports, including personal growth, skills development, and the positive influence of interacting with others on a healthy lifestyle.

Amsterdam’s Challenge 3 focuses on this matter and counts on the host Floor Popkens, who works at the Sports department of the municipality of Amsterdam.

Interviewer: “What is the background to this challenge?”

Floor Popkens: “The Sport and Exercise Department has done a lot of research into why girls do or don’t practice sports and what they encounter in the city. When you live in poverty, practicing sports is sometimes a very big challenge for this target group and certainly not their priority. In almost every district of Amsterdam, far fewer girls are members of sports clubs than boys. Girls with a ‘city pass’ (a pass for people in Amsterdam with low income that entitles you to discounts and free activities) make much less use of it than boys of the same age. In general, people are often ashamed to use the city pass and many of the activities and facilities that the city provides are not used much. We focus on the areas where most progress could be made. Nieuw-West is such an area.”

Interviewer: “Why a ‘digital’ solution?”

Floor Popkens: “Many young people have an average of eight hours of screen time per day. Even substituting just one of these hours would be a valuable achievement. And then they also get in touch with people who can think along with them about this issue.”

Interviewer: “What has already been done and what didn’t work?”

Floor Popkens: “We are working primarily with schools. That is the place where all children come.

What we are offering now may be too non-committal. Those who already like sports come to these sports classes after school, and the real target group does not.”

Interviewer: “Anything else that you think may help towards a solution?”

Floor Popkens: “For girls, social life is very important. For example, they may be more willing to come to a sports class if it is combined with cooking or having meals together. We also have indications that the current sports offer is not flexible enough.”

Unlocking Global Interoperability: CommuniCity and the Role of MIMs

In a world increasingly reliant on data and technology, the need for seamless interoperability between cities and suppliers has become vital. The answer to this challenge lies in Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs), versatile tools endorsed by the Open and Agile Smart Cities (OASC) that serve as the linchpin for harmonizing data, systems, and services worldwide.

MIMs, despite being grounded in shared specifications, can manifest differently in technical implementation. Their ultimate aim is to streamline collaboration between cities and enhance the efficacy of urban services. The CommuniCity project, taking the lead, actively integrates MIMs while contributing to their development in specific domains.

The heart of CommuniCity’s innovation lies in its creation of MIM5, known as “Fair and Transparent Artificial Intelligence.” MIM5’s mission is to ensure that algorithmic systems conform to fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, aligning technical capabilities with these essential principles.

CommuniCity seeks to launch three open calls, each defining technical requirements for pilots to be executed in its partner and replicator cities. This initiative primarily seeks to prepare the European Union for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) by leveraging MIMs to facilitate global replication and scaling of solutions, with particular emphasis on MIM5 and Virtual Learning Labs.

To facilitate these goals, the CommuniCity toolbox has been introduced. This toolbox compiles concrete software components and services, providing developers with essential technical tools conforming to project specifications and the API layer. The toolbox is set to expand throughout the project to adapt to the requirements of each open call round.

Additionally, the CommuniCity project has established a cloud-based testing environment, the CommuniCity sandbox, where open call developers can test their services for compliance with project technical specifications. This sandbox not only accelerates learning but also provides a safe space for experimenting and testing toolbox components in various use cases and domains.

While the initial open call round focused on setting general technical requirements, the following rounds are expected to be more specific, in alignment with the project’s overarching mission of achieving fair and transparent artificial intelligence, in compliance with MIMs specifications. Although the exact technical requirements for the second round are yet to be defined, the participating cities and tech providers are exploring options for integrating elements of compliance. This aligns with the core ethos of MIMs: replicating and scaling solutions to serve replicator cities.

The CommuniCity project and its embrace of MIMs represent a significant step toward fostering global interoperability and harnessing innovative technologies responsibly and transparently. With MIM5’s evolution and the ongoing enhancement of the CommuniCity toolbox, this initiative holds the potential to reshape urban landscapes and set new standards for interconnected smart cities.

Kasmoni Savings and Credit Cooperative – A Challenge from Amsterdam

In Amsterdam’s Challenge 4, CommuniCity invites tech developers to contribute to the creation of an innovative application for the Kasmoni Savings and Credit Cooperative in Amsterdam. Serving as the pioneering host for Challenge 4 within the CommuniCity initiative, Simion Blom has recently partaken in an interview, in which he explained why he submitted this challenge. Here are a few of the topics addressed:

Interviewer: “What is the background of this challenge?

Simion Blom: There are a lot of talented people who don’t have much money in their hands. It is crucial that these entrepreneurial and creative people get a better financial position to do something with their ideas. The Kasmoni Savings and Credit Cooperative wants to fill this gap. Our Cooperative is inspired by circular thinking and community well-building.

Interviewer: “Why is this a good moment for this challenge?”

Simion Blom: “Many entrepreneurs have struggled in the past three years due to coronavirus and high gas prices after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. I think entrepreneurs need more support. And then not from the “me” perspective. I think we should focus more on the community and a local financially healthy “ecosystem”. An economy for the “we” so that the community can grow as a whole.This neighbourhood has felt the effects of capitalism in recent decades. There are many large enterprises in the Southeast, but the money is extracted from the area. Per square metre, Southeast is one of the richest neighbourhoods in the Netherlands, while the local population sees little of that.”

Interviewer: “Why a digital solution?

Simion Blom: “A digital solution is accessible. Almost everyone can use digital tools. The tool needs to be accessible and easy to use, but professional and reliable, as it involves money. Kasmoni is Surinamese for cash. The system is found in many parts of the world. Especially many women use it. Kasmoni has been a way women arranged important things as a collective since the 19th century. It is a project with deep roots and history.”

