Europe to lead world’s smart cities by 2040

8th February 2017 Jack Aldane, Jonathan Andrews

European smart cities could transform the continent’s urban landscape in less than three decades, speakers gathered at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussels said on Tuesday.

Jeremy Rifkin, President of The Foundation on Economic Trends, told attendees at a press briefing that Europe’s role in history’s “third industrial revolution” would see cities transition from fossil fuels to full implementation of the circular economy as early as 2040.

“My belief is that we can move this infrastructure in place in less than three decades,” he said. “We laid out the first industrial revolution in Britain in four decades. We laid out the second industrial revolution in the United States in four decades. We can easily beat that target of four decades on this third industrial revolution. This is smart Europe.”

Around 78 percent of Europeans live in cities, which make up around 85 percent of the EU’s GDP. Several European cities have successfully begun to implement the circular economy, defined as an efficient ecosystem of information, as well as physical goods designed to minimise waste and consumption of energy.

Smart cities are a growth market expected to be worth around US$1.5 trillion globally by 2020. Of the total market value created by this time, around 38 percent is predicted to emanate from smart education and smart energy technology.

Rifkin said the circular or ‘sharing economy’ would follow similar trends in history by arising from combined technological innovation and cheaper fuel sources, such as digital solar power. In a report published at the 7th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Bratislava on 8-9 July 2016, he adds that both China and Europe are paving the way towards a “green digital economy”, a model “now being embraced by other nations around the world”.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, spoke on Tuesday’s later panel about the benefits Europe’s reputation as a centre for global expertise and investment has for smart cities. He said private firms are keen to invest in smart cites in Europe as they regard the continent as “a beacon of stability”.

In 2016, member states of the European Union and Japan launched a two and a half year programme to provide cities with a cloud-based platform to link government data with the IoT. The platform, known as, will link technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data and the Cloud with open government data and linked open data to enable a multitude of different applications.


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