The smart city
: spatial planning, partnership, governance

  • Leonia Ratajczak

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


As cities evolve, new incentives and approaches are being sought to tackle urban challenges. The Smart City (SC) concept continues to attract global attention, though government policy has hitherto tended to focus on technological solutions, with minimal consideration to stakeholders within the triple and quadruple helix of partnership. The technology-centric approach to policy design hinders development and implementation of smart sustainable cities as local context, local needs and local strengths are often ignored in pursuit of generalised efficiency and perceived economic growth.

Considering the elevated status of technology and the rising popularity of innovation and smart districts, this research aims to close the gap relating to the smart city design process. The research does this by focusing on a new concept of process innovation. The research is based on 62 semi-structured discussions with strategic players in two European, emerging, medium-sized smart cities of Belfast and Helmond. The investigation finds that process innovation is the long-term driver of change, which encourages collaboration and knowledge creation. Currently, process innovation exists primarily at the triple helix level, though true participation with citizens offers potential for process innovation across the quadruple helix. The proposed smart city governance framework that emerges from the empirical study integrates lessons from process innovation, mission-led decision making, and circularity across six smart city domains. This innovative framework aims to challenge the status quo by a) strengthening the role of the public sector as the engine of innovation, b) highlighting the benefits emerging from stronger cross-sectoral collaboration at triple and quadruple-helix co-creation and c) by strengthening the joined relationship between SC interventions.
Date of AwardJun 2022
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorJim Berry (Supervisor) & Neale Blair (Supervisor)


  • Brainport
  • Belfast
  • Innovation
  • Citizen participation
  • Engagement
  • Collaboration

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