Co-creating a Smart City and Digital Transformation Strategy in Timișoara

The city of Timișoara, Romania, has recently concluded their process to design a smart city and digital transformation strategy for the coming six years. An external company, Lumispino, was hired to guide the development of the strategy, and they designed a process, customised for the creation of this strategy, that used methods from smart city strategies, smart specialisation strategies, goal-oriented planning, and open innovation, and brought together aspects from each in order to create a process designed around the needs and aims of the city. Overall, the process took a bottom-up approach, with project ideas emerging from all levels of consultation, and specific project ideas coming from the stakeholder and steering groups. The process for designing the strategy was a collaborative one that involved co-design from the start and involved all target groups, stakeholders, citizens, and interested parties throughout.

One of the main focuses of the co-design process, and ultimately the consultation process, was the involvement and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders throughout, including citizens. Citizen engagement provided a broad range of input and opinions through virtual and in-person surveys, which included the use of indicators from the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). One challenge that emerged during the project was related to public engagement, as many citizens entered the consultation process with different ideas of what constitutes a smart city. This meant that part of the process of engaging with citizens meant also communicating with them all which encompassed the concept of a smart city so that participants would be approaching the discussions and questions from the same place of understanding.

An extended stakeholder group brought together several hundred professionals from across relevant industries and sectors to share their knowledge and ideas throughout the design process. The other primary group of stakeholders involved in the process was a steering group consisting of experts with knowledge and expertise in areas directly related to the theme of smart cities, who were involved in goal-oriented planning, a project design worked and validating the strategy’s structure and content. Internal experts from Singapore, Ireland, the Netherlands and Hungary were brought in towards the end of the process to review and validate the proposed strategy, while the overall process design, orchestration, research, and drafting of the strategy were conducted by an expert facilitator.

The final strategy is built around 7 ambitions that combined shape the city’s smart city and digital transformation strategy, each with their own set of KPIs, to allow the city to track and measure their progress. The ambitions of ‘The City for All’, ‘The Sustainable City’, and ‘Intelligent and Impactful Public Investments’ represent the foundation for the overall vision of the strategy; ‘Every Citizen has a Voice’ and ‘Smart City is Fun City Timișoara’ reflect the human-centric approach; and ‘Vibrant Innovation Ecosystem’ and ‘Timișoara – An Attractive City for International Talents’ represent the capacity to generate value, innovation, and collaboration.

This strategy will guide Timișoara’s direction and focus for the coming years and demonstrates the city’s recognition of the critical importance of having innovation be intertwined throughout all aspects of this strategy. Adopting a co-creation process, this process ensured that a wide range of stakeholders, including citizens, were not only heard but involved throughout the process so that the final document would serve as a reflection of their collective ideas for the city. The strategy isn’t intended to solve all of the city’s challenges as it is unrealistic to expect a single strategy can; however, it does serve as a solid and forward-looking approach to ground the city’s policies, efforts, and actions for the coming years and to enable development in all areas of the city.

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