Applications open today for the 5th edition of the entrepreneurship competition sponsored by Vodafone and Ericsson – BIG Smart Cities – which this year sees a major innovation: the creation of the first experimental city for start-ups in Cascais municipality, where Portuguese entrepreneurs will be able to test their technological solutions for the smart cities of the future in a real environment.
Created with the aim of discovering and supporting technology-based business ideas that could improve the daily lives of those who live in, visit or work in large urban centres, over past editions of BIG Smart Cities it has becoming increasingly clear that there is the need to create a bridge between start-ups and cities to facilitate the implementation of these solutions.
Cascais put itself forward to host this experiment, opening the doors of its municipality to accommodate the wide range of smart solutions produced by Portuguese start-ups. The strategy adopted in recent years and the resulting initiatives that have been developed, especially in terms of mobility, energy efficiency and waste management, make Cascais a good example of what a smart city could be. The choice of Cascais for the creation of the first experimental city for start-ups in Portugal was therefore obvious.
Initially, it will be the winners of BIG Smart Cities who receive this advantage, which will be extended later to other projects whose technology contributes to meeting the challenges that modern cities increasingly face today – whether demographic, territorial or climatic, as well as the sharing and management of natural resources (water, energy, global warming) and human resources (population aging, social exclusion).
This partnership between Vodafone, Ericsson and Cascais Municipal Council also marks the start of the construction of a National Network of Experimental Cities stimulated by BIG Smart Cities. This move aims to simplify access for start-ups to real environments where they can test their technologies in a smarter way.
Applications from anywhere in Portugal for this year’s BIG Smart Cities (the organisation of which is in the hands of Nova SBE) can be submitted until 23 May on the website www.bigsmartcities.pt in five opportunity areas: Mobility, Participation and Inclusion, Tourism, Living and Environment. In addition to the opportunity to test their projects in Cascais, start-ups that compete will be entered for cash prizes worth 20,000 euros, a six-month incubation at Vodafone Power Lab and a visit to an Ericsson innovation centre in Europe.
Following the launch in Cascais, during the application period the initiative will visit Braga, Porto, Coimbra, Évora and Lisbon, with each city promoting local events entitled BIG City Challenges: five competitions taking place between 27 April and 23 May, where the proposals of potential entrepreneurs will be assessed and two finalists chosen per city. In addition to qualifying for the final of the competition, the ten projects selected at these events will each receive a prize of 500 euros.
Entrepreneurs who are unable to be present at the City Challenges in Coimbra (27 April), Braga (4 May), Porto (11 May), Évora (16 May) and Lisbon (17 May), but who submit their entries online will be assessed remotely by the jury and subsequently at interviews. At the conclusion of the selection process 20 finalists will be chosen, whose names will be announced on 30 May. This will be followed by a one-month pre-acceleration programme where the young entrepreneurs will receive training, mentoring and support to turn their ideas into viable businesses.
The final of BIG Smart Cities will take place on 11 July, where the finalists’ pitches will be presented in public.
The overall winner will receive a cash prize of 10,000 euros and will be able to develop their idea at the Vodafone Power Lab accelerator, where they will receive training, coaching and mentoring sessions while also benefiting 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.
The second and third placed winners will receive a prize of 2500 euros. An honourable mention will also be nominated.
Winners of previous editions include the start-ups GuestU (designed for professionals in the field of tourism, this is a kind of virtual ‘concierge’ available on a smartphone), Inviita (a mobile application that lets users create itineraries anywhere in the world according to the user’s mood), Lisboa Horizontal (a mobile application for cyclists that calculates routes to avoid steep inclines in cities) and Parqly (solutions that aim to solve parking problems in large urban centres).
BIG Smart Cities reinforces 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 100 projects and contributed to the creation of over 200 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.