Cities and regions must tackle the challenges set by the radical change in our society and in our economy, aiming to develop effective public policies and boost their managerial, evaluation and planning skills. Therefore, it is essential to put a new idea of city at the centre of the smart strategies in order to bring policies back to their former central position, since technologies alone cannot generate welfare and prosperity. We are in a new phase of urban growth centred on the economy of services characterized by widespread digital technologies and new innovative organization patterns, which encourage the participation in the civic policy processes through the realization of structures to share information and data so as to define intervention policies. The most recent studies and trials about innovation and competitiveness, such as the examples illustrated in the present work (Amsterdam, Paredes, Aarhus and Gent), show a growing interest in measuring the relationship between innovation and economic growth at various territorial levels, key factors in conceiving inclusive smart strategies, linked to principles of sustainability and territorial cohesion, and building smarter cities. In the light of these remarks, the article is divided into three main parts: the first part is focussed on the above-mentioned central issues of the international debate; the second part examines four significant European initiatives; the third part draws preliminary conclusions and directions for further research.
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