Hildagarde McCarville “Necessity is the mother of all innovation”

Interview with Hildagarde McCarville, CEO Veolia Nederland BV. Prior to the Smart City Event we've asked her to her opinion about smarter cities. How can cities attract private partners? And what is the most important success factor in involving citizens in a Smart City project? Give an example of where you are working with...

Interview with¬†Hildagarde¬†McCarville,¬†CEO¬†Veolia Nederland BV. Prior to the Smart City Event we’ve asked her to her opinion about smarter cities. How can cities attract private partners? And what is the most important success factor in involving citizens in a Smart City project?

Give an example of where you are working with a city in order to make it more sustainable.

Through our services, Veolia is committed to helping businesses and cities get access to, to recover and reuse resources.  In doing so, together we create sustainable circular based eco-districts, which in turn generate employment and sustain the competitiveness of city urban areas;  thus making them  places where  people choose to live and work.

One such example that we are working on presently in the Netherlands is in the city of Arnhem, where in conjunction with the owners of the Industrial Park Kleefse Waard (IPKW), the tenants onsite and the local municipality we are in the process of developing a multi year program of continuous improvement and innovation;  the end result being the transformation of this site into an Eco Industrial Park.  Aside, from evaluating the potential to recover and reuse rest heat or to provide utilities using more sustainable fuels,  all parties involved are determined to have the engagement of local inhabitants.    For example in Oct 2014, an open day hosted on the park attracted 15,000 visitors from the surrounding area.

Co-operation between private and public sector is very important to the creation of smart cities.  How can cities attract private partners and convince them to invest?

Companies operating within the private sector are part of the ecosystem of a city, and within Veolia we recognize that private and public parties need each other to be healthy and strong in order to exist.  The most basic instinct or need of any living thing is that of survival and like any living ecosystem, both sectors must evolve over time in order to sustain their existence.  This means at a most basic level we are aligned.

Thereafter, in order to attract private parties,   local governments should first create their long term vision for their city, and define the key objectives that they want to achieve.   In order to engage all stakeholders early on, this should be shared openly.   A Master Plan for the implementation of said vision, and the governance framework under which all the activities and roles will be executed should also be created, and buy in sought.   The Master Plan, if implemented correctly, will assist all parties in understanding the role they could play, to identify interdependencies, and the risks attached and how to best mitigate them. This Master Plan should be owned and managed by the local government/city and regular progress updates communicated to all stakeholders.

By defining the long term objectives and the future areas of growth, it also becomes apparent where the public sector should focus their energy and can best support private parties e.g. through the creation or amelioration of policy or regulations in order to support new business models for example within a biobased economy.  This will create confidence, within the private sector that the local government is committed to the achievement of its long term strategy.

For the creation of a sustainable circular based economy, attracting both investment and inhabitants, it is critical that the long term plan incorporates the integration of infrasystems (including communication and transport), and of resource flows whether they be water, energy or waste.  This integrated circular approach if managed effectively, will lead to the recovery and reuse of valuable resources.

What is the most important success factor in involving citizens in a Smart City project?

I recently visited Hammarby Sjöstad located in the city of Stockholm, which is an excellent example of the creation of a sustainable urban eco-district meeting the needs of its citizens.  Over the last few decades, this district has evolved to become more attractive and sustainable.  Key to this was the creation of a long term vision that local inhabitants could buy into. This vision started with a bid for the winter Olympics, whilst not successful in its endeavor, this goal planted the seeds for the future development of the area.

One of the key success factors to its development was the promise of a rejuvenated district, leading to the creation of new employment and an infrastructure that facilitated a balanced and healthy way of living.  Two examples of this are

  1. the implementation of a high-tech waste sorting and waste transportation system, for household waste which is also linked to the local energy production
  2. location of local facilities e.g. schools and shops are in close proximity and within walking distance of where people live.

What do you see as being the key challenges facing cities or urban areas ?

What we can see from a global perspective are similar key themes facing cities, whether they be located in rapidly growing markets or mature geographies. These themes centre around creating sustainable environments that are resilient, competitive, inclusive and good to live in.  These challenges are further compounded due to the global economic crisis that we find ourselves in and global warming. That said, necessity is the mother of all innovation.  For example through our work with the Rockefeller Foundation on the 100 Resilient Cities initiative (of which the city of Rotterdam and Veolia are participants), we are witnessing cities collaborating, sharing best practices and in doing so addressing their challenges head on.  We see many examples of organisations combining services, with the use of real time smart data, to help support the resilience of cities whether that be through the use of integrated flood warning systems, the recovery of a city in the aftermath of a catastrophe or access to resources such as drinking water.

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