Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Centre for Applied Research on Business and Economics

Smart city pilot projects

exploring the dimensions and conditions of scaling up


In many cities, pilot projects are set up to test new technologies that help to address urban sustainability issues, improve the effectiveness of urban services, and enhance the quality of life of citizens. These projects, often labelled as “smart city” projects, are typically supported by municipalities, funded by subsidies, and run in partnerships. Many of the projects fade out after the pilot stage, and fail to generate scalable solutions that contribute to sustainable urban development. The lack of scaling is widely perceived as a major problem. In this paper, we analyze processes of upscaling, focusing on smart city pilot projects in which several partners—with different missions, agendas, and incentives—join up.

We start with a literature review, in which we identify three types of upscaling: roll-out, expansion, and replication, each with its own dynamics and degree of context sensitivity. The typology is further specified in relation to several conditions and requirements that can impact upscaling processes, and illustrated by a descriptive analysis of three smart city pilot projects developed in Amsterdam. The paper ends with conclusions and recommendations on pilot projects and partnership governance, and adds new perspectives on the debate regarding upscaling.

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Reference van Winden, W., & van den Buuse, D. (2017). Smart city pilot projects: exploring the dimensions and conditions of scaling up. Journal of urban technology, 24(4), 51-72.