Significant societal challenges (demographics, urbanisation, climate change, resource crises and global competition) are creating changes within our cities. In order to cope, governments and businesses are turning to various new concepts for cities with the aim to enhance the efficiency of key infrastructures, utilities and services to create a sustainable urban environment that improves the quality of life for its citizens and enhances economic development.

Cities throughout the world have a different vision as to what will achieve realisation of their goals and at the same time face very diverse problems with different regional, political, legal, technical, and economic contexts. Interaction and connectivity between cities in designing models and sharing successful practices has so far been driven by individual efforts or interests.

The idea of smart and connected cities is a big subject that covers applications to support services/areas of a city (e.g. transportation, logistics, healthcare, education, public safety, energy and IT as well as food and waste management, and many more). Given the wide coverage, it is clear that no one area can have a direct and profound change on city transformation.

City projects are usually within the domain of one department within a city authority with rarely a progressive expansion of the functionality and degree of integration within different departments. This process is explained by resource constraints and specific needs but it is essentially lack of integration and communication.

All these challenging areas for future successful cities cannot be easily answered from a single technical or non-technical perspective. In fact, due to the complexity of cities, no single effort will be sufficient in making a city vision become reality.

In order to transform cities into smarter and more liveable places, there is a strong need for more substantial collaboration among city leaders, manufacturers, software companies, smart service providers, and academic researchers from all relevant disciplines.

We are starting this process by doing what should be the less constraining area of collaboration, that of bringing academic researchers from various backgrounds and disciplines under one group.

The work this new research group focuses on connected cities and looks at how various applications and services can be integrated and brought together in a coherent way, by incorporating and advancing the concept of circular economy by bringing in the strengths and expertise of individual members in system dynamics, neo-institutional theory, strategic niche management, social network theory and decision analysis.

The concept of circular economy reflects the recognition that systems of production and consumption need to be fundamentally transformed if the world will achieve living well and within the limits of our planet.

A circular economy represents a fundamental alternative to the linear economic model that currently predominates which is based on the assumption that natural resources are available, abundant, easy to source and cheap to dispose of.

However, this is not sustainable and as higher levels of human development are achieved in countries throughout the world an unprecedented increase in natural resource use which in some cases is exceeding planetary boundaries. With urbanisation becoming one of the major mega-trend issues for countries, these effects may continue to increase.

Transition to a circular economy requires changes in many different areas of the current socio-economic system. This is a complex process involving technical, social and economic domains with a focus on enabling factors that guide the transition process.

These factors need to be considered simultaneously to create synergistic effects and gain the support of adequate policy frameworks and technological interventions. Although many of the new city concepts are driven by advanced technologies, success is also highly dependent on the engagement of citizens and communities with stakeholders from authorities, industry and businesses.

If one of the most powerful enablers of a circular economy is business model innovation, this needs to be supported by appropriate policy frameworks as well as user acceptance.