InnoKOL | Carlos Moreno: Technology Is Part of The History of Urban Development

2022/12/12 Innoverview Read

On Dec.2nd (GMT+8), InnoKOL had a fascinating conversation with Professor Carlos Moreno, the Scientific director of the Chair «Entrepreneurship – Territory – Innovation», IAE Paris - Sorbonne University (France),talking about his innovative mind, pioneer works and his unique approach on urban issues.


Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words?



It is never easy to describe oneself in three words!


In the tumultuous context we live in, I try to remain optimistic and to take part in the construction of a gentler society. Nevertheless, as a scientist, I remain completely realistic and objective... Another of my characteristics is to be resolutely cosmopolitan, by my origins, my life and my professional work around the world.


Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to urban issues.



When I came to France in 1979 with an engineering background, I entered university in Paris and obtained in 1999 my HDR (PhD) in Mathematics - Computer Science, specializing in Robotics.

I quickly became a researcher and professor on informatics in the university, on the subjects of computer science and robotics and I participated in the foundation of various scientific laboratories. In the meantime, I created a start-up in the late 90s, which centered on the intelligent control of complex systems.

Turning 2000s, I turned my attention to cities and started studying them at the lens of my background on complex system. The world-known “15-minute city” concept is the result of a research that started with the “sustainable digital city’ (2006), the Human smart city” (2012), the “Living City" in 2014.

… In brief, I joined the academic and scientific community and never left!


Jokia: How technology can both improve and degrade our urban environment?



Technology is part of the history of urban development! Technology, understood in a wide sense, has allowed the evolution of cities with many positive consequences: better hygiene, electrification, public lighting, road networks, transportation... 


New technologies (information, digital) are also part of this urban development. They have positive effects, which are already anchored in our daily life: geolocation and travel, public transport and transport on demand, urban logistics, networks monitoring, useful collection of data, local democratic apps, remote work, information for citizens... The reverse side of the picture is visible (overabundance of information and connected solicitations, annoying bikes or scooters, traffic deviated by the apps...) but mostly invisible: energy-consuming technologies, exaggerated data collection, loss of real social connection, pollution...


Jokia: Is digital the answer to urbanization's biggest problems?



The failure of the technological smart city is in itself the answer to this question. Digital technology, microchips and grids are not THE solution. They are necessarily part of the future (and present) of our cities, but they cannot solve alone the problems of pollution, traffic, lack of functional diversity, lack of urban social cohesion, urban unhappiness ...

A digital screen with a video of nature doesn't provides the positive effects of a real tree: freshness, well-being, biodiversity, absorption of CO2 and water, education!

The smart city and its proposal of "all technological, all digital" has not seduced. It has raised fears of widespread surveillance, inequalities, financial and environmental costs.

It is clear that new technologies must participate in making the city desirable, and therefore they are part the 15-minute city concept... but they are not the one and only magic remedy.


Jokia: This dramatic pace of urbanization presents a unique set of challenges in the areas of governance, organization, and technological advancement. How emerging technologies and stakeholders grow smart cities?



Indeed, cities need to be organized and governed, in order to facilitate and improve people's lives. This is precisely the reason why political science was created.

The acceleration of urbanization, the multiplication of environmental issues and the continuous population growth require us to have a prospective vision and to plan the future of the city.

This planning concern all aspects of development, including the implementation of technologies that are truly at the service of cities.

- It begins with the establishment of effective cooperation between the stakeholders, at the city and national levels: politicians, companies and industries, not forgetting the citizens whose support is essential!

- To enable the development of the required and cutting-edge technologies, it is essential to ensure the deployment of human and material skills. This requires investment in research and development as well as support for the creation of companies and innovative projects.

- Finally, international cooperation has an important role to play, with the creation of areas of scientific and technological dialogue, but also the implementation of international legal and commercial agreements.

To support these different points, sufficient funding combined with a clear and ambitious program are obviously essential.


Jokia: How blockchain can empower smart cities?



If there are many ideas for experimenting with blockchain, it is not a reality in cities yet: none or very few use blockchain technology.

The purpose of blockchain is to ensure traceability and avoid falsification. It could be useful for securing processes: attesting to the completion of controls or construction work, the security of transactions or the functioning of certain networks...

To me, its usefulness is rather weak for urban functioning, but could be very interesting for democratic issues, with blockchain-secured voting.

In the years to come, we will have to see what place we want to give to blockchain: first, if we decide to lift the legal blocks, and then if this technology manages to be disseminated and understood so that individuals have confidence in it.    


Jokia: How the metaverse is making our cities more tech-savvy?



I don’t think that the metaverse is making our cities more tech-savvy. For the moment, the virtual universe of the metaverse is a parallel world that does not take place in the city but in a screen. There is no materiality in the metaverse whereas what constitutes the city is its soil, its places, its encounters.


The metaverse can be considered as a virtual city or place, where you can simulate encounters or even working meetings, but this doesn’t enable a reinforcement of real cities.


Nevertheless, this virtual universe could change the way of "making the city" by digitizing the work of urban planners and architects. It can make it possible to design squares, parks, virtual buildings before building them for real. These new design methods could develop only if professionals want it, and acquire theses competences. It's reminiscent of the "BIM and CIM revolution" that was supposed to digitize and plot all new projects into 3D models and ultimately didn't happen.


Jokia: How smart cities will work in a post covid-19 world?



The consequences of the covid crisis on "smart" / technological cities are ambivalent:


On the one hand, digital uses have been reinforced, with the confinements and barrier measures. The accentuated use of digital technologies during this period has increased the skills of citizens (especially young and old) in the use of digital technology. In addition, new habits have been built: commute work, e-commerce... In public life and health, a turning point is marked by the arrival and the trivialization of the QR code in the urban space. First used to check vaccine passes, the QR Code is now everywhere. On the other hand, the epidemic has shown the need for real social, human and warm ties, beyond smart and cold digital technology... After screens, citizens wanted nature, greenery, theaters, chair and bones.


Finally, the covid only confirms what I said ten years ago: a smart city yes, but above all … human and sustainable!



Carlos Moreno earned recognition as a scientist with an innovative mind, pioneer works and his unique approach on urban issues. He is also a scientific advisor of national and international figures of the highest level.


He works at the heart of issues of international significance as a result of his research, bringing an innovative perspective on urban issues and offering solutions to the issues faced by the cities, metropolises and territories during the 21st century. Some of his concepts traveled the world: the ‘Human Smart City’, the ’15-Minute City’, the ’30-Minute Territory’.


In June 2022, he is leading the launch of the Global Observatory of proximities at the World Urban Forum #WUF11 with UN-Habitat, C40 Cities, UCLG and other partners.



Ms. Jokia Yin is the Founder of Innoverview and InnoKOL, the Vice Chairman of HK International Blockchain Finance Association as well as the Head of Media at United States of America-China Chamber of Commerce. Jokia has over 10 years of marketing and management experience, much of which has been in the Asia Pacific Region within events and PR industry. She has held key leadership roles executing market research and entry, developing sales channels and revenue generation, building marketing, finance and Operations related infrastructure for a more than 20 events related to retail, tourism, energy storage, blockchain, cosmetics domains.