DCC Conference

High Level Conference

Digital Cities Challenge:
A strategy for EU cities in the 21st Century

05 June 2019


Cities host 72% of the EU population and are Europe's economic engine, contributing to two thirds of its GDP.  As centres of economic activity, employment and innovation, cities have a vital role to play when it comes to promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and tackling economic, environmental and social challenges.

The revolutionary potential of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, data analytics, Internet of Things, blockchain offers to cities unprecedented opportunities for innovative business models, new market creation and addressing societal challenges, climate change, resource efficiency and a circular economy.

The European Commission with the Digital Cities Challenge initiative is helping over 40 European cities to reap the benefits of advanced technologies, develop comprehensive strategies and thriving ecosystems and achieve smart and sustainable growth. Launched in October 2017, the initiative offers policy advisory services, mentoring and coaching opportunities, while the cities share a network of collaboration, knowledge sharing and peer learning.


The high-level conference will showcase the trends that are shaping urban areas in Europe, strengthen the dialogue on the opportunities offered by advanced technologies to transform cities into catalysts of smart and sustainable growth and pave the way for the future strategy for Intelligent Cities in the 21st century. It will discuss the following thematic priorities:

  • Creating sustainable and thriving city-ecosystems, which catalyse the coordinated action to digitally transform their territories
  • Shaping the cities of the future, by investing in high-tech infrastructure, promoting access to technology and open data and acting as testbeds for emerging technologies
  • Upskilling the cities through disruptive education and training, as an essential condition for the industrial modernisation and digital transformation of a territory.
  • Over 400 participants are expected including high-level speakers, such as:
    • Policy makers 
    • Industry and business leaders, clusters and associations
    • Representatives of international organisations (UN, WEF, OECD, etc) 
    • Academics, digital transformation and smart city experts, representatives of think tanks, training experts

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08:30 - 09:00 Registration and Welcome Coffee
09:00 - 10:00 Setting the scene: Sustainable urban growth and development in the EU Agenda
Speakers from the European Commission, the European Committee of the Regions and the EU Presidency will share their insight into the EU policy developments and strategies.
10:00 - 10:15 Keynote: Cities Leading The Global Economy
Vision on the cities of the future, the trends that are shaping urban areas and the opportunities offered by advanced digital technologies.
10:15 - 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 - 12:00 Sustainable City Ecosystems: Governance and Reputation
A successful digital transformation strategy builds on a thriving ecosystem, which shares ambitious vision and catalyses coordinated action of the different players: local authorities, businesses, citizens, academia and social partners.
  • How to create vibrant ecosystems and build a successful city brand?
  • What are the challenges and lessons learned from the Digital Cities Challenge initiative?
  • How to create synergies and engage stakeholders (government, industry, finance, academia, NGOs, social partners) in the creation of a shared and forward-looking vision?


      12:00 -13:15 The future of Cities: technology and data
      Cities have the opportunity to become testbeds for emerging technologies, from AI to self-driving vehicles, and to trigger innovation and economic growth by fostering access to technology and opening up their public datasets. This session will revolve around the following key questions:
      • How can advanced technologies redesign growth in European cities and make them more liveable, inclusive and environmentally sustainable while boosting growth and business creation?
      • How can European cities facilitate access access to technology and open data (through fab labs, innovation labs, clusters) to boost economic growth and well-being?


      13:15 - 14:15 Networking Lunch
      The lobby will host an exhibition of cities participating in the Digital Cities Challenge initiative and other city related initiative.
      14:15 - 15:30 Upkilling the cities: disruptive education and training
      Industrial modernisation and digital transformation of a territory can only happen if local businesses have access to relevant skills. Mismatches between the skills available and those needed to harness advanced digital technologies remain and are projected to increase. In addition, the participation of women in the technology sector is low, a missed opportunity for the EU economy. Cities need to invest on people, attract and retain the right talents and ensure that their workforce has the relevant skillset to reap the benefits of advanced technologies. The following key questions will be addressed:
      • What are the challenges for women in digital and how to close the gender divide?
      • What initiatives are disrupting education and contributing to build the pool of talents and skills needed to leverage advanced technologies?
      • What are the instruments to activate the local ecosystem, enhance cooperation between University and industry and boost the acquisition of skills that fit the needs of companies?
      15:30 - 16:00 Coffee Break
      16:00 - 17:15 Cities as Market Creators
      Cities play a crucial role when it comes to boosting the digital transformation of industry and creating the conditions for innovative business models to thrive. This session will discuss how cities can enhance growth and innovation at local level, by investing on digital infrastructure, promoting access to data and innovative solutions (e.g. through public procurement).
      17:15 - 17:45 Conclusion and Steps Ahead
      17:45 Networking Cocktail


      First speakers will be announced soon!


      The Digital Cities Challenge will take place on January 2018 and will run until June 2019 at:

      European Commission
      Charlemagne Building
      Rue de la loi 170
      1000 Brussels

      50.8436054, 4.3778887

      Join us!