Category Archives: Europe

SMART

SMART is a support system co-funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Commission (EC). As the EC states on its website, “the FP7 bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof playing a crucial role in reaching the goals of growth, competitiveness and employment.

Basically, SMART is a web portal that offers support in being involved in RTD research projects at European level to all organizations operating in the Surface-Transport sector. The web portal offers networking and partnering opportunities, as well as providing information and tools to enhance the active participation in research programmes in the sector.

In other words, the main aim of SMART is to provide services to support SMEs participation in RTD research projects under the Transport Work-Programme. The following services are provided:

  • connecting Clustersof Transport sector in different European countries
  • training on EU funding mechanisms
  • facilitating networking opportunities and partnerships creation among all stakeholders of the transport sector (using the metacluster approach)
  • addressing SMEs research capabilities/needs
  • facilitating the creation of consortium with large organizations in projects led by SMEs
  • supporting SMEs in submitting proposals for own project ideas
  • creating a nurturing environment for transnational research projects

In terms of partners involved, SMART has a wide range of stakeholders including Private Technology Transfer companies, Regional SMEs Clusters, Public Innovation Agencies, and Large Enterprises linked to Regional Clusters such as ECONET in Spain and IMAST in Italy.

So what are the actual benefits of SMART?

SMART Web Portal offers a virtual meeting point for all the organizations operating in the Surface Transport Sector. SMART identifies the market needs and the organisations’ skills and competences facilitating the matching of research and innovation demand and offer.

As SMART is co-funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, it must be stated that this is another smart initiative of the EC to generate growth, competitiveness and employment.

 

 

Smarter Cities Challenge

Back in 2010, IBM launched the Smarter Cities Challenge to help 100 cities over a three-year period to face their most critical challenges. The company decided to do so by awarding $50 million worth of services, technology and knowledge provided by the company itself.

Even though the idea is that cities have to be prepared to match IBM’s investment with their own time and resources, the company launched the program to assist cities as it found that cities are most often struggling with the following issues:

  • Do more with less
  • Bridge silos in information and operations
  • Use civic engagement to drive better results
  • Invest in infrastructure for better management

Cities can apply for this challenge by uploading a fillable PDF form which can be uploaded to the Smarter Cities Challenge website. Additionally, each city is obliged to submit a brief letter from the city mayor or equivalent executive officer of the municipal government, confirming the validity of the application.

The PDF application form is provided on the website and is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Simplified) and Japanese and requires cities such things as:

  • to clearly outline a problem or opportunity to explore rather than a solution to be implemented
  • to provide evidence that the proposal is connected to the top priorities and challenges of city and community leadership
  • to emphasise efforts to address cross-system or services challenges, to align with the notion that cities are composed of systems of systems.

Each city participating in the challenge receives a team of 5-6 IBM experts to work with the city for a three-week period on a strategic challenge identified by the mayor and top city leaders. During this period, the experts meet with dozens of stakeholders in government, business, non-profit and other organizations to examine the city as a ‘system of systems’ and to come up with potential solutions.

The 2012 recipients in Europe were Birmingham, Dortmund, Siracusa and Málaga. The Smarter Cities Challenge 2013 application cycle opened in late June and will close on 7 September 2012. Cities: make sure you’re part of it!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Africa – Energising Alternatives

In an attempt to reduce the negative environmental externalities related to heavy-coal-fired electricity generation, South Africa is stepping up efforts to increase the role renewable energy plays in its progressively overstretched electricity sector, pushing ahead with a series of programmes aimed at harvesting the nation’s infinite alternate resources.

The government has moved to bring the agencies charged with promoting this new sustainable energy use under one roof, launching the South African national energy development institute (SANEDI) on July 19. The new organisation, which will power the research and development of indigenous green-energy innovations in partnership with science councils, universities and private industry, combines two previous bodies, the National Energy Efficiency Agency and the South African National Energy Institute.

The country is already adapting to reinforce the contribution of renewables to its energy sector. The Department of Energy (DoE) is in the final stages of sealing up to 28 renewable energy proposals that were first accepted back in December 2011, with the signing of implementation, connection and power purchase agreements for a raft of projects set for August.

The initial projects – the first part of the department’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP) – is comprised of 18 solar photovoltaic projects with a total capacity of 631.53 MW; two concentrated solar power projects, with 150 MW of combined capacity; and eight onshore wind developments, representing 633.9 MW.

An addition round of 19 projects were assessed in May and a call for the third series of proposals will be issued in the near term, part of the government’s programme to be creating at least 3725 MW of renewable energy and have the tools installed by 2016, with the first projected forecast to come online by 2014.

While the government is keen to promote renewable energy, the delays in its first round of REIPPP projects do highlight difficulties, including financial backing for less-conventional and smaller-scale developments.  Investors may take a renewed outlook on later generations of renewable power generation depending on how successful these initial round of REIPPP projects can prove to be.

However, while SANEDI and schemes such as REIPPP represent the government’s commitment to green energy, the country is keen to maintain as diversified a portfolio as possible, not only to avoid repeats of the load=shedding issues it faced in 2008 but also to reduce exposure to potential swings in commodity prices.

This is most evident in the government’s continued efforts to expand nuclear power generation in the country. Dipuo Peters, the minister of energy, used the introduction  of the new SANEDI agency to underscore the government’s commitment to nuclear energy, as well as with the more traditional use of coal as an energy source.

