The latest instalment of the blog series based on our smart cities in Europe, enabling innovation report takes a look at the findings on smart cities in Belgium. To date, the development of smart cities in Belgium has been moderate.
Research by the European Parliament places Belgium in its second tier of countries ranked by smart city initiatives, meaning that 51-75% of its cities with a population over 100,000 have at least one smart city initiative.* As the most densely populated country in Europe, with more than 98% of its population living in cities, it ought to rank higher.**
Survey data provides some explanation as to why cities have been slow to embrace smart technologies – some 78% of Belgian survey respondents believe there are insufficient regulation/government incentives to encourage investment in smart grid technologies.
Change is now afoot. To kick-start development of smart cities, state-owned banking and insurance group Belfius Bank launched in July 2014 a €400 million smart city financing programme, ‘Smart Cities & Sustainable Development’, in collaboration with the European Investment Bank (EIB). The programme, capitalised with €200 million from Belfius Bank and €200 million from the EIB, will provide preferential rate loans to municipalities, utilities, or any other organisation providing services to local authorities, for the implementation of mobility, urban development and energy efficiency initiatives in Belgium that can be deemed smart and sustainable.
Belgium survey respondents are optimistic that this new financing initiative will catalyse the growth of smart cities – 58% believe the scheme will be vital in creating smart cities in Belgium.
Belgium is very ambitious but today doesn’t contain any really good examples of smart cities. This is because it is a very political issue. Belgium is divided into a lot of sub-governmental bodies, which makes decision-making very complicated. This is the main reason why this is taking a long time. That said, cities such as Ghent, Bruges and Kortrijk are beginning to make progress and have at least developed a smart city philosophy. They have been successful as they have managed to reach a decision at the local level and have formed partnerships with the private sector to enact them.”
Stefan Deswert , Partner
More smart cities information
Download the full smart cities in Europe report here.
* European Parliament Policy Department (January 2014), “Mapping Smart Cities in the EU”
** United Nations (July 2014), “World Urbanization Prospects”