The Dutch Smart City Strategy

There is close collaboration between the Australian and Dutch smart city movements – Amsterdam has presented its smart city activities here in Australia at many events over the last five years; there has been an Australian-Dutch Smart City Summit in Sydney in 2016; there have been ministerial visits from both sides; and most recently the Australian Smart City delegation to the World Congress on Smart Cities met in Barcelona with its Dutch counterparts.

Both countries have a national smart city strategy in place, supported by their national governments.

Recently the Dutch strategy was further finetuned. The major difference between the two plans is that the Dutch strategy has a bottom-up approach, led by approximately 40 local councils across the country, which in turn ask for and receive support from the national government. The Australian smart city strategy has a top-down approach.

The aim of the Dutch strategy is – from a society perspective – to look for common, scalable solutions that will be made available to all local councils. This provides the most efficient and effective way for cities to find innovative solutions for themselves. Most of these solutions are also applicable internationally – within the Global Smart City and Community Coalition (GSC3) eight Australian cities are collaborating with Dutch cities.

Each city has its own set of unique economic, geographic, social and environmental circumstances. However many of these individual solutions can also be used elsewhere. This saves cost, speeds up deployments and creates economic market scale. Within the national strategy collaboration and cooperation is facilitated both nationally and internationally. The Dutch treat their combined smart city activities as one city, which makes it very scalable.

Key collaborative elements in the Dutch strategy are:

  • Gathering knowledge, building up experience and scalability

From here smart city building blocks can be developed and shared. This leads to large-scale implementations by combining individual solutions that can then form a good basis for the development of business models.

  • Ecosystems and transition paths

Together the cities are leading the transition of the key smart city areas selected in the plan:  energy, mobility, the digital city, circular economy and healthcare.  Each of the larger cities in the Netherlands has taken one of these areas under its wing. The other cities can select which areas are of interest to them and can join that project.

  • Market potential

This strategy is aimed at looking at the economic opportunities for local businesses, cities and the broader economy. (Dutch and Australian smart city companies, under the leadership of Austrade, are looking at combined market opportunities in Asia, and a start has been made with Indonesia.)

The bottom-up approach in the Netherlands has already resulted in a flurry of activities between the various cities. There is now a platform where they can meet, learn and exchange information.

After having developed a range of small-scale smart city projects – which often ended in a ‘death by pilot’ situation – there are now opportunities of scale and this allows for the development of much better business and investment models.

But it is essential for these developments to be undertaken from a strategic plan and each of the cities will have to develop its own plan. They need to transition to a smart council (demolish silos) and there needs to be a dedicated person/team in charge of the strategy. Furthermore, such a strategy needs to be led from the top (mayor and CEO).

Collaboration is the key in all of this – collaboration between cities, all levels of government and with industry and universities. Linked to this are living labs, innovation centres, start-up hubs and other activities aimed at including local citizens, businesses and other local/regional organisations.

The advantages of collaboration are manifold:

  • Select together the low-hanging fruit projects and support each other.
  • Do not duplicate – let one city/collaborative lead a project from which others can learn.
  • Build replicable models, building blocks that others can use within their local environment.
  • Use standards and uniform principles that allow for solutions to be linked together.
  • Align tender processes, develop uniform briefings/documentation aimed at market bundling. Cities can support each other in this way.
  • Work together in addressing barriers. Jointly present regulatory and legal issues to the national government.
  • Promote innovations that follow on from this approach and present them together to businesses and investors.
  • Combine participation in trade missions, event trips and exhibition presentations (at present each city is individually making the same global smart city trip).

To sum up, the key transformation processes that are highlighted in the Dutch plan are: energy, mobility, the digital city, circular economy and healthcare. Lead cities have been selected for each of these areas and others can participate and learn from them. There is in general a great willingness among cities to share outcomes and assist each other.

All of the above needs to be developed in a structured way and the national government can assist through the national strategy to facilitate that process. Individual cities don’t have the resources and capacity to do this on their own.

It also becomes clear very early in the process that there is a rapid increase in the size of projects when such a structured approach is used; and this in turn attracts the interest of businesses and investors.


Paul Budde











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