The Role of Territories in the Development of Trans-Sectoral Systems of Local Innovation: The Case of Smart Cities

By Amel Attour, Alain Rallet

This article focuses on the emergence of smart cities and on the coordination problems of service innovation in this area. Supported by an important review of the literature on smart cities, this article confronts the various visions of the smart cities concept that are put forward. Two visions are particularly emphasized, but also questioned, in order to analyze the smart city in a more pragmatic way. After setting out a typology of urban services that supposedly embody the intelligence of a city in the first part, this article underlines the key role of economic platforms in the development of urban services. Supported by cases of smart grids and mobility services, the second part of this article emphasises that there is no direct transitivity between smart grids and smart cities. It focuses then on the example of NFC (Near Field Communication), the services without contact which are the object of different urban experimentations, to examine the role of actors in the ecosystem and their capacity to constitute the economic platform of the ecosystem. It concludes that none of the industrial, private, or public actors has this capacity, the territory appears as the only cooperative context susceptible to a collective innovation dynamic. A simplified reading, using the examples of the French cities (Nice, Strasbourg and Bordeaux), of the technical and interactional techniques necessary for the delivery of urban services (NFC), leads to a conclusion on the key role of the territory in the coordination of the actors in the ecosystem studied.


  • smart cities
  • business ecosystem
  • economic platform
  • trans-sectoral systems of innovation
  • mobility services
  • NFC
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