Detroit named home of public-private smart-city collaboration for ‘urban change’
The World Economic Forum is to establish a new ‘smart cities’ centre in Detroit, in the US, to stimulate the public and private sectors to collaborate on innovation to drive urban change. The new ‘global centre for urban transformation’, headquartered in the Michigan city and opening in October, will look to engage private enterprises to help cities “grow back better” in the wake of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Detroit real estate company Bedrock will host the Centre’s work in Detroit, providing a testbed to “rethink and redefine the benefits and possibilities of urban living”. Activities will be based in Bedrock’s downtown “portfolio”. Additional work will be led out of the World Economic Forum’s offices in Beijing, Geneva, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.
The focus is on “more inclusive and sustainable models for urban development”; there was little in the press statement about technology, or even ‘smart cities’ as such, but the innovation often brings elements of new digital technology and the likes of Deloitte and Accenture from the private sector piled in with commentary from their respective ‘smart cities’ teams.
Miguel Eiras Antunes, global smart cities leader at Deloitte Global, said: “The role the private sector has to play in the transition from urban living to human living cannot be overestimated. Deloitte shares the Forum’s belief that COVID-19 offers an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate the approach to urban transformation and looks forward to working with the Centre.”
Stephen Zoegall, lead for global cities, transport and infrastructure at Accenture, said: “Tremendous energy is building around the world to build back better – with greater equity, resilience and sustainability. We are excited to continue our collaboration with the Centre and Forum to help convert ambition into reality.”
A statement from the World Economic Forum said: “The new centre will mobilize the global business community and key stakeholders to support cities as they chart a course for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Detroit will… [provide] a model for more inclusive and sustainable urban development…. The forum will leverage its global network of leading companies, governments, civil society organizations and academic institutions.
It added: “This includes mobilizing the global business community to commit expertise and resources in support of local communities, advancing models for inclusive urban development, and exploring new approaches to expand urban services and economic opportunity in low-income and traditionally marginalized communities.”
Jeff Merritt, head of urban transformation for the World Economic Forum, said: “Cities are facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 to climate change, exposing deep systemic inequities. As we chart a course towards a more sustainable and equitable future, government cannot carry this burden alone; increased public-private cooperation is essential. Detroit is uniquely positioned to serve as the epicenter for this work.”
Local government and government agency spokespeople queued up to endorse Detroit’s selection. Mike Duggan, mayor of Detroit, said: ” In Detroit, we have always solved major issues and expanded opportunity through innovation and partnership and that is exactly what the Centre for Urban Transformation seeks to do on a global scale. We are thrilled they will be doing it from right here in Detroit.”
Maureen Donohue Krauss, president and chief executive of the Detroit Regional Partnership, commented: “The centre will not only succeed here because of everything our regional economy offers, its presence will also strengthen our appeal as a global destination for innovation and investment for our future.”