Martin Rune Hoxer is the Executive Director for Innovation Centre Denmark (ICDK) in Shanghai, a board member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Global Tech Board, and a member of the advisory board for business programs at Aalborg University. He has vast experience within innovation, internationalization and business development.
David: Martin, you know China very well, and also, I know you have been in Tianjin. You know the World Intelligence Congress which is going to take place in May. You come from Denmark. You have a lot of things to say about “smart city”. I want to ask you a very simple question. What makes a city smart?
Martin: Thank you very much, professor. I think that the question is simple, but unfortunately, I think the answer is complex. Anyways, I think what we are here to do from the Danish side is simply to provide something which is not here. So, it means that we are probably taking another approach on this question, because to us, it’s not about just technology. It’s basically to take a holistic view, and to put the people in the center of the equation.
So, it means that in order for it to be smart, it needs to provide new opportunities for the people living in the cities. We know that urbanization is very much on the agenda also here in China with the big cities. Coming from Denmark, we actually only have one city with over 1 million people. Here in china, as you know, numbers are amazing. You have 100 cities with over 1 million people. So, there’s a need, there’s a growing demand for coming up with more sustainable solutions.
So, I think what is smart is basically to give new innovative ways of how we can provide environmental technologies, how we can make sure that we are reusing our materials, how we build in a better standard. So, it means that what we can see from the existing building mass is that when we do retrofits, or when we are upgrading the building mass, it is for its better standards, it’s more energy efficient. So, a lot of these different things has to do with taking a more holistic approach on these different things. So, that also has to do with taking a more holistic perspective on urban planning.
Basically, taking into account both what can we do with technology, what can we do with the existing building mass that we have here, and how can we take a point of departure in the people that live in the city, whether it’s children, elderly, or it’s the families that also need to live in the cities. So, that goes for resource, congestions, mobility, how we use resource like water, for instance. So, there’s a lot of things that go into it, but putting people first, it’s basically, I think, the smart move.
David: Thank you very much, Martin. Of course, you associated a smart city with sustainability, and of course, this is a very rich theme. But talking about people, you are very famous in Denmark for the happiness index. So, I come to another very interesting notion, the notion of a “livable city”. In your eyes, Martin, what makes a city livable?
Martin: Well, in my eyes, and I think also in the eyes of many Scandinavians, I would say this has to do with what I said before. I mean, it has to do with the life that is lived in the cities. So, it means, does it provide for the needs that you have in different phases of your life? Do we have green spaces? That is something that has come up also during this pandemic. Do we actually have the outdoors that we need in these mega cities as well?
So, I think, one number that I would like to cite is actually something that a report that came out in Denmark a couple of years ago. We are working with big organizations in Denmark on building better cities and providing better opportunities for the people. And there are social-economic benefits from looking at how we can construct mobility in the cities in a better way.
So, basically, it’s not only about pollution and the congestions that you’ll get from the cars. But basically, if you take the cars away, and you put people on the bikes, and you provide a better infrastructure for biking, which is also something that Copenhagen is very known for. I mean, 1 kilometer actually equals 1 euro in social-economic benefits. So, every time you put 1 person on a bike that rides 1 kilometer, you are saving 1 euro from hospital bills, from a lot of these different things that in the Danish model or the Nordic model, it’s part of the welfare model as well. So, there’s a lot of social-economic benefits. Urban planners and politicians, they can save quite a lot from looking at how can we provide for more livable cities.
David: Thank you very much, Martin. It is great to have such a platform in Tianjin, the World Intelligence Congress, also for experience sharing, because the contexts are different. Of course, you cannot do what you are doing in Denmark in a big city like Chongqing or Chengdu, or so many big cities in China, but this is important to share experience in order for all of us across the world to build smarter cities. Thank you very much, and thank you for the support to the World Intelligence Congress. Thank you, Martin.
Martin: Thank you, professor.