Začiatkom februára 2018 sa konal už štvrtý ročník konferencie “Slovensko na ceste k Smart Cities“.

The conference: Slovakia on the Road to Smart Cities 2018

The fourth year of the Slovak conference on smart cities took place in Bratislava on 1st February 2018. It was organized by the Slovak Smart Cities klub in cooperation with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak republic, the Ministry of foreign and European affairs, the Association of towns and villages of Slovakia and the Slovak innovations and the energy agency.

The great interest in this year’s conference was due to the experience of Mayors from the previous three years. Significant foreign partners, ministry staff, Smart Cities experts took the important part.

The participants of the conference discussed the first experience of Slovak cities with pilot projects, the possibilities of financing from domestic and European sources. In the afternoon, the conference program was literally “loaded” by contributions from foreign partners – Smart Cities specialists. The conference ended late in the evening when the organizers also created space for informal discussions. Significant was the participation of the media and the attention they devoted to the conference.

Are cities waiting for subsidies only?

We could have a common impression that many cities are waiting for subsidies only, that they do not have their own vision of development, that they do not plan investments in the longer term, and especially – that they have almost resigned to using their own investment resources for their development.

It should be said that the use of European resources for urban development is legitimate and necessary. The question is how to make use of individual funding programs for the development of cities and if the calls are being prepared in time and at the appropriate qualitative level.

At the conference the cities that use not only the external sources of funding – cities that plan and organize their investments in advance and activities they see as their priority – have made their contributions. Their priority is not a current funding call…

They also use their own resources; some have said they would rather if EU funds were not even possible. This is an opinion that can trigger a controversy. But this is the purpose of conferences for participants to say their opinions and justify them to present experts who can react immediately.

How can cities effectively use financial resources to create Smart Cities? How do they get funds from the EU, what are the conditions for getting refundable funds? Can they get resources from the current programming period? How is the next programming period being prepared?

Opinions of mayors of Slovak towns were different. Some were willing to make more use of the EU funds; others said they would prefer if the funding through the EU is over. They pointed to the negative aspects of market distortions, uncertainty in urban investment planning… Concerns were associated with so-called “corrections” where cities often do not know why they are being applied to them.

Cities talked in particular about the complexity and lack of clarity of the preparation of calls, the unusually long evaluation time of the projects, the control of public procurement. They criticized the fact that the investment, which is expected to be realized in weeks, is being prepared and approved sometimes more than two years.

The participants of the conference evaluated positively the Central Coordination Authority´s efforts to devise the future programming period and to work with experts to identify investment priorities and look for themes and forms that will lead to the efficient use of EU funds resources.

Businesses have long lacked a challenge in Slovakia to enable business leaders to engage with intelligent cities. A call that is to encourage their activities and enable them to launch exciting innovation programs for cities. Such a challenge was created last year by the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, whose role is to support the business environment.

In the next part of the financial block, the debate was marked by the possibility of financing returnable projects, the possibility of using resources from the Norwegian and Swiss financial mechanisms.

The participants of Smart Cities summer school, organized by the Slovak Smart Cities club in Sweden and Denmark, have been convinced last year by the benefits of our economic diplomacy for our cities. After the successful ten years of the Summer School of Public Spaces, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been a major contributor to the new format.

Economic diplomacy also contributed to the organization of conferences focusing on the transfer of foreign know-how in the field of intelligent cities – last year it was a conference in Copenhagen and in cooperation with the French Embassy in October 2017 in Bratislava.

In 2018, projects funded through the Norwegian and Swiss financial mechanisms will start again in Slovakia. Frantisek Kašický, Ambassador for the Financial Mechanisms confirmed that it is clear not to miss financing the project activities leading to the creation of intelligent cities by the funds.

Frantisek Kašický promised cities consultations to help preparing projects financed by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Article was published in City:One 1/2018