22nd Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

This is the Century of the Cities – the Horizontal World


Rob van Gijzel


Boudewijn van
Lieshout (CC BY 3.0)
Rob van Gijzel is chairman of the Intelligent Community Forum Foundation, an international group of ‘smart cities’ with its headquarters in New York. He served as the mayor of Eindhoven from 2008 to 2016. In that capacity, he was also chairman of the Brainport Foundation, a partnership of industry, research, and government with the aim of strengthening the Brainport region, one of Europe’s prominent high-tech regions, with Eindhoven at its heart. He has extensive administrative experience, starting as chairman of the Young Socialists for the City of Amsterdam. Van Gijzel was a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party from 1989 to 2001 where his portfolio encompassed traffic, water management, spatial planning, and foreign affairs. Between his membership in the House of Representatives and assuming the Mayor’s office in Eindhoven, he co-founded and co-owned the consulting firm Politea which operates at the interface between society and politics. He was also active in the management of various social institutions, e.g. Lumen Group (welfare organisation), the National Partnership Focus Neighbourhoods initiative, the Woonbedrijf housing corporation, Safe Traffic Netherlands, the public transport company HTM, the energy company RWE, and the union ABVA / KABO.



1. What do you consider to be an ‘intelligent’ city?

I see an intelligent city as an inclusive city, working together in co-creation to solve ‘the grand challenges’ cities are facing (sustainability, mobility, energy, health, etc.), based on the principal of humanised technology (technology is to be for the benefit of people and not the other way around).


2. In your opinion, what are the most urgent problems that have to be solved on the way to intelligent cities?

The most urgent problem is the toolkit we normally use for regulating our society being completely outdated. Legislation is always reflecting the past, and doing so, it is blocking the future. There is no room for experiments and in our culture, there is no room for failure. How can we discover the future?


3. What are, in your opinion, the most exceptional chances arising with the change towards smart cities?

The traditional vertical world must step aside and give space to the horizontal world of the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells. A world, interdisciplinary, inclusive, and working in co-creating (triple/multiple-helix) to improve the quality of life by using new technologies, technologies that serve people and do not dictate them.