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 public attention 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 and benchmarking?

To enforce an endogen development and achieve a good position, these cities have to aim on identifying their strengths and weaknesses as well as to identify their chances for positioning and to ensure and extend comparative advantages in certain key resources against other cities of the same level. City rankings are a tool to identify these assets . 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 position.

Why these cities?

For the ranking a new city sample was selected . According to the project’s aim and its timeframe a feasible sample was defined according to 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:

In some cases, however, it is not possible to catch a city in its real forming because of too narrow or wider administrative boundaries. In order to operationalize most of relevant indicators it is necessary to focus on core cities (administrative boundaries), not considering definitions of greater areas or larger urban zones. 16 cities are excluded from the sample due to too low coverage, even though cities’ size would’ve fit. Finally, 90 cities between 300.000 and 1 million inhabitants from 21 countries are analysed (see following map and chart). For the final city sample see chapter 8) Annex III – City sample.