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Will the real research centres of smart city please stand up?

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Institutionalising smart city research and innovation: from fuzzy definitions to real-life experiments. (Written by Ralf-Martin Soe, Luiza Schuch de Azambuja, Kalle Toiskallio, Marko Nieminen & Michael Batty. Published on 7 Nov 2021 in Urban Research & Practice.

Smart city may be taken, as one of the authors of this paper, Michael Batty, puts it, more as a movement than a domain, not to mention an academic discipline. However, around the globe there are hundreds of researchers studying and considering the nature, functions, risks and benefits of something that they call smart city, green city, digital city etc. To what extent they have been able to form research centres having a longer lifespan than one or two projects? Since our very recently based FinEst Centre for Smart Cities is a real newcomer on the scene, or, in a movement, we are of course eager to see if there are similar creatures on earth.

By exploring and defining characteristics of a smart city research and innovation centre, we contribute to the discussion on smart city development capacity. To do so, using a qualitative method, we review definitions of the concept and map international research groups and institutes affiliated with this domain. Our main result is an overview of global research centres dealing with smart cities. One of the key implications of this paper is that instead of a strict definition, the important aspect appears in the framing provided by the complex real-life challenges that require and enable cross-disciplinary research, even though the concept keeps evolving.

KEYWORDS of the article: smart city centres of excellence, urban research and innovation, multidisciplinary experiments

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