Episode#35 Leuven & Sant Feliu de Llobregat: "The Key Of What We Are Doing Is Collaboration"

Guests@Manuel González Maya, Chief Information Officer for the City of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Spain and @David Dessers, Deputy Mayor Mobility, Climate and Sustainability, Agriculture and Consumption of the City of Leuven, Belgium

Date of recording: 12 June 2023


Find transcript here


Summaries of Key Takeaways:  

  • Collaborative Climate Goals: Leuven aims to become a climate-neutral city by 2030, engaging with citizens, universities, and businesses for innovative solutions. 
  • Digital Transformation and Open Source: Emphasizing the importance of digital infrastructure and open-source solutions for public administration and smart city development. 
  • Societal Challenges: Both cities face challenges like population growth, climate change, and the digital divide, requiring intelligent tools and resilient communities. 
  • Learning and Sharing: The conversation underscores the value of learning from other cities and sharing experiences and solutions to build sustainable and smart urban environments. 


“To you, what is a Smart City?”

Manuel Gonzalez: “In my opinion, the smart city itself is not the goal of, uh, we are working to achieve. Let's talk about social smart social cities. Yeah. Which ultimate objective is to improve the quality of life of the citizen to will smart social cities. We must place technology at the service of the people, like he explained before. Yeah. Is necessary to raise the limits of the smart series and start talking about the smart cities, about cities adapted to their cies. Cause there is not a equal, a smart series or different depends on the people, depends on the characters of the city. This is a model of urban development that integrates the city design, socioeconomic ability, and quality of lives. See the balance growing of this population.”  

David Dessers: “Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, a smart city is a city in my view that prepares the future today. So, uh, a city that is not, uh, postponing or, uh, watching away from the problems that is preparing the future. And, uh, we can talk a lot about climate change and the climate transition, et cetera. But in fact, what we are trying to reach are, is a city that is, uh, livable, nice to live in a city that is affordable for people to live in a city that is, uh, a healthy city, a prosperous city, a city with clean air, all these things. And, um, so I think, um, yeah, that's the perspective we should grow. And I think a smart city is also a city that use all the possible tools existing to reach these goals. And so, um, yeah, that's in my view, a smart city. Uh, to be a smart, a smart, uh, to be a smart city. I think you need also some smart people, <laugh>.” 



  • Technological innovation plays a crucial role in supporting sustainability efforts

"I think data is - sometimes they say it's the new gold - but it is extremely important, for example, when you want to realize that climate transition, that transition towards the climate neutral future, the monitoring of it is a very complex thing. And also technology can help us and is helping us in order to know are we effective? Are we having an impact with the measures we are taking? So we are absolutely open for all kinds of technological innovation that can help us in this transition we are doing." - David Dessers

  • Open source is important for promoting innovation and sharing solutions

"We know that in order to implement innovation, we need to provide our city with a technological infrastructure that allows to do so. For example, we developed an application in the cloud, then we manage the infrastructure in open source, so the solution can be reused by any municipality, to develop their own projects based on their own units. Then I think is the most important. What I can do, you can do too." - Manuel Gonzalez

  • Collaboration between cities from different countries can facilitate knowledge exchange and mutual learning

"Well, I'm very curious about all the projects going on in the city of Manuel. I think cities can help each other. Manuel said it already, and I think it's very important. We're all in front of the same challenges. We're all in front of the same problems, et cetera. And so we can also share solutions, good practices, things that work well. And it's such a huge thing we have to do. [...] We're always interested in learning from other cities, what are they doing to, to make it work, et cetera. So I imagine we can learn a lot from each other." - David Dessers

  • Implementing a digital transformation strategy is crucial for Smart City development

"San Feliu implemented a strategy for digital transformation [...]. Thanks to this implementation, 120 initiatives were tested and about 80 nowadays of them are still active in the present. Many of the projects included have been awarded and recognized as a good practices and have served as references for another municipalities. [...] For example, we have a virtual local coin that aims to boost local business to local trade. Its proposed as a measure to activity after the impact of the pandemic." - Manuel Gonzalez