People are creating URBAN INNOVATIONS FASTER THAN EVER IN THE DIGITAL AGE. YET, CITY POLICY STRUGGLES TO KEEP PACE WITH NOVEL IDEAS.
As the world rapidly urbanises cities need validated solutions to solve urban issues. Some of the challenges we face are old and well-defined. Others are a result of unprecedented challenges. We need new methods to export / import urban innovations.
If our aim is to benefit more people and reverse decades of environmental degradation. Then cities will need to move from competition to ‘coopetition’. That is, collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results.
What are 'urban innovations'?
Innovation in cities has been ongoing since people started living in permanent settlements. This means some urban innovations have a history of over 10,000 years. The number of innovations is huge so it's futile to provide a strict definition.
For urbanism we are particularly interested in innovations that solve a collective challenge. This type of innovation works in one place and context and are then imported by another city. The focus is on innovations that increase shared value rather than those than increase private benefits.
Separated bicycle lanes are an urban innovation which is sweeping around the world. City-makers adapt this infrastructure and insert it into different cultures and city contexts. The importing city often has much different land development patterns than the European cities. So, adopters remix the innovators original concept. Sometimes the remixed concept works better, sometimes its a complete fail.
We are now able to watch this process unfold over professional social networks. Innovators share their progress week by week. We can see successful examples as well as fails. Through this process, everyone learns faster.
City-makers can find other types of innovation by looking at the hybrids in a city. A great example of a hybrid is a linear park. The High Line, New York or the Goods Line, Sydney are a mix of a park and a street. Developments orient around the hybrid space rather than a street. Another example is a shared space - a mix of a pedestrian plaza and a street. Such as Auckland's O'Connell, Elliot, Fort, and Federal Streets.
Cities are in constant flux. So, we should expect that innovations which make sense today will be obsolete in the future. Some ideas will fade away, and others will be updated. It's impossible to predict the needs of future generations, cultures, and circumstances.
The era of digital transformation has shortened the lifecycle of innovation. We see great value in the rapid transfer of validated ideas from city to city as the world urbanises. It's an exciting time to be a city-maker.