Digital for all now

Greater Lyon area: a smart metropolis buzzing with innovation

Karine Dognin-Sauze 19 May 2015

How to leverage new technologies and make them a source of progress? How to organise the industrial transformation of an area and build a space that addresses energy requirements, reduces heavy traffic congestion and ensures quality of life in the city? Karine Dognin-Sauze, Vice-president of the Lyon City Council in charge of Innovation, Smart City and Digital Development, answered these questions and more.


Grand Lyon Métropole Intelligente


Karine Dognin-Sauze comes from a corporate background: after spending over twenty years in the video games industry for US company Electronic Arts, she joined GL Events Group where she set up a dedicated innovation structure. She first went into politics in 2007: initially in charge of a new technologies delegation, she focused on making digital a priority for the Lyon area and became interested in industrial transformation via digital technology. Seven years ago, Dognin-Sauze began a major smart city project in Lyon. Now, as Vice-president of the Lyon City Council, she’s in charge of digital and innovation.


“I think it’s essential that, where the smart city is concerned, a political vision must play a role: this vision involves preparing the area for the future and bringing it into the 21st century.”



In what way is Lyon “smart”? 


Karine Dognin-Sauze: the city is expanding considerably. Lyon Confluence is a real technological showroom in terms of energy standards and districts such as Part-Dieu are going to undergo a major renovation over the next ten to fifteen years. We’ve launched some major urban projects to experiment with energy, mobility, healthcare and collective intelligence. Currently, 40 experimentation projects, planned for short periods of three to five years, will focus on disruptive innovations and show very tangible examples of what a smart city is, beyond the purely conceptual dimension.


We wanted to bring about a transformation of the economic landscape, and one of the prerequisites for this was consolidating our strengths in the digital field so we could work with players in the digital, software and web innovation industries, and combine these areas of expertise with those of other fields such as chemical research or healthcare.


Quartier Lyon Confluence



So who exactly are the organisations involved in the various projects in Lyon? 


All the projects rolled out involve consortiums of companies from a wide variety of backgrounds. The Greater Lyon Area’s smart approach is an opportunity both for startups to launch themselves and for large corporations to share their solutions with others.

 “We try to go beyond the logic of innovation to source expertise from different areas and combine different types of companies: enterprises and startups, local and international players.” 

We’re not just working on projects designed to transform the city; there are also ones which, by transforming the city, should generate innovation and stabilise economic models. The value chain is changing and a number of service providers in the energy or mobility sector are looking for these economic models.

“As a community we have totally changed the way we design cities: we’ve gone from a call-for-proposal rationale to a “bottom-up” rationale, whereby we lay the foundations for innovation.” 

To that end, we’ve been focusing our resources on governance and creating venues for innovation. For example, we’ve been linking up all the co-working spaces so that innovation communities can get together.


And a few months ago we launched TUBÀ – the “urban experimentation tube,” a living lab that combines public and private data to co-design directly with end-users: we call upon people from different backgrounds who have ideas for new services. TUBÀ is headquartered near Part-Dieu station, in an area with a very diverse population who are involved in designing these new urban services.


Could you give us some specific examples of “smart projects?” 


We’re working on projects in a number of different areas. The first one is energy; one of our most remarkable smart grid projects is the one we rolled out in the Lyon-Confluence area: Lyon Smart Community, which received €50 million worth of funding from NEDO, a Japanese para-governmental body. Around fifty partners are involved in this project for building a group of energy-plus houses called Hikari (which means “light” in Japanese), which will be occupied by its first inhabitants by June this year. The surplus energy produced by the buildings will be used to power Sunmoov’, a fleet of car-pool cars used by residents who choose not to own a car.

Another project we’re working on is called Smart Electric Lyon, sponsored by EDF, which aims to create energy services which will be combined with the Linky smart meters.


Where mobility is concerned, there’s the Optimod project, which involves collecting all the data from public transport, taxis, car parks, the Bluely car-sharing and Velov bike-sharing schemes and thus produce a mobility data centre that can predict traffic at a given time. This is an unprecedented innovation, the only one of its kind all over the world. It will give rise to a whole new range of services for individual mobility but also for freight traffic. Thanks to the Onlymoov app, you can plan your route from A to B, including all the traffic data.

Transports à Lyon


In terms of collective intelligence, around ten days ago we launched a project called City Remix: in busy areas such as the Saint Paul railways station, we get citizens to share their ideas for new services and new ways of living in the city.


How do you communicate to citizens about these projects? 


We communicate on a  project-by-project basis, because there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of awareness and information on smart cities.

“Smart city as such doesn’t mean much to citizens.” 

We try to be very pragmatic by showing exactly how these projects can change everyday life for people. The question of innovation is ever-present in our city: when you walk down the street, you may see a driverless car or digital signs being tested. We try to get people used to these new inventions, mainly through events like the Fête des Lumières (Lights Festival) which attracts 4 million visitors.

“We make a point of not focusing too much on new technologies themselves but on what they can allow us to do.” 

So far, the feedback has been very positive. Where some of the experimental projects are concerned, in particular the Lyon Smart Community social housing project, we had to explain to people living in outdated housing how important the energy issue is. We had to show them how the project was useful. We do things on case-by-case basis.



Where smart cities are concerned, how do you think France ranks on a global scale?


In France, the situation is rather unusualin that we’ve had toincorporate the smart city culture into existing, traditional cities, unlike in other parts of the world where smart cities are built from scratch.


We also have a less commercially-oriented approach with digital players, who don’t really understand the paradoxes of a city and try to push solutions that were devised out of context, without really thinking about how citizens would accept them or how they would address their expectations.

“I’m convinced that in Europe, and particularly in France, we really have an alternative smart city approach. At least, that’s what we’re trying to do in Lyon.” 

The question of how citizens should appropriate the smart city is a whole other matter: it’s a question of what progress it can offer and how the citizens accept it, what they want and how to take into account these expectations in the smart city projects. The media is starting to talk about smart cities and that’s good, because people often have a rather negative perception of them. So we have to find a new way of talking about it.

“Inevitably, new technologies are permeating the way we live in cities, affecting organisation models, challenging the ways we do things, the way we run cities. And this is only the beginning!”



Further reading:

Eric Legale from Issy-les-Moulineaux: innovation is in our DNA

GDF Suez Cit’ease project

Jean-Louis Missika: a smart city council means a smart city


Photo credits: K.G.Hawes – Faux Tilt-Shift: Lyon, Laury Rouzé -Passerelle de la Confluence et Connie Ma – Greater Lyon looks pretty confusing… / / Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 et Alpaca / Métropole de Lyon

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