It is a well-known problem in the smart cities domain that upscaling is difficult, and often does not happen at all. As such, it is quite natural that not every pilot or experiment will scale up. Experimental pilot projects can fail, and that's okay because you learn from them, and the knowledge acquired can be used in a subsequent project. But too often, successful pilots are not continued either, so that their impact remains very limited. From that perspective, it is remarkable how well the innovations in Växjö are scaling up so far. In this section we explore potential barriers that often hinder upscaling, and then highlight how Växjö has managed to overcome these barriers so far.
No more funding after the experiment
An important cause of failed scaling of smart city projects is that all the money and attention goes to the experiment, and too little – or not at all – is thought about the scaling phase. At the end of the pilot, the money has run out and there are no structural resources for scaling up. Then it is often easier to just look for the next subsidy to try something new.
In the DIACCESS project, this risk is mitigated because the funding for the innovation pilots, unlike in many other cases, is not restricted to the experimentation phase. Rather, the innovation trajectories are set up in such a way that the experiments are only started when there is a reasonable chance that they will lead to an innovation so useful that it will be implemented by the city. The innovation partners are selected after a thorough dialogue with them on how to proceed during and after the experimentation phase.
“Not invented here…”
A further common threat to upscaling is the “not invented here” syndrome: the innovation team believes in the new approach, but for upscaling other people and parties also have to participate. And they also see disadvantages, threats, risks, or think they know that other solutions are better. Scaling up also becomes difficult if the experiment/pilot project is not really supported by the decision-makers in the organization; managers are usually enthusiastic about pilots because they are low-cost, generate positive publicity, and in any case give the impression that the organization is innovating. But when the pilot is successful and the time for implementation has arrived, they often step on the brakes because the consequences are far-reaching. In the case of DIACCESS, this barrier is overcome because city leadership is firmly behind the development of the pilots, and explicitly wants them to scale up. Moreover, because the smart city projects in Växjö are developed as part of a procurement process, there are serious budgets available for the post-experiment scale-up stage.
Experiment versus day-to-day business
Scaling up can also be difficult if the innovation team, no matter how skilled and innovative, is way ahead of the game, and too far removed from day-to-day operations. In that case, the resistance to upscaling is actually already built into the experimentation phase; operational departments, which have to keep things running, don't like to introduce the new approach, especially if major adjustments are necessary. The trick is therefore to find a good balance between exploration (discovering new things, innovating), and exploitation (performing daily operational tasks). It is therefore important to involve the operational departments in pilot projects from the outset. But a disadvantage can be that more radical experiments then will not be started. In DIACCESS, this barrier is mitigated because there is basically no difference between the innovation team and the implementation team. The staff of the city departments that work on the pilot are the same people who oversee the implementation of the innovation at a later stage.
Different interests in the consortium
Sometimes scaling up does not get off the ground because parties in the consortium work very closely together on the pilot – certainly if a subsidy can be allocated –, but when push comes to shove, they still have very different interests in scaling up and implementation. In DIACCESS, the project partners may indeed have different views on scaling, but they are not contradictory. For the private companies involved in the DIACCESS pilots, scaling-up means roll-out: increasing their market, selling their product also to other clients. For the Växjö city departments, scaling means expansion: making sure the innovation will move from a small pilot area to the whole city. Their different views are clear and explicit and do not work against each other.
Support and engagement of citizens and end-users
A large barrier to innovation scale-up is the absence of citizens/user engagement in the pilot stage. If a pilot is set up in a technocratic manner, the results might be a technically working prototype that nobody wants to use. Hence, deep and thorough user involvement from the beginning is key. In Växjö, this is done in each of the three smart city innovations: the teachers and headmasters are involved in the school heating; the drivers and planner are engaged in the snow cleaning; and the drivers and planner of the waste company are involved in the smart waste collection pilot.