Why smart cities?
Against the background of economic and technological changes caused by the globalization and the integration process, cities in Europe face the challenge of combining competitiveness and sustainable urban development simultaneously. Very evidently, this challenge is likely to have an impact on issues of Urban Quality such as housing, economy, culture, social and environmental conditions.
This project, however, does not deal with the leading European metropolises but with medium-sized cities and their perspectives for development. Even though the vast majority of the urban population lives in such cities, the main focus of urban research tends to be on the ‘global’ metropolises. As a result, the challenges of medium-sized cities, which can be rather different, remain unexplored to a certain degree. Medium-sized cities, which have to cope with competition of the larger metropolises on corresponding issues, appear to be less well equipped in terms of critical mass, resources and organizing capacity.
Why another ranking?
To enforce an endogen development and achieve a good position, these cities have to aim on identifying their strengths and chances for positioning and ensure and extend comparative advantages in certain key resources against other cities of the same level. City rankings are a tool to identify these assests. Although they are quite common in recent time, current rankings are very different in their approaches or methods. Mostly they have quite specific aims focused on shareholder interests. Also, the local governments seldom discuss ranking results in public, if the own city is not ranked high. Due to different interests behind rankings and the indicators and methodological approaches used it is also normal that one city is ranked very different in different rankings. Additionally, medium-sized cities are often not considered when they are not recognised on a global level which would actually premise already a very good postion.
Why these 70 cities?
For the ranking it was necessary to select a city sample. According to the project’s aim and its timeframe a feasible sample should fulfil two criteria: Cities should be of medium size and they should be covered by accessible and relevant databases. The most comprehensive list of cities in Europe provides the Espon 1.1.1 project. It covers almost cities 1,600 cities in the Espon space (EU27+NO+CH) with data on population and some functional data.
For these reasons three knock-out criteria were elaborated on the basis of these 1,600 cities:
- Urban population between 100,000 and 500,000 (to obtain medium-sized cities)
- At least 1 University (to exclude cities with weak knowledge basis)
- Catchment area less than 1.500,000 inhabitants (to exclude cities which are dominated by a bigger city)
Additionally, the fact if a city is covered by the database of the Urban Audit – a European wide database on cities – is decisive for the benchmark as for reasons of data availability. Hence 94 cities remained and after a further adaptation and elaboration of cities and data accessibility and quality, 70 cities were chosen for the sample.