Connected Cities: Driving Digital Transformation in Complex Ecosystems

By Mike Cooray, Rikke Duus, and Lasse Bundgaard

Digital technologies are fuelling the evolution of connected cities of the future. Our research in Copenhagen with organisations that are leading the digital transformation agenda, reveals that there are four critical and self-propelling factors that are essential to meeting the future demands of cities and its citizens.    


By 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities.1 This will no doubt put pressure on public services, resources, and timelines. Across the world, public-private partnerships are being hailed as the answer to this increasing challenge. We believe that these partnerships need to embrace digital technologies and move beyond the current structures, processes and ways of working. It is important for businesses, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and others to better understand the complexities that exist within the wider city ecosystems, not only to be in a position to contribute positively, but also to identify and make the best use of the emergent opportunities.

In this context, we undertook research in Copenhagen, Denmark to explore how the city is spearheading an innovative approach to meeting current and future needs and working with multiple partners to provide cutting-edge digital solutions. As part of a wider research project, we spent time with digital transformation leads at Copenhagen Solutions Lab (CSL). CