Can startups solve urban problems? Bridging the geography of innovation, procurement and smart city research
Engaging startups in urban sustainability issues (e.g. mobility management, climate adaptation, social integration) is becoming a popular policy ambition in many cities and regions worldwide. The topic has gained a relevant place in regional innovation policy debates and, more recently, within discussions about mission-oriented innovation and bottom-up “smart city” development. Yet, little is known about the actual results and innovation processes involved. Namely, as the nature of urban sustainability-related innovations shift from a pure techno-functional focus to embrace social and value ascribing dimensions, the notions of “solution”, innovation, and upscaling are challenged, as well as the geographies through which these processes unfold. In order to better understand these issues, this research will build at the interface between literature on the geography of knowledge and innovation, public procurement and smart cities; moreover, it will carry out a systematic comparison between two frontrunning policy initiatives in Amsterdam and Lisbon to critically compare expectations, designs, co-creation processes and actual results. Due to the novelty of the policy tool and the “lighthouse” role of pioneer cities, this research can be seen as a pilot to develop a number of propositions to be further tested in a larger study.