Training - HEC Liege course

Students and cities work together for a smarter Wallonia

This year, the Smart City Institute (SCI) organised a new edition of its "Strategy and Sustainability" seminar entitled "Smart Cities: Innovative Solutions for Wallonia".

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What does it consist of?

  • Nearly 300 students (HEC Liège)
  • Are mobilized on 5 concrete cases 
  • Proposed by 5 Walloon cities (Marche-en-Famenne, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, Seraing, Spa, Verviers)
  • And work together for almost 12 weeks to develop concrete solutions.

At the end of these 12 weeks: a closing ceremony, where the best groups present their solution in front of a jury of experts. Feedback on this collaboration.

A closing ceremony full of twists and turns

Le 4 décembre dernier, se tenait au Val-Benoît, la cérémonie de clôture du séminaire. Traditionnellement, lors de cette cérémonie, deux groupes d’étudiants se voient récompenser pour leur travail : l’un par le prix du jury, l’autre par le prix du public.

Cette année pourtant, le jury composé de nos partenaires – Schréder, Strategy&, Belfius, Proximus, Total, Vinci et Digital Wallonia et présidé par Nathalie Crutzen (Directrice Académique du SCI) n’a pu se résoudre à sélectionner un seul gagnant. Face à la qualité des solutions imaginées par les étudiants, le jury a décidé de récompenser 4 groupes :

  • Marche à Vélo (Marche-en-Famenne),
  • Barn Owl (Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve),
  • Seraing GRID (Seraing)
  • et e’SPA’ce &co (Spa)

Le public, quant à lui, a récompensé le projet The Smart Spring (Spa).
Pour en savoir plus, consultez notre communiqué de presse ainsi que le descriptif des projets.

The closing ceremony of the seminar was held in Val-Benoît on last 4 December. Traditionally, at this ceremony, two groups of students are rewarded for their work: one by the jury prize, the other by the public prize.
This year, however, the jury composed of our partners - Schréder, Strategy&, Belfius, Proximus, Total, Vinci and Digital Wallonia and chaired by Nathalie Crutzen (Academic Director of SCI) could not bring itself to select a single winner. Facing the quality of the solutions imagined by the students, the jury decided to reward 4 groups:
  • Marche à Vélo (Marche-en-Famenne),
  • Barn Owl (Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve),
  • Seraing GRID (Seraing)
  • et e’SPA’ce &co (Spa)
The Smart Spring (Spa) project was rewarded by the public.
To find out more, read our press release and the project descriptions.

For cities, an obvious collaboration

Faced with such enthusiasm, we sought to find out more. So we asked the 5 cities (Marche-en-Famenne, Ottignies Louvain-la-Neuve, Seraing, Spa and Verviers): what are their motivations and which benefits can they derive from such a collaboration?

According to the participating cities, the first benefit to be gained from this collaboration is inspiration. "It allows us to compare our ideas with those of young students" says Anne Schmitz (Administrative Coordinator for Works - Urban Planning, Mobility Advisor, City of Marche-en-Famenne).

Indeed, as Sébastien Broos (Head of Office - General Affairs, Town of Spa) explains, this type of initiative "allows us to be in contact with young people who have new and fresh ideas, but it is also a way of getting in touch with people in the field who can help us with our projects". A second advantage also confirmed by Amélie Joveneau (Project Manager - AREBS asbl) and by Philippe Delvaux (Alderman for the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve): this seminar is an opportunity to meet other cities, and to exchange on the Smart City initiatives set up in our respective territories.

Moreover, Amélie Joveneau tells us about the opportunity that this seminar represents in terms of human resources: it is an opportunity to answer questions and to carry out a benchmarking that would have been difficult to do without the students. This is confirmed by Thomas Charlier (Strategic Unit of the city of Verviers.) for whom, in this type of innovative projects, "the public authorities, and more particularly the cities, lack resources and especially human resources".

Finally, some projects (the creative hub of Verviers and the fight against noise pollution in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve) directly concern students since they are, in part, the target audience. Thus, having students working on projects for other students gives them a new vision and a different approach. Philippe Delvaux specifies "the two projects that were presented in relation to the sound level meter also highlighted the attitude of young people to noise. The proposals made by the students intrinsically reflect their behaviour with regard to noise and living with the inhabitants.

For the students, an enriching and challenging collaboration

For their part, the students interviewed are unanimous: the seminar goes off the beaten track because it gives them the opportunity to work on a real project. Anaëlle, winner for the city of Spa with the " e'SPA'ce & co' " project, confirms : "we were really happy to work on a real case and to have been able to exchange with people who really work on the project" and Miguel, also winner for the city of Spa with the " The Smart Spring " project, adds: "working on a real case reinforces the feeling of having an impact and gave us the desire to work on finding ideal solutions for the city". Working on a real project implies real constraints linked to the field. This is a point that challenged the students a lot.

Céline, winner of the Jury Prize for the city of Marche-en-Famenne with the project "Marche à vélo", explains that this experience allowed them to be confronted with the realities of the city: budgetary and agenda constraints, but it was also necessary to take into account the initiatives already developed by the municipality around the project proposed to the students! Lydie, who is also a member of the "Marche à vélo" group, explains: "We had to adapt by taking into account what already exists, reworking it and coming up with something more accomplished. So the challenge was to offer a complete service that they hadn't thought of yet".

Although the cities imposed relatively few constraints on the students, they still had to try to identify the needs that their solutions had to meet. For Kassamba Yaya, a member of “The Smart Spring” group, the second major challenge was "to reconcile the demands of city officials with the requirements of the Smart City concept itself".

Finally, as far as the SCI is concerned, the aim of this seminar is also to make tomorrow's managers aware of the Smart City concept. An objective that has been achieved since, according to Miguel ("The Smart Spring"), "the added value of this seminar is certainly the awareness of the key issues related to the Smart City which, regardless of the sector, private or public, will have to be taken into consideration for the city of tomorrow". A feeling confirmed by Anaëlle ("e'SPA'ce & co") for whom working in the field of the Smart City is now an option to be seriously considered for the future.

The students' solutions, any follow-up after the seminar ?

12 weeks of seminar is long and short at the same time. Anaëlle ("e'SPA'ce & co") tells us she wants to go further: with a little more time, her group could have gone deeper into the problems proposed by the city and carried out a more quantitative study in the field.

In the end, the cities were really tempted by the students' projects. We were told that one of them was planning to contact the students again in the second term in order to go further in the reflection and, why not, to envisage a longer collaboration. Thomas Charlier confides to us: "the students' ideas really enriched the concept of operation that we had. We're currently seeing how we can implement them".

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