The world wants Smart City Expo World Congress

It was only four years ago that Fira de Barcelona took an interest in a notion that was relatively unknown at the time: smart cities. This has proved to be a good decision and the congress and fair organized by Fira has become a world leader in this new industrial sector. This has led a number of different countries to request the team led by Ugo Valenti to arrange international editions of the fair in different continents, proposals that coincide perfectly with the strategy of Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) and Fira de Barcelona.

Ugo Valenti
Director of Smart City Expo World Congress

30-01-02Has the expansion of smart cities and the SCEWC followed the same trajectory?
We have seen that the initiative that we took in 2011 has positioned us as leaders, and opened the door to opportunities in different markets where there is interest in talking about the transformation of their cities, and about smart cities, so they are asking us to help them organize events in their markets.

We designed our strategy little over a year ago: to consolidate a world congress, that of Barcelona in November, and to develop a series of local events in key markets, one of which would be the North American, another the Asian, and finally the Latin American, without ruling out any other opportunities that may arise.

We organized the first event in Bogotá in 2013, and the first Smart City Expo Kyoto took place in Japan in early 2014 which had a great response, followed by the first Smart City Expo in Montreal. We have also taken part in the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai, organized by GSMA, as Smart City Expo and in the World Urban Forum that UN-Habitat held in the city of Medellín in Colombia last May, and we are continuously receiving requests to participate in other events and to present our knowledge in the sector of smart cities.

Does every event have the same structure and format?
30-01-03Every city needs different solutions for its transformation, so every event has its own identity and characteristics. Our method is to identify the key local actors in the process, and always to rely on the collaboration of local authorities, and then to define the most appropriate model to apply. For example, the congress was the most important part of the Kyoto event, and the exhibition was much smaller. Montreal, in contrast, saw the two aspects more evenly balanced and in Bogotá the exhibition was the most important element.

So, the idea is to offer solutions for each place in the same way that the cities must adapt the technology to their needs…
Of course! Asian markets ask us to work for them as a business connector. These countries have the financial capacity to be able to afford the plans they have, but need private initiatives to be able to carry them out, so they ask us to provide the know-how and the presence of exhibitors that can bring these projects and opportunities to completion. In Latin America we provided a part of the knowledge base, but we also brought companies, while in North America it was the other way around: the private sector is very well developed, and we only had to help with the knowledge.

The same is true for the cities. In Europe and North America the strategy is about transforming the existing urban layout, while in Asia it is more about building new cities. To give you an example, the Indian Minister of Development will be visiting us later in the year, and India will have to build nearly 100 cities in the coming years.

40 mayors and 400 speakers

30-01-04Smart City Expo World Congress is celebrating its fourth edition this year. It brings together more than 400 cities and 40 mayors from the five continents, there are 41 delegations and nearly 400 speakers on the conference schedule.

It’s structured around 6 main themes (Smart Society, Technology, Governance, Energy, Mobility and Sustainable City), and among the speakers is Parag Khanna. He is considered the most outstanding geopolitical analyst in the world and is an ex-assessor of the President of the U.S.A. Barack Obama. Architects Kengo Kuma and Deyan Sudjic are discussing creative processes in an urban environment, and the futurologist and expert in sustainability Alex Steffen are taking part, along with many others.

This year the event coincides with the City Innovation Summit, organized by Barcelona City Council as one of the activities it is holding after being selected as the Capital of Innovation by the European Union.