Bologna as a city has two main historical assets: one is the university that was founded in 1088, and the other is the mechanical manufacturing that comes from the same period. The University of Bologna is very important and widely known for its research – for example, we are soon going to have the biggest data centre in Europe. As for the other example, mechanical manufacturing, Bologna is home to the likes of Ducati and Ferrari, although Ferrari is more between Bologna and Modena, but this area is one of the biggest and most important for mechanical engineering in the world.
Why is Bologna considered to be a smart city? There’s not a simple answer to this question as there are several reasons however I believe that Bologna is smart largely because of its rich history and because this history really is an actual, tangible presence.
The city is based on three pillars. There’s a strong manufacturing sector and a strong and these are the pillars of the Bolognese society. And the third pillar is our civic history. In 1254 Bologna was the first city in Europe to abolish slavery. Maybe these are not the answers your readers might have expected but those three pillars contribute hugely to why Bologna is a smart city – in the literal sense.”
At the heart of much of Bologna’s smart city offerings is the Tecnopolo Bologna CNR, a research establishment that is part of the Network of 10 Technopoles of Emilia-Romagna, a fundamental component of the regional innovation ecosystem. Created with a total investment of €24 million co-financed by the EU Structural & Investment Funds and the Emilia-Romagna Region, Tecnopolo Bologna CNR promotes innovation in both consolidated and emerging industrial systems. The main sectors of interest include various manufacturing industries such as automation, packaging, health care and wellbeing, agri-food, environmental industries.
Tecnopolo Bologna CNR has over 6000 square meters of research infrastructures, laboratories and state-of-the-art instrumentation. But, as Del Piano explains, it’s all very well to have a cutting-edge research establishment on your doorstep but it’s work will go to waste if it isn’t coupled with smart thinking at a governmental level.
Bologna is also a smart city because the public administration is very strong and because there is a strong cohesion between public administration and private enterprises. It’s a beautiful relationship. If we look at environmental and mobility issues then we can say that we are trying to be smart there, too. We have had a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) in place for some time, but it’s not an ordinary SUMP, it applies to the whole Metropolitan area.”
Del Piano is rightly proud of this unique SUMP that was introduced in 2019. It is one of the few in Europe that contends with a whole metropolitan area and not just the city. One of the main objectives of Bologna’s SUMP is the target of reducing traffic emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The SUMP focuses on people, their rights and needs, for the development of a smart, sustainable mobility system that ‘has the quality of infrastructures, transport services, the liveability of the city spaces and structures as key principles.’
One of the main objectives of Bologna’s uniquely metropolitan SUMP is the target of reducing traffic emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The SUMP focuses on people, their rights and needs.
The SUMP aims to reverse the current modal split, where motorised transport dominates: by 2030, 60% of total journeys in the metropolitan area of Bologna will be taken on foot, bike or public transport, reducing the greenhouse gases produced by motorised traffic by at least 40%.
One of the most innovative aspects of the SUMP is the shift from the concept of “municipal” public transport to the “metropolitan” one.
Says Del Piano: “Another turning point for the territory is the focus on soft mobility, particularly cycling and walking for short trips. For this reason, the metropolitan Biciplan (Bicipolitana) foresees the implementation of 700km of new continuous and interconnected cycle tracks, and the accurate identification of areas where motorised traffic is banned. In addition, the concept of "Area 30" will be changed to that of "City 30", meaning that it will be not possible to exceed 30km/h along the entire road network in Bologna, with the exception of the main arterial routes. The implementation of a "sustainable mobility bonus" – in the form of discounts on fares and subscriptions – is going to be applied for those who will renounce to use their own motorised vehicle, in favour of more sustainable transport solutions.” The Ciclovia del Sole initiative, a 50km bike route through the heart of the Emilia-Romagna countryside, is just one of a number of schemes designed to coax reticent Italians out of their cars and onto their own self-powered means of transport.
THE CITY OF KNOWLEDGE
In March the Metropolitan Mayor Matteo Lepore announced that plans to create a City of Knowledge in Bologna (La Citta della Conoscenza) in a former railway yard. The Mayor described the development as "a key factor in the change of the city with the local government in the throes of allocating €22.7 million of the total funding of €106.6 million resources to two projects. “They are pieces of a great project that will launch Bologna at a European level", says. “It will be a tourist itinerary, there will be artistic spaces, very beautiful parks and walking along it you can discover Bologna as the City of Knowledge.”
Milan and Bologna are approaching the idea of the smart city, the notion of the smart city, in different ways that will both reflect their individual identities and provide the rest of Europe with the results of a united, Italian effort.
Thanks to Dr Florinda Boschetti for additional information.
Read PART I here.