Ottawa, February 25, 2021— Public procurement processes that are more accessible for startups and emerging technology companies could help accelerate smart cities development, which deploy technology to more efficiently and equitably manage resources for the benefit of its citizens.

Innovative smart city technology RFPs (requests for proposals) could pose questions instead of solutions, support local businesses and startups, or introduce “pre-procurement” initiatives that allow cities to trial new technologies with less risk.

Public procurement can be a highly strategic tool for building smart cities, allowing municipalities to signal investment intentions, engage in long-term planning, and manifest their values through procurement criteria for sustainability and inclusion.

Understanding and choosing the right procurement approach among the many potential options (traditional procurement, challenge-based procurement, grant programs, sole-source mechanisms, pre-procurement “living labs,” etc.) ensures that the best technology solutions become part of Canada’s growing smart city infrastructure.

This study, Procurement Office or “Living Lab?” Experimenting with Procurement and Partnerships for Smart Cities Technologies in Canada draws upon interviews with stakeholders and procurement document analyses to investigates how municipalities in Canada enter public-private-partnerships (PPPs) for smart cities technology and how the results of these projects are tied to procurement mechanisms.

Some study insights include the following:

  • Public procurement arrangements that allow for the co-ownership of de-identified data can be helpful for some tech startups that can repackage this data for new services
  • Municipalities in larger provinces typically take higher-involvement roles in smart city partnerships with tech suppliers
  • Common social impact parameters in requests for proposals include environmental sustainability, accessibility, equity and non-discrimination, and inclusion of Indigenous people or Indigenous-owned businesses

“This report sheds new light on the catalysts for smart cities development. Accessible public procurement can be a strategic lever for driving sustainable innovations, enabling good health, reducing inequality, and creating jobs and economic growth for intelligent communities,” said Namir Anani, ICTC President and CEO.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) is a not-for-profit, national centre of expertise for strengthening Canada’s digital advantage in a global economy. Through trusted research, practical policy advice, and creative capacity-building programs, ICTC fosters globally competitive Canadian industries enabled by innovative and diverse digital talent. In partnership with an expansive network of industry leaders, academic partners, and policy makers from across Canada, ICTC has empowered a robust and inclusive digital economy for over 25 years.

For Interviews with an ICTC subject experts and other media inquiries, please contact Paul Stastny at [email protected] or 403.351.0138 Ext. 823.

This study was funded by Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

A copy of the study can be accessed here.

A French language version of this press release is available here.

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