The Third Dimension: Funding Helps Drive the Development of Smart Cities But How Does the Federal Government Define ‘Smart’?

Rachel Armstead and Lei Zhong

The results of the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program have been released by the Federal Government; and they’re interesting. The Smart Cities and Suburbs Program is a new initiative which provides funding to support the development of innovative urban initiatives with a focus on the integration of information technology. The total amount of funding for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program is over $28 million Australia wide while the total amount of expenditure for all projects will be over $67 million when including both co-contributions and government funding. 

>> Download our excel tool so you can sort all of the projects by location; grant amount; co-contribution amount; total amount; type of lead applicant; grant amount percentage; contribution percentage and more!

The Smart City Winners So Far

Funding has been allocated to 52 out of the 172 project applications, making it a competitive round. The successful projects have been proposed by 50 organisations including 32 local governments, 9 universities and 9 private companies. From the spread we can see that local government has managed to secure a significant proportion of the funding which is great to see.

The Big Dogs

In terms of distribution NSW has the highest proportion of funded projects with 33.6% of total project expenditure from 15 projects, WA comes in second with 23.5% of funding from 4 projects, while Victoria comes in fourth in terms of funding but second in terms of project numbers with 11 projects securing 10.2% of the funding.

Expenditure in NSW will be over $22 million which will include the biggest project, Smart Move Newcastle: Intelligent Mobility, Energy and Data Networks, proposed by Newcastle City Council. At a total cost of about $15 million, this accounts for 22.27% of the total expenditure. NSW has also secured the highest total amount of co-contribution with this funding approaching $14 million. The second largest project is Switching on Darwin, from the City of Darwin which has received funding of $5 million and accounts for 14.85% of the total expenditure.

What Direction are we Going?

Most of projects are related to day to day public services such as the application of software for traffic management and community communication, as well as city planning and design, with three 3D city modelling projects for Launceston City in Tasmania, Moreland City in Victoria and Woollahra City in New South Wales. There are also numerous projects which incorporate strong sustainability elements - from active transport, to solar, to smart street lighting. 

The Three Dimensions

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) states that the Smart Cities Program aims to deliver projects that ‘improve the livability, productivity and sustainability of cities and towns across Australia’. Overall these three areas all do seem to be addressed, however not always holistically by each project. The depth of projects in terms of their integration of all three is variable. Whilst some Such as Smart Move Newcastle are nuanced in their interpretation and integration of public wellbeing, environmental health, and smart technology, others are more one dimensional such as installation of CCTV, or smart parking meters.

Obviously these are important projects for the cities involved but of course ‘Smart’ should not just be an alternative label for information technology, it needs to be a forward thinking and holistic approach to urban development. With so much buzz around the potential of smart technologies (we’ve even had an episode of Utopia about Smart Cities!) hopefully future funding rounds will build into more multi-dimensional projects. After all even tiny projects can be trail blazing.    

A second funding round is expected to open for applications in the first half of 2018. For round two we look forward to seeing even more creative and inspiring smart projects coming up – let’s watch this space. 

Smart Cities and Suburbs Program: Round 1 Tool

We've developed a neat little excel tool that you can download and sort all of the projects by location; grant amount; co-contribution amount; total amount; type of lead applicant; grant amount percentage; contribution percentage and more. Download it here for free!

Council Funding Opportunities: Stay in Touch

Since 2013, Ironbark have worked on funding applications with a hundreds of councils around Australia. In total we've helped Australian councils successfully secure over $110 million of funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

To keep in touch with all the latest funding news make sure you sign up to our newsletter to stay informed of funding opportunities; get advice on project options for you to consider; get assistance in preparing applications to funding bodies. You can unsubscribe whenever you want and you'll always get the latest news and advice, such as our free report, Top 10 Tips for Writing a Smart Cities and Suburbs Application from May 2017, our advice on the Innovation Fund for Councils in Rural and Regional NSW from late 2016, and the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) Guide for Australian Councils released in late 2015.




How Local Governments are Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Adaptation Plans and Initiatives

November 2017

Ironbark Sustainability is supporting PhD Research relevant to local government across Australia, and internationally. Close Ironbark friend and local government expert Helen Scott, a PhD Candidate at RMIT University, is looking into monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation in local governments. 

Many Australian councils have assessed their risk and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, and are implementing climate change adaptation actions to lessen this risk. However, there is significant uncertainty around how you monitor and assess the effectiveness of adaptation initiatives. Helen is looking at this conundrum as part of her PhD research.

We’re promoting her survey, which is the first step in a broader research project. We encourage all local governments to complete the survey – whether you are undertaking climate change adaptation initiatives or not. Plus Helen is offering three x $100 Coles Gift Vouchers to as an incentive to participate! Please jump on board and complete the survey - this is critical research that will be valuable to the sector. If you have any questions or comments about completing the survey, please contact Helen via email at helen.scott(at)