Smart City, where we are in Italy

5 June 2023
Circular Economy, Techstars, Innovation, Focus On

In 2022, the market for Italian “intelligent” and sustainable cities grew to be worth 900 million euros. Figure destined to grow with funds from the NRRP, new investments by Municipalities and the contribution of open innovation with initiatives such as “Turin Cities of the Future Techstars Accelerator”

In Italy the market of Smart City - the “intelligent” and sustainable cities - grew significantly in 2022 (+23% compared to 2021) reaching 900 million euros, with one in five Italian municipalities launching smart projects last year. This is what emerges from a research conducted by the Smart City Observatory of the School of Management of the Milan Polytechnic, that testifies the growing interest in the development of Smart Cities in the country.

In detail, the growth is due to investments in fundamental applications for Smart cities such as “intelligent” public lighting (24%), smart mobility (21%), remote reading and remote management systems for electricity, water and gas (smart metering) together with smart buildings (12%), with funds coming from Italian NRRP (National Reprise and Resilience Plan) pushing investments also towards innovative solutions in the energy sector (13%) such as renewable energy communities.

Furthermore, local administrations have launched initiatives for the “smart transformation” in recent years (89%) are willing to further invest in “smart” projects, focusing on smart mobility, smart building and analysis of data related to tourism, mobility and events in cities.

However, a minority of Municipalities has not yet understood the value of the transformation into Smart City. Consequently, to make all the advantages offered by “intelligent” cities understood, it is necessary to create and develop a culture of innovation in Italy in order to make the most of the dedicated funds of the NRRP (to which 100 billion euros will be added from EU programs) and make urban centers throughout the territory “cleaver” and sustainable.

skyline of Milan, Italy skyline of Milan, Italy

The funds of Italian NRRP for Smart Cities development

The funds of NRRP which affect and will affect the Italian Smart Cities amount to 17.1 billion euros, divided as follows:

  • 9 billion within the scope of Mission 1, i.efor the digitization of the Public Administration which include a series of enabling interventions for Smart Cities;
  • 7 billion for Mission 2, which includes the ecological transition and the “green revolution”, intended to increase energy efficiency and sustainability with interventions for the reduction of hydrogeological risks, the creation of renewable energy communities in small urban centers and integrated monitoring of the territory;
  • 5 billion included in Mission 5, which provides specific funding for cities,intended for Integrated Urban Plans. The goal is to make the peripheral areas of 14 Metropolitan Cities “smart” and sustainable through the creation of new services for citizens and the digitization of infrastructures;
  • 1 billion for projects aimed at urban regeneration.


Smart Cities: the world ranking

Determining the level of intelligence of cities accurately is a difficult task, as there are no unique criteria for an accurate assessment. However, for years, universities and research centers have drawn up rankings and ratings that can be taken as a reference.

In this sense, one of the internationally recognized indicators is the Smart City Index (CSCI) calculated annually by the Smart City Observatory, an expression of the World Competitiveness Center (WCC) of the Swiss management school IMD together with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). A rating that, in addition to economy and technology, also considers other characteristic aspects of a Smart City such as inclusiveness and quality of life.

According to the 2023 edition of the Smart City Index the top three places in the rankings are occupied by Zurich, Oslo and Canberra, with Copenhagen overtaking Lausanne in fourth position and London slipping from third to sixth place. Further back is Italy with only two cities in the top 100: Bologna in 51st position and Milan which, from 52nd place in 2019, has dropped to 82nd.

skyline of Florence, Italy skyline of Florence, Italy

Smart Cities in Italy: Florence at the top, Southern Italy and small capitals on the rise

In Italy the ICity Rank - which indicates the level of digitization of cities - represents the main reference for following the evolution of Smart Cities. The research conducted annually by FPA - a company of the Digital 360 Group - evaluates the digital transformation index of the 108 Italian provincial capitals based on the arithmetic mean of eight indicators (online services, social channels, enabling platforms, open data, openness, public Wi-Fi, municipal apps and IoT and network technologies).

In the ranking reported to 2022 for the third consecutive year Florence is the Italian most digital city ahead of Milan, followed by Bergamo, Bologna, Cremona, Modena, Rome Capitale and Trento - all tied for third place. Ninth position is shared by  Cagliari and Venice, with Turin and Parma cohabiting at 11th place.

The ranking also highlights important changes. In fact, the average level of digitization of the country has increased, with the smallest realities and those of the South which, albeit late, are recovering. Messina leads the ascent occupying the 28th place compared to the 62nd in 2021, “gaining” 34 positions. Encouraging figures confirming that the path towards the transformation of Italian cities into Smart Cities is at a good point, also thanks to open innovation and the consequent contribution of innovative startups.


Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center for the development of smart cities: the acceleration program Torino Cities of the Future Techstars Accelerator

In this perspective, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center promotes the development of Smart Cities in Italy also being one of the partners of the international acceleration program “Turin Cities of the Future Techstars Accelerator”.

Initially dedicated to smart mobility and then expanded by addressing the startups active in the realization of solutions solutions for Smart Cities, the program promoted by Techstars - one of the leading global organizations in the sector with over 2,200 accelerated startups and a total collection of more than 10 billion dollars of funding since its inception - takes place at the OGR in Turin.

Launched in 2020, also thanks to the collaboration of the corporate partners Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo and Fondazione CRT together with the Municipality of Turin, the acceleration program in four years has brought concrete benefits for the growth of the local and national innovation ecosystem.

In fact, in addition to the settlement of 6 startups in Italy and the creation of around 500 new jobs, Cities of the Future Techstars Accelerator has brought various innovative realities to the Piedmontese capital, allowing 60 startups to initiate collaborations with the Municipality and with local companies as proof of the initiative’s value.