- What has happened with the project since it’s end date
The official end date of the project period was end of August 2022. By then, the work of two of the three key parts of the project had been completed: the Digital Lab and the IT platform.
During the project, the Digital Lab functioned as a training and working ground where young unemployed and refugees have worked on-the-job to become IT experts, developing smart city solutions. It worked in the service of the city: municipal departments could approach the Digital Lab with challenges or problems, to have it explore if there is a possible digital solution. Based on such requests, supervised by professional IT experts, the trainees in the Lab produced prototypes that demonstrate how digital technology can work in practice. The Lab was embedded in the social department of the city. The Digital Lab has been quite successful in achieving its goals. Over the last 2 years, 20 young unemployed people, many of them refugees, obtained new skills, and most of them found a good job rapidly afterwards. Moreover, during the project period, the trainees in the Lab developed several prototypes. The Lab is now dismantled, and there are no concrete plans (yet) to restart it. Meanwhile, policymakers in Växjö recognize the social value of the project and currently explore opportunities to mainstream it within the social department or the IT department of the city (read more about the Lab here: https://uia-initiative.eu/en/news/unemployed-youth-and-refugees-it-talent).
The work on the IT platform also ended officially by August 2022. The project successfully managed to put in place an urban IT platform to store, process and visualise the data that are generated by (and used by) the new digital smart city innovations; it is still in use and will remain so. The platform provides its users with insights and information for better decisions and automated activities. It is open for all actors to provide and collect data with a built-in payment mechanism that will encourage private actors to deliver data on commercial terms.
The Innovation Hub (the most important part of the project in terms of resources), had not been completed by that time. In that work package, the city co-develops solutions with suppliers in using the innovation partnership procurement model. The work of this work package has continued in during the 6-month extension period of the project, from September 2022 until February 2023. During that time, three smart city innovations were further tested and elaborated by city and commercial partners, and have reached a stage of maturity. Since February 2023, the city has continued to work with the suppliers to mainstream and scale up the innovations, to develop and elaborate the business cases, and to enter into contractual arrangements with the suppliers to purchase their innovations. Importantly, under innovation partnership conditions, the city and its commercial partners have 90 days from the end of the testing phase to set up and sign a contract. It looks likely that this deadline will be achieved for all three innovations.
The smart waste collection solution (developed with Bintel) has proved its value for both city and the supplier from the beginning. It has been tested in one area of Växjö. The partners are now in dialogue about the contracting details, but there are no mayor obstacles. It would mean that the solution can be scaled up to other areas in Växjö and also to surrounding municipalities for which Växjö’s waste company SSAM has a mandate to collect waste. Link to the web-article.
For the smart snow clearing solution (with company Klimator), the results are satisfying after two winters of testing, and the developed solution will be bought by the city of Växjö in the form of a license, however there are some small remaining issues about purchasing external data. A clear sign of success is that several other municipalities are adopting the solution for snow clearance developed in Växjö during the DIACCESS project (see https://uia-initiative.eu/en/news/several-municipalities-are-adopting-solution-snow-clearance-developed-vaxjo-during-diaccess).
For the smart heating solution of schools (developed with WINNIO), there are some operational issues to be overcome before the partners will reach the contracting stage. Some more technical testing is still needed, and a period of several months is foreseen for a learning process in which schoolmasters and teachers will gain experience and feedback about how the solution and the interfaces work. The expectation is that the product/solution will be fully ready and operational by March 2024.
2. The project’s plan for long-term sustainability
The long-term sustainability of the project is reflected in several aspects and depends on the type of activity. The IT platform is now in place thanks to the DIACCESS project, and it will remain a permanent feature of Växjö’s smart city architecture. It will be maintained, updated, and filled with new data, although so far, the quantity and quality of the data on the platform, especially from private partners, are somewhat below the initial expectations. The Digital Lab has been dismantled, as outlined in the previous section; there are no concrete plans (yet) to restart it, even though policymakers in Växjö recognize the social value of the project. The Innovation Hub as such will not be continued as a specialized instrument for innovation partnership type of public procurement. But the implementation of the three smart city innovations co-developed under DIACCESS will have a lasting impact on the city operations, leading to cost savings, service quality improvements and CO2 reduction. Concerning the procurement methodology, the city leadership has now gained experience with the innovation partnership procurement method. The city’s departments have learned how to look at procurement in a different way, and lessons were learned how to deal with suppliers with this method and to co-create innovation with them. This all means that future urban innovations might be developed in a better way, following this procurement method or otherwise. At the same time, the method has proved to be complicated and time/resource consuming.