The leadership in this project functions well on two levels. On the project level, the leadership is effective, adequate and on top of things; there is a good connection between the work packages. On the level of the city management and also politically, there is a strong interest and support for the DIACCESS project. The city CEO and her strategy team regard the DIACCESS project as crucial element in the innovation strategy of the city. Especially the innovation partnership approach in the Innovation Hub seen as a way of co-creating innovations with suppliers and implementing them on a larger scale. The leadership team is already pondering how to continue the deployment of the innovation partnership model after DIACCESS expires in 2022.
3.2 Public procurement
In this project, public procurement is a central element, if not the foundation: a key objective is to co-create digital urban solutions with private suppliers, through innovation partnership method.
In 2014, the EU has opened the option for member states to deploy the innovation partnership model. Basically, it allows for a close collaboration between city and supplier during the innovation process, and does not require a new procurement round when the development stage is successful. The innovation process happens during the contractual phase, once the innovation partner(s) is (are) selected and awarded the contract. In other procedures, innovation typically occurs in the pre-contracting phase and at the moment of the conclusion of the contract; the public procurer already knows what type of solution it is buying. In innovation partnership, the public procurer is entering into the contract with the best potential supplier(s) of innovation who should be able to create the innovative solution and supply its real scale implementation for the public procurer. Throughout Europe, the method has been underused, there is little experience with it in Sweden and beyond.
The process can be ended in three ways: by the city, by the supplier, or by a third party issuing a lawsuit. A tricky aspect is the degree of novelty required. It is only allowed to enter into an innovation partnership when the sought-after solution is not available on the market and has a sufficient degree of “newness”.
The project so far demonstrates three key things:
- First, negotiations with suppliers are quite complex, because of uncertainty at both sides: the city does not specify exactly what it is purchasing, and the supplier has no certainty as to what it is selling.
- Second, for companies and city departments alike, it takes time and effort to understand what innovation partnership is about and how to work with it. It is far from straightforward for city departments to formulate challenges, based on which private companies can develop innovative solutions. Departments are not used to work in this way, their procurement methods are still traditional. It will take much effort, and a change in mind-set and culture of the municipal organisation. Companies also need to get acquainted to this way of procurement as well; this asks for a strong communication effort. Hence, capacity building is important, both for city staff and for companies (especially startups and SMEs). In the early days of DIACCESS, there was much unclarity, companies tried to sell consultancy hours, or offered off-the-shelf solutions. The procurement department has set up a procurement course for (smaller) companies, for them to get more acquainted with public procurement and giving them a chance to become supplier of the city.
- Third, matchmaking meetings/events are crucial for innovators to find other innovators. Perhaps the one innovator is not equipped to deliver on his own, but if he finds a matching partner, it might end up with creation of a new company. connect problem owners (city departments) with prospective suppliers. These meetings turned out to be critical to clear up issues, to improve mutual understanding, and to answer many questions from the side of the companies.
3.3 Organisational arrangements within the urban authority (cross-department working)
DIACCESS is a city-wide project involving, in principle, every city department that wants to develop a smart city innovation with a supplier. The procurement department takes a central role, as they are the ones to support the departments and help to draft the contracts. The communication about the project is well developed (after a slow start). Importantly, the city CEO (and her team) is a strong advocate of the project and “sells” the project among the department leaders. So far, several municipal departments/companies have taken up the role as problem owner: Vöfab, the municipal real estate company that owns the public buildings, such as the schools (the school heating challenge), the infrastructure department (snow clearance), the municipal waste company (waste collection and separation projects), and the Meal administration.
3.4 Participative approach for co-implementation
In DIACCESS, urban innovations are developed in interaction between the city (and its departments/companies) and suppliers. The resulting innovations are intended to benefit the end users, which can be, depending on the innovation: citizens (in their various roles), civil servants, school children, commuters. But the innovations can and do also affect the daily routines of municipal workers or contractors (as is the case in the snow clearing and waste collection solutions, that imply new routings for the drivers). Hence in DIACCESS, participation has two aspects: the involvement of end users, and that of workers/contractors who have to work with the innovation.
In the DIACCESS project, the users mostly do not participate directly in the development of the innovation. It is taken for granted that the need owners (urban departments) engage with them during the process. In the school heating project for instance, the headmasters of the schools are involved in the discussions what temperature in the building is desirable, and that informs the calibration of the system. But the system as such is designed without much discussion with them. In some projects, the feedback of citizens comes in the form of data on the behaviour of the users.
