Episode: #61 Urban Innovators Global: Fostering Leadership for Smarter Cities

Guests Raffaele Gareri - Partner at Urban Innovators Global, CEO of Urban Futures and former CDO of Rome

Find transcript here


Summaries of Key Takeaways:  

  • Collaborative Innovation: The importance of bringing key decision-makers together to share knowledge and visions for the future. 
  • Background and Career: Gareri's journey from electronic engineering to leading urban innovation projects, highlighting his diverse experiences. 
  • Urban Innovators Global: A company aimed at improving cities' innovation capacity through education, advisory, and venture building. 
  • Leadership in Urban Innovation: Emphasizes the need for leadership to drive changes in cities, focusing on a mindset shift towards sustainable and inclusive practices. 


“To you, what is a Smart City?”

Raffaele Gareri: “Yeah, it seems to be an easy question, but it's not. Well, I think it's a place where there is the culture of innovation, or there is the research of the culture of innovation, because of course, smart city is different from the other one, even from the neighbor one. So that means that it's not the formal result that makes the fact, but it's the process itself. And in the end, in all the recent years, I found that the attitude of people, so the culture of innovation is the key aspect. So if you are open to rethink your knowledge, your way of doing, your way of designing or executing, in other words, you want to be more open minded and want to understand what the Others are doing. That's important. If you are ready to do something in cooperation with others, that's again, something that we cannot avoid if we want to change and to take advantage of the current scenario, but also cultural innovation, meaning that we needed to facilitate new experiments, new tests, and we need to be ready to failures, especially in the public sector. That's not easy, because if you do it right, okay, if you are doing a mistake, so there is a kind of punishment. So that's refrain people from experimenting new things. And finally, culture of innovation also means that we need to listen a lot from the others, from the final users, and we need also to understand how different can be the final user. So this is another way to approach the inclusion. We want to develop services, but how to which specific needs and needs of which group of people, in which area, which coming from which other different regions and so on. So a smart city is a place where there is at least this awareness of needs. And then we can move from the existing point and define the specific process of improvement. But without those basic ingredients, I think it could be very difficult.” 



  • A unified vision is crucial for effective planning and implementation of urban projects 

"The big challenge is always to find a way to put the key decision-makers in a community, in a territory, in a city, at the same table." - Raffaele Gareri 

  • Leaders must be forward-thinking and responsive to changes , ensuring that the city remains resilient 

"The first ingredient of every urban innovation leader should be the awareness that we have to be more effective and to take advantage of resources in a more sustainable way.” - Raffaele Gareri 

  • Funding and skills-gaps are the most common barriers to innovation in urban development 

"Innovation usually [isn’t a priority] because most of the time people say ‘But we don't have a special fund to go through it’ or ‘We don't have the skills”, and so on." - Raffaele Gareri