Why Smart Cities Need Smart Procurement

SmartKlub’s mission is:

Switching cities on to new, collaborative ways of powering themselves

There is much depth behind this simple statement that I will unpack over the next few blogs.  For now I want to focus on one aspect: the collaborative term. The most common cry I hear at Smart City conferences is the Civic Authority challenging the supply chain “we want to invest in smart infrastructure why don’t you bring us your wares”.  At the next turn you hear the supply chain replying “we have the smart products, why aren’t you buying them?”.   The two parties are not communicating effectively.  Why not?

The supply chain talks products when the cities want solutions
and because today’s procurement process is so dumb,
sophisticated smart solutions struggle to get heard.

Integrated planning between Leeds City Council and Supply Chain – SmartKlub event

We need a new procurement model, that is one aspect of SmartKlub’s purpose.  Although SmartKlub’s focus is energy, this is true for all smart things.  If we don’t recognise this there will be a massive missed opportunity for society to get more from less and so create more resilient communities.

However, I was encouraged to read recent research from London based New Climate Economy that agrees with us.  The author, Nick Godfrey’s insight is that while investing in smart climate action could generate savings with a value of US $17 to $22 trillion by 2050 (£11 to £14 trillion), there are still barriers preventing this – all relating to collaboration.  He identifies the need to:

  1. facilitate knowledge-sharing among cities on policy reform and innovation to inform and inspire action
  2. use common platforms and standards to enable cities to make their commitments public, credibly record their energy use and GHG emissions, develop low-carbon strategies and measure their results
  3. build the capacity of local governments, so that political leaders and municipal staff can effectively plan, design and execute low-carbon development plans and strategies
  4. finance low-carbon urban infrastructure by improving cities’ access to domestic and international financial markets
  5. support governments to empower cities to invest and innovate.

These 5 barriers are all part of the action points that SmartKlub promotes and solves while it’s pioneering with cities.  I am pleased to see the report recommends we get some help from the international community by developing an integrated package of US $1bn (£650m) or more over five years to help accelerate and scale up low-carbon urban strategies in at least the world’s largest 500 cities.

What we at SmartKlub would add, is one further point to these recommendations:

6. equip city stakeholders to join in with bottom up activities and schemes.


The stakeholders of Leeds – SmartKlub platforms required to empower them to create their energy futures

By stakeholder we mean anyone that works, rests, plays, learns or moves in their city.  In other words us! Be it as a citizen, community, business, public sector body, or third sector organisation.   Therefore, alongside our civic level activities we are trialling in Leeds, we are also building platforms like CAPE (Community Action Platform for Energy) and Local Energy Marketplace where communities and suppliers, respectively, can be self organising from the bottom up and so help deliver the city mayor’s agenda.

In short, the smart thing will only happen when we have smart procurement and empowered communities.

New Climate Economy’s press release and report can be found here.