Second, the innovations can affect the roles and daily routines of municipal employees (or the ones of contractors). This is clearly the case in the snow clearance solution, that will lead to new, optimized routes (data-driven), and probably also will reduce the total amount of snow clearance needed. This implies that the snow clearers will increasingly rely on apps that tell them which routes to clear; It may also mean that less snow clearance is necessary. It also implies that the planning of snow clearance routes is no longer based on years-long experience of planners (stored in their heads) but on data. But so far the innovation is largely developed without the active participation of the snow clearance drivers, which might lead to resistance when it is implemented next winter; A collection of drivers have been involved and educated, but so far not the extended majority.
3.5 Monitoring & evaluation
In DIACCESS, monitoring and evaluation is taken care of on different levels; most evidently, the project leadership monitors if the project goals, timelines deliverables and milestones are met. As the procurement cycles take longer than expected, it looks like the 5th cycle will not be implemented during the DIACCESS project period.
On a second and more complicated level, monitoring & evaluation is about result indicators for the innovations that are developed during the project. The question here is: to what extent do these innovations improve the baseline situation, and how to measure that.
For the various challenges, it turns out difficult to find/collect baseline data and results/performance indicators for the specific challenges, but in the end, for the three challenges addressed (snow clearing, school heating and smart waste collection) the project has managed to make it. Also, it is not so easy to qualitatively monitor the wider overall objectives of the project, such as “increased supplier participation”, “satisfaction with suppliers”, or “satisfaction with the municipality”, again there is a lack of baseline data, departments so far have delivered little relevant information, partly because they do not have it and partly because they are occupied with so many other things due to the pandemic. Hence, it is still a challenge for the project to collect the needed data, but also to develop more qualitative methods to assess the various types of impacts.
3.6 Communication with target beneficiaries and users
Communication with the external interest groups (potential suppliers/innovators, other municipalities, public sector, etc.) has improved significantly in DIACCESS, thanks to the new communications manager who has experience in business and uses her networks well, and pro-actively reaches out to the business community, not only in the region but also nationally, and also within the municipal department; Online communication is not enough, a personal touch is needed to go after the right audiences.
The communication team also supports the other WPs in the project: they analyse and rewrite the call texts; they do the marketing of DIACCESS internally and externally, including pointy press releases when contracts are signed with suppliers; The project was featured on local TV when the challenge of waste management was started. The project made several presentations during the National Innovation Week in Sweden (4-8 October 2021) to discuss the approach & challenges; this raised a lot of attention and interest, and some of the suppliers were approached by other cities to discuss collaboration. Note that one of the purposes of DIACCESS is to open up new markets for companies, and thus this already is beginning to work.
Communication is not without problems; first, there is still a lack of appealing visuals that show what the project is about. Second, DIACCESS as a project has no direct access to the municipal communication channels, which makes more direct communication with citizens and companies more complex. Third, the budget for communication proved to be on the low side, given the amount of communication efforts needed to do this project well.
The upscaling in DIACCESS has three dimensions:
- The project should, on the longer run, lead to a wider application of innovation procurement methods (especially innovation partnership) and a culture of co-development and experimentation in the city. Here, progress is being made, DIACESS is becoming better known among the departments.
- Scaling is relevant for the suppliers that co-develop solutions with the city. The city prefers not to own the digital solutions developed by the companies, but rather buy a licence, and the IP remains with the companies. There are already signs that companies manage to attract new clients because they have Växjö as their launching customer; but effective communication about the results (as done during the national innovation week, see under “3.6 Communication”) will be crucial in this respect.
- DIACCESS may scale up in the sense that it acts as catalyst for the adoption of innovative procurement and digital innovation for smaller municipalities in the wider region. Also, here it is too early to tell, but it would be good if DIACESS would help to build capacity in those smaller and less resourced municipalities. This is already happening in the school heating subproject, where a regional network of schools are following the results and may join in a later stage.
Apart from upscaling, it makes sense to think about “mainstreaming” in the period after the UIA funding ends, in 8 months from now. The city leadership is already pondering how to keep things going without external funding. The city leadership is confident that some structural changes are already in progress. Suppliers increasingly understand the method; the procurement department and city departments have gained experience they will use to continue with IP projects after DIACCESS. A point of concern is the mobilisation of more need owners in the municipality: who will do that, after DIACCESS ends? And second, the IP processes done so far are quite complex, and take extra resources: additional project management proved needed to guide the snow clearance, school heating and waste collection projects. The city leadership sees much opportunity in using IP to address less complex urban challenges, but more work is needed to elaborate this.