Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.
Stanford Graduate School of Business

Smart Green Cities

Project (Completed)
2008 - August 2013

William F. Miller: Faculty Co-director, 1998 - 2013 (Director) - Stanford University
Henry S. Rowen: Faculty Co-director, 1998 - 2013 (Director) - Stanford University
Marguerite Gong Hancock: Associate Director, 1998 - 2014 (Associate Director) - Stanford University

In 2008, SPRIE launched a new initiative, "Smart Green Cities", focused on innovation at the intersection of technologies, business, economics, and policy on the urban scale. It is this intersection that is increasingly the locus for both the world's populations and economic activity.


Smart and Green: Around the world, innovation at the intersection of information technologies (IT) and clean energy is a top priority for government leaders. They are pursuing smart, green living to improve energy efficiency, protect the environment, improve the quality of life, and bolster competitiveness in new industries driving the global economy. Ambitious initiatives abound-not only in pursuit of innovation in technologies and products but also in processes, services, models, and platforms. The scale on which actions are being taken extends from individual products through building and transportation systems, to entire urban complexes such as eco-cities.

Cities: Today a majority of the world's population lives in cities, generating about 80 percent of the global GDP. Rapidly rising standards of living and migration are contributing to an unprecedented worldwide surge in urbanization - in China alone, if trends continue, by 2025 more than 220 cities will each have more than one million inhabitants. Economies of scale and other drivers are contributing to make cities more productive, often yielding rapid economic growth and reduced poverty. This explosive growth of cities has widespread implications for energy use and has led to the demand for cities to become both smart and green, while at the same time transforming into center for economic dynamism.

While billions of dollars of investments are pouring into urban energy solutions, and around the Pacific "low-carbon cities" and "eco-cities" are moving center stage, there are enormous challenges (and opportunities) facing the effective application of IT, other innovative technologies and industrial growth.

Challenge: The intersection of IT and environmental sustainability on the urban scale will require a complex integration of expertise, tools, and know-how from multiple disciplines - from building design and real estate development, to mobility and water systems, IT hardware and software, and energy providers. Early experiments have built the hard infrastructure of cities, but the value of more "soft" outcomes in actual use, economic productivity, and quality of life are still to be determined.

Nevertheless, innovations in strategies and implementation are evolving quickly in pockets of excellence around the globe. Still, early results have been highly uneven. Frameworks for understanding and analysis are still fragmented, innovative design and implementation rapidly changing, and best practices in both the public and private sector have yet to be defined. This is a crucial area that SPRIE seeks to advance the understanding and practice.


Linking a circle of leading academics, experts, decision makers, and thought leaders from across disciplines and geographical boundaries, SPRIE is focusing on innovations in smart green cities around the world. Research and conference participants will:

  • Pursue a deeper understanding of the complex interactions among the key drivers that impact the extent that cities are green and smart and productive in creating high value added activities and at the same time being sustainable
  • Focus on core challenges of capitalizing on opportunities and overcoming obstacles for innovation in smart green cities--technological, economic, behavioral or political
  • Explore what innovations in strategy or practice are leading to positive outcomes, including economic vitality, environmental sustainability, financial viability, and human livability
  • Analyze leading cases around the world
  • Focus on two key sectors: smart green buildings and transportation
  • Analyze evolution of the successful commercialization of new technologies and new business models through new venture capital investments in clean tech, start-ups, etc.
  • Discuss implications for the evolution of markets, development of industries, and business strategies
  • Examine which government policies, institutions, and practices are effectively nurturing advancement in these areas
  • Lay the groundwork for future actions, such as business strategies, research agendas, and policy recommendations


International Experts and Leading Global Cases: The Smart Green Cities Initiative bring together experts from across Stanford University and other universities, government, and industry to address advance, opportunities and challenges. Outcomes and lessons will be selected from leading examples in the US, Asia, and Europe. Highlights will be included in a book published by SPRIE at Stanford University.

To advance this work, SPRIE has been organizing a series of conferences and seminars for an international circle of experts to focus on key issues, engage in fruitful discussion, and collaborate on possible solutions.