Applications open today for the fourth edition of the entrepreneurship competition organised by Vodafone and Ericsson – BIG Smart Cities. Until 4 May, technology-based business ideas to improve the daily lives of those who live or work in or visit a city can be entered via the website www.bigsmartcities.com, competing for a cash prize of 10,000 euros, a six-month incubation at Vodafone Power Lab and a visit to an Ericsson innovation centre in Europe.
At a time when modern cities are facing growing challenges – whether demographic, territorial or climatic, or of sharing and managing natural resources (water, energy, global warming) and human issues (population aging, social exclusion) – technology is a key ally for transforming cities into increasingly intelligent metropolises that enhance the quality of life of their inhabitants, workers, entrepreneurs and visitors.
Understanding this, Vodafone and Ericsson have entered into partnership for this year’s BIG Smart Cities, reinforcing the determination of the two companies to contribute to the development of technological ideas to make the urban environment increasingly a driver of quality of life and sustainability.
With four opportunity areas identified – Smart Mobility, Smart Living, Smart Tourism and Smart Government – the competition this year features several innovations, the most important being that it has evolved from the local format that it previously had, to a national scale. This year the initiative will take place in Porto, Coimbra, Évora and Lisbon, with each city organising local events entitled BIG City Challenges: four competitions taking place in April in which the entries of registered potential entrepreneurs will be assessed and a finalist for each city will be chosen. In addition to qualifying for the final of the competition, the four selected projects will each receive a prize of 500 euros.
Entrepreneurs who are not able to be present at the City Challenges in Porto (14 April), Évora (20 April), Coimbra (21 April) and Lisbon (28 April), but who submit their entries online will be assessed remotely by the jury and later at personal interviews. At the conclusion of the selection process, 20 finalists will be chosen, whose names will be announced on 16 May. They will then begin a 9-week pre-acceleration programme where they will receive training, mentoring and support to turn their ideas into viable businesses. The final of BIG Smart Cities will take place on 5 July, where the finalists will present their pitches in public and the winning project and four honourable mentions will be revealed.
In addition to the incentive of 10,000 euros to start to turn their ideas into reality, the entrant who presents the best technological idea for city sustainability will be able to develop their idea at Vodafone’s Power Lab accelerator, and will receive training, coaching and mentoring sessions, benefiting also from the environment of knowledge and experience sharing and mutual support between start-ups that exists at the accelerator. Alongside this, the winner will have the opportunity to visit an Ericsson innovation centre in Europe.
In previous competitions, the winners were the start-ups GuestU (2013), Inviita (2014) and Lisboa Horizontal (2015) among others, companies that have developed and grown their ideas thanks to the support of Vodafone Power Lab which, in addition to training and mentoring, also facilitates networking between entrepreneurs and potential investors so that new businesses are able to successfully bring their businesses to market.
BIG Smart Cities has reinforced Vodafone’s longstanding support for innovation and entrepreneurship and is now one of the main showcases for Vodafone Power Lab, a programme created in 2009 which has helped over 80 start-ups to be born and contributed to the creation of more than 50 jobs.
In the Networked Society, Ericsson is the leading ambassador of ‘Technology for Good’, encouraging innovation to help meet the challenges of sustainability. BIG Smart Cities is encouraging the development of ideas based on information and communication technologies that could contribute to a better quality of urban life and a more sustainable world.