CommuniCity Porto Training Workshop – June 2023

The CommuniCity Porto Training Workshop started on June 27th at the Porto Innovation Hub. The first meeting, an internal day for the partners, discussed the process and results of the First Open Call, followed by a workshop led by Forum Virium Helsinki about setting out Open Calls and pilots, and finishing the day with scheduling and information about the Second Round of Calls.

Filipe Araújo (Porto’s Vice Mayor) and Pedro Baganha (Porto’s Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning)

On June 28th, the meeting started the day with the presence of Porto’s Vice Mayor, Filipe Araújo and Porto’s Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, Pedro Baganha, reinforcing the importance of the project to the city and for the social and urban integration of Campanhã region. The meeting continued with the project coordinator, Josephine DiPino, introducing the project, its goals, and plans for the Second and Third Calls. Forum Virium Helsinki was next on the schedule, providing detailed information about the Second Round scheduling and the Agile Piloting Process designed to support the pilots.

CommuniCity Partners

To finish the morning of the second day, the cities of Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Porto shared the lessons learned from the First Round, and the co-creation practicalities applied, such as the planning of the training workshop with the host city, Porto. In the afternoon, the technical tools for the pilots were introduced, followed by the presentation of the challenges for the Second Round for the cities of Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Porto, and the status and challenges of the new cities joining the project in September.

Field Trip to Corujeira area of Porto

The third day of the Porto Training started with a fieldtrip to Campanhã neighborhood in Porto, where the pilots of the three rounds will take place, and to meet the eight public housing buildings in the Corujeira area. The partners met in the afternoon for a workshop with ENoLL about virtual learning labs and collaborated in an interactive co-creation activity with suggestions for the proposed structure of the labs based on future internal and external activities planned for the project and the Living Labs.

Thank you to all partners present in the beautiful city of Porto for the shared experiences and plans for the future of the project.

First Open Call Piloting Teams Announced

13 pilots running in three European cities to improve quality of life of marginalized communities

CommuniCity project has awarded the first 13 piloting teams. In total, 42 applications have been received for the first round of Open Calls. As a result of the evaluation phase, 13 pilots are being executed by the winning teams with the support of the CommuniCity partners and cities. Five pilots are running in Amsterdam, four in Helsinki, and four in Porto during the summer and autumn of 2023.

CommuniCity is a 3-year Support Coordination Action funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme. The project, through a calendar of three Open Calls, addresses the needs of European cities and communities and finds innovative, digitally inclusive, and sustainable AI and XR solutions. 

For the first CommuniCity Open Call round, 42 applications were received. All eligible applications were evaluated by expert jury members nominated by each piloting city: Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Porto. Each winning team was awarded a grant of 12.500 euros. In addition to this grant, other resources, such as in-kind contributions, can be allocated to the piloting teams.

13 pilots running in the three main pilot cities of  Helsinki, Amsterdam and Porto

During the first round of open calls, each of the partnering cities have identified city-specific challenges that the awarded teams are addressing with their technological solutions.

The City of Amsterdam awarded five applications. Pilots are run by Tolkie, WeSolve ApS, Garage2020, Switch AI, and XS2Content. They focus on the challenges of offering opportunities for youngsters with criminal records; enabling non-Dutch speakers to communicate in their own language in local authorities; accessibility of healthcare information through AI; and two “Wildcard” applications concentrated on empowering low-literate citizens with the help of AI and on piloting assistive robots for parents with disabilities.

Four pilots have been selected by the City of Helsinki. The solutions come from the companies CTRL Reality, Palko Interactive Oy, Aiedus, and Stereoscape Oy and are related to the challenges of improving disabled citizens skills; homecare clients’ safety; the integration of long-term unemployed citizens into working life and the encouragement of non-Finnish speakers into integrating society and services.

The City of Porto named four pilots as winners, three related to the challenge of decreasing the loneliness of the elderly and one to increase the autonomy of the senior population. From the winning teams of Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (FEUP), Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, WeSolve ApS, and Hoivita.  

Co-creating solutions for the cities and communities

The pilot stage of the first CommuniCity Open Call round will last until September 2023. During this period, teams will work in close collaboration with city officials and citizens in order to validate their solutions, using the co-creation principles that are the basis of the CommuniCity project.

On the CommuniCity website, you will find information about the technical framework, a set of assets such as specifications, software, approaches, etc. that teams can follow in order to support the design and development of innovative solutions. The first version of the framework will be publicly available in July.

The next round of the Open Call will be published on September 12, 2023. In this second round, more cities will join, presenting more challenges and leading to more pilots.

Please check further information about the winning teams at the Pilots section of the CommuniCity website, and follow up on all the piloting stage news on our social media channels:

Instagram @communi_city

Twitter @communi_city

LinkedIn CommuniCity

For further information, please contact:

City of Porto / Porto Digital
Adeeb Sidani
CommuniCity City Admin

City of Amsterdam
Neeltje Pavicic
CommuniCity City Admin

City of Helsinki / Forum Virium Helsinki
Silja Peltonen
CommuniCity City Admin

CommuniCity Project Coordinator
Josephine Di Pino

CommuniCity in the News – Amsterdam Challenges at ZuidOost TV

Last week, CommuniCity was featured at the local broadcaster from Amsterdam Southeast, ZuidOost Tv, showcasing two challenges from the First Round of the Open Calls.

Soraya Semmoh, from the City of Amsterdam, talks on the importance of challenges 3 and 4 for the Southeast community. To help young citizens with legal problems and to insert them into new work opportunities, and the wildcard opportunity to create a solution with a technical component.

The applications are now closed, and the results of the selected pilots will be revealed at the end of April 2023.

Watch now the interview and promo video about the Amsterdam challenges of the First Open Call: