Micro-investing in the future of smart cities
The most significant innovations around smart cities will come on the micro scale, with everyday Australian innovators proving concepts, bootstrapping them into profitability and scaling to a national or global scale – either with government help or seed funding from the private sector.
That is the view of the CEO of venture capital firm Azcende, Alok Patel, who has called on governments to ease procurement practices to allow a flood of private sector capital to begin to innovate at the local level and create scalable solutions for the developing world.
“Australia, with its geographic challenges, can solve problems that will transform the developing world – if we do it will because we made the right choices today,” says Patel.
Patel, who today launched Aczende’s white paper ‘Habitats for Humans’ on smart cities, says that in cutting through the hype around smart cities, it becomes plain that they are simply about making urban centres work better than they have before.
“It’s not a matter of waiting for new technologies – they are here right now and they can transform our cities immediately,” he says.
“But neither governments nor the private sector have solved the problem of how to work together to achieve this transformation. Both parties will need to overhaul their approach to create better ways to collaborate. To realise this potential, procurement, data sharing and financing models must change.
“The private sector is frustrated – it knows how to invest and that people want smarter cities, but it faces obstacles in working with governments and getting innovation through prohibitive government procurement practices.
“Still, there is a huge appetite in the private sector to invest in solving the problems of cities,” Patel says.
Azcende’s ‘Habitats for Humans’ paper is the result of a series of round tables in Sydney and Melbourne attended by leaders in business, construction, infrastructure, financial services, start-ups, government, logistics, communications and education, as well as smart city specialists.
Azcende is a venture capital firm that invests in creating and delivering innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges. Azcende brings together government and industry to realise the value of under-utilised assets and reshape services to improve the way cities work.