On June 3, ICF made a couple of announcements, one expected and the other not.
At the 2011 Intelligent Community Awards luncheon in New York City, we named our Intelligent Community of the Year. It was a choice made on the merits. An independent research firm analyzed detailed data provided by the Top Seven Intelligent Communities. An international jury reviewed reports, written by the founders who had visited the communities, and then voted their preferences. ICF combined the two scores and one community came out on top.
It was the region of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, one of Europe's most successful high-tech manufacturing centers. Accepting the Award for the region were Rob van Gijzel, mayor of the city of Eindhoven, and Yvonne van Mierlo, deputy mayor of the city of Helmond.
Given the excitement around the Award, our other announcement didn't get much attention. We announced the theme for our 2012 Award cycle, which begins on July 4, 2011. The theme is "The Intelligent Community: Platform for Innovation."
The number-one contributor to long-term employment growth and prosperity is innovation: the creation of new businesses, new technologies and new processes. That's why Intelligent Communities strive to become places where innovative people and organizations feel at home. They set policies and strategies to make themselves "start-up friendly." They innovate in e-government to make themselves more efficient. They build incubators, host innovation events and provide seed capital. Most of all, they work to get the public, private and institutional sectors collaborating, because in this broadband economy, few are smart enough to go it alone.
There is a bit of irony in the fact that our 2012 theme is innovation and Eindhoven won't be competing in that or any future year. Eindhoven's claim to fame is as a center for open innovation, and they are a global model for innovation best practices. One organization I visited during my site visit to Eindhoven was the Holst Centre on Eindhoven's High-Tech Campus. Holst is a public-private organization that exists to bring together companies and universities to produce breakthroughs in technologies for wireless autonomous sensor and flexible electronics. One of its managing partners, Jo de Boeck (seen here, left, with Mel Horwitch of Central European University), took me through the intricate balancing act of technology collaboration. It means creating a genuine partnership among businesses and academic organizations, managing the sharing of intellectual property, ensuring value for all and measuring performance so that projects that make progress receive the support they need. It is no job for the faint of heart.
But maybe it's best that 2011 was Eindhoven's year. It gives the region a chance to lead by example during the next 12 months, when we will focus on what they do best. I expect communities around the world to be looking at what Eindhoven does, how they do it, and to take away lessons they can apply at home – and in or 201 Awards as well.