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Innovative Project Development




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Development of Innovative Projects

The key aim of the full description of each project is to detail all aspects of the innovative projects selected by the cities according to regular project development practice, including areas such as stakeholders, economics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but also to detail the development of the integrated approach, the replication potential and the innovation and experimentation concept.

Overview of the cities’ projects

Project title

Responsible city


Database for multi-apartment residential buildings



Demand side management



District heating schemes and ESCo



Planning for sustainable lifestyles



Sint-Amandsberg Dampoort



Smart urban logistics



The projects

Please click on the images below to find out more about the cities’ innovative projects.

 Riga: Database for multi-apartment residential buildings                          Glasgow: Demand Side Management 


Glasgow: District Heating Schemes and ESCo                                                     Gothenburg: Planning for Sustainable Lifestyle


Ghent: Sint-Amandsberg Dampoort                                           Gothenburg: Smart Urban Logistics

Learnings from the development of innovative projects

A number of learning points have emerged through the development of innovative projects and their analysis through STEP UP:

  • Projects in an early development phase: As the projects are in very different phases of development, with a number only in the early planning stages, this has made them more difficult to analyse and compare.
  • Different nature of projects: The innovative projects which are being taken forward by the cities are all very different from each other, but it may still be constructive to focus on how integrated, innovative projects can learn from each other and share useful experiences, despite being focused on different city challenges and objectives.
  • Different time scales for pipeline projects hampers data collection and learning: The time scales for the projects vary significantly, with some already in the implementation phase and others being further developed and implemented over the coming years. This makes it challenging to gather information about the projects, and also to compare them and learn from other project approaches.
  • Replication and learning from other cities: Cities are often very interested in learning from other cities and want to know more about different solutions for urban areas. Successful urban projects can work as a showroom for ideas, with other cities benefitting from shared learnings. As such, key replication factors for successful innovative projects could be considered more often in future project development.
  • Integrated approach among partners: The integrated approach is crucial to STEP UP and it can be seen that all of the projects being taken forward have a clear focus on the integration of sectors and stakeholders. In addition, the projects all demonstrate an integrated approach to sustainability, taking a holistic perspective of tackling city challenges and creating opportunities.
  • Stakeholder engagement: This is essential for the integrated approach and is an important factor for projects to succeed, however it may look different depending on the context of the project. Citizen engagement is also very important for many of the projects, in different ways; from direct citizen involvement to inspiring citizens to change their behaviour.
  • Strong political support: Strong political support and a long-term focus on environmental issues helps to encourage organisations to develop innovative projects. This is also important when thinking of replication, as other cities need to consider their overall environment when examining projects, or specific aspects of projects, which could be transferred and adapted to their city.
  • Information gaps: It is not always the case that project development within a city is preceded by an investigation where all the data of the project is described and analysed. For bigger investment projects, financial plans are developed, but for smaller projects this may not be the case. This lack of information can make it difficult to fully understand and analyse projects, with strategies for addressing knowledge gaps required.
  • Limited experimentation or testing: An important part of the innovation process is to test ideas, gain feedback and further develop the projects. However this is new to many cities, indicating this is an area to focus on as projects are developed going forward.

Key recommendations for innovative project development

A number of recommendations were made for good project development earlier in the STEP UP project:

  • Start off small   
  • Build in an integrated, innovative approach early on
  • Build on existing initiatives  
  • Think cross-sector
  • Secure long-term political support
  • Collaborate and engage with stakeholders
  • Explore different funding sources and business models
  • Ensure contribution to multiple policy objectives
  • Monitor project information and data, evaluate and review your project
  • Document progress, engage in peer learning and understand replicability
  • Communication matters!
  • Learn from mistakes

These recommendations are still relevant, with some further clarifications and additions detailed below:

  • Document project information and progress. An innovative project is something new, and it is important to know that the project is following the roadmap of the idea. Try to document the main ideas and the key factors of the project as this is important both for the project itself but also for new projects to build on. 
  • Gather data and use indicators to monitor project performance. Data and Key Performance Indicators are important for monitoring a project; without this it will be difficult to evaluate successes. A qualitative approach can also be relevant and can be combined with quantitative facts for more comprehensive monitoring.
  • Test, experiment and learn from mistakes. For cities looking to develop innovative projects, the cities themselves are the living labs in which innovative projects are tested. The idea of innovation is to start small-scale, test the idea and then evaluate and further develop the project. This can be a long process with a lot of mistakes along the road, but this should not be off-putting as mistakes are one step on the road to success.
  • Collect knowledge about stakeholders and communicate with them. With an integrated approach it is common to have many stakeholders involved, representing different sectors and backgrounds and with different areas of expertise. Their size or type of organisation, time and resource availability may also vary. For sound project management, take time to understand the priorities and interests of stakeholders and communicate with them in a suitable way.

To read more about this work, and the innovative projects being developed by cities, download the STEP UP summary report here.

For further advice and recommendations on developing sustainable energy projects, please see the STEP UP guide here.

If you have any further enquiries about this work, please contact info@stepupsmartcities.eu



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