“We need to use and will continue using nuclear energy for feeding, healing, energy and water provision,” Peters said.

South Africa has plans to construct nuclear power stations with a combined capacity of 9.6 GW by 2030, with at least six such plants being considered along with the sole station already in operation, with their output dwarfing that of the proposed alternative energy programme. Firms from Russia, China and South Korea are among the contenders for the lucrative contracts that will stem from South Africa’s atomic energy programme, with Russian state-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom opening a local office in mid-July to promote its interests.

Coal currently dominates South Africa’s energy mix accounting for 73.4% of primary energy and 90% of electricity in 2010, whilst diversification is a primary, the carbon-based fuel will likely maintain it’s primary position for decades to come. The DoE estimate that coal will continue to be used for the next 100 years, with the minister saying it was indispensable, “as long as we want to keep the lights on”.

South Africa’s push for the promotion of renewable energy is attracting interest from abroad as Chinese firm Powerway Renewable Energy announced it would be investing $1.2m to build several factories and produce mounting and tracking systems for solar photovoltaic plans in July.

Benson Wu, the CEO of Powerway, said the investment aimed to take advantage of the anticipated growth in solar energy in the South African market, with his firm foreseeing the need to supply mounting structures for over 500 MW of solar farms annually.

If the government can sustain the private sectors thirst for alternative energy projects and lure financers in to back such schemes more developments will get up and running in the years to come. However, the challenge will ensure the survival of the project through to its formative and stages and the ability to expand into businesses that generate profits, as well as power.

 

Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC)

One of the greatest challenges facing the EU in the future will be that cities have to start adapting to smart intelligent and sustainable environments. That’s why the European Commission launched a Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC). The main reasons why the Commission launched the SCC is to gather resources from energy, transport and the IT sector and they also want to boost the development of smart technologies in cities. They’ve set aside €365 million in EU funds for these types of urban technology solutions for 2013.

Cities have to grow into Smart Cities and they have to start developing and using innovative smart technologies. But cities face limitation in the development of these technologies due to high technological risks, difficulties over certain returns on investments or regulatory difficulties.

Günther Oettinger, Energy Commissioner, pointed out that innovations are needed in Europe to drive competitiveness and he said that innovation is the best means of addressing energy efficiency. The new technologies, like high efficiency heating and cooling systems, smart metering, real-time energy management and zero-energy buildings, that already exist need to be spread more among all the European cities and the SCC will help with this.

Siim Kallas, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport, added that European cities suffer a lot from road accidents, poor air quality and noise. He said it’s important to work towards CO2 free cities and to get there, more advanced research and innovation is needed. And Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President responsible for digital agenda, added that cities need to rethink how to reduce congestion and increase energy efficiency in the urban environment. He said it’s the ICT that puts the “smart” in Smart Cities and this challenges other industries.

Some of the major challenges that the SCC will tackle are for example the congestion. Nearly 75% of European citizens live in cities and they consumer about 70% of EU’s energy, this costs Europe about 1% of its GDP every year. So the smart urban technologies need to tackle challenges like this.

Connected cities are needed to survive the urban growth

The UK government wants the UK to be the technology centre for Europe this year. But to achieve this, they will have to look at every part of their economy. One area that is being closely looked at lately is our cities. To drive growth, cities need to be more connected. These highly connected cities need to be driven by super-fast connectivity and they can help drive the British innovation over the next few years.

But if the UK wants highly connected cities in the future, they need to start planning things now. And they already have been thinking about this. An example is the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) for Sustainable Connected Cities. ICRI is a joint effort between two of London’s top universities: University College and Imperial College London.

Social, economic and environmental challenges need to be tackled and it’s up to this new institute to investigate how technologies can help tackle these issues. They want London to become a ‘smart city lab’ and they want to create a blueprint for ‘connected cities’ in the UK.

So the researchers of this new institute will investigate some of the new intelligent technologies to use on our cities. An example is the network of sensors that can be used to quickly access data on trends for traffic, pollution and water supply. If they have all this data, they can analyze it to see how well the city is operating. Norway already has a centralized data platform like this called ‘CityData’.

A real-life application of this can be the traffic monitoring. Traffic congestions can be monitored and analyzed to develop smart transport timetabled and alerts. Councils could start to target areas to send more wardens, re-route traffic or provide warnings on mobile apps.

But this can only work when you have a huge amount of data at hand. So the right tools and bandwidth need to be in place first before you can start capturing and carrying these high volumes of information. When the connectivity isn’t restricted to just big businesses but to all of the city, innovation and growth can be stimulated and can flourish.

So using data more wisely is a very good new innovative approach to cities. London is already embracing this with as an example the London Gird for Learning (LGFL). All 33 London local authorities are involved in LGFL, and it’s making the most out of a dedicated public services network. It’s already providing schools with new technologies like e-learning tools such as video conferencing, virtual learning platforms and podcasts.

By 2050, there will be about nine billion people on this world, and most of them will be living in urban spaces. If cities don’t prepare systems to manage every aspect of the way a city operates, they will be challenged in all sorts of ways.  So cities need to start investing today in forward-thinking research and super-fast connectivity that will make the ‘connected cities’ reality.