How Jaipur got ahead in the race to create innovation zones

Fri, 2015-12-18 06:50 -- Doug Peeples

In the never-ending race to gain competitive advantage, some cities are turning to "Innovation Zones." They set aside an area with incentives such as ultra-fast broadband and tax breaks. Then they try to attract the best and brightest companies to locate there, with the hopes of creating a mini-Silicon Valley effect.

I can certainly understand the motivation. Cities with a high concentration of tech firms inevitably outperform in economic growth. But don't think you have to go it alone. Many state and national governments have funds set aside to foster innovation. Likewise, charities such as Bloomberg Philanthropies offer direct assistance.

And so do some of the members of the Smart Cities Council, as is happening in India already. (See below.)

If high-tech is important to your city, please don't delay consideration of an Innovation Zone. There are only so many innovative firms to go around. Once they choose a location, they're unlikely to move for many years. Better stake your claim while there's still room. -- Jesse Berst

Jaipur, India’s “Pink City,” is a destination for about 40 million tourists yearly. It's also one of India’s cities with plans to become one of the country’s first smart and connected cities. Jaipur's smart infrastructure development is the first phase of an overall plan for the state of Rajasthan: bring the benefits of smart cities to all of the state’s residents.

The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) has been working with Council Lead Partner Cisco to build a state-run innovation hub, a place where the JDA can concentrate on smart city solutions with technology partners like Cisco, additional Council Lead Partners GE and Qualcomm and several startups.

As JDA Commissioner Shikhar Agrawal explained "Innovation hubs will be a tremendous platform for startups who can come and build their solutions here without any CAPEX investment. It could be a mobile app for garbage management or an Internet of Things solution for surveillances. If we find the solution relevant and scalable, we shall adopt it. Basically the tech infrastructure and space will be ours and the expertise will be brought in by our partners and the startups.

"We are open to everything that can make citizens' lives simpler -- from a waste management solution to a bill paying one." He said he was confident the city's innovation lab will be the first of its kind in India, if not in Asia. He noted the Jaipur is capable of embarking on its own venture independently of the central government's smart cities campaign is it is financially self-sufficient.

The JDA also has established a City Infrastructure Management Centre and a response control room in collaboration with Cisco to run the city more efficiently with almost all of its smart city solutions linked in a digital platform. Several have already been implemented in parts of the city with more locations to come by the end of February, according to a statement released by Cisco during a recent event held to announce the state's digital plan. City residents now have access to interactive intelligent kiosks and WiFi, and environmental sensors, traffic management and safety and security surveillance measures have been deployed as well.

Cisco also is collaborating with the state on its broader vision. "Digitization will be key to how cities, communities and countries maintain global competitiveness, increase GDP growth, foster innovation and create new jobs," according to Dinesh Malkani, president of Cisco India. "The foundation for 'Digital Rajasthan' will be intelligent networks which will transform the delivery of citizen services."

It's not only Jaipur…
The city of Hyderabad also has ambitions to become one of India's first smart cities. It is among the latest  to launch an Internet of Things incubator/accelerator. The city is working with a partnership of Indian and British government agencies, HyperCat (a consortium of IoT companies) and other Indian companies. Hyderabad was chosen by the consortium, in large part, because it is growing as a technology center and offers a skilled workforce.

Cisco and Associate Partner Intel are working on IoT projects at other locations in India.

More stories:
Want your city to function as one? Get partners to do the same
5G broadband could be the ticket for even smarter smart cities
Asia’s smart cities: Are they doing it right?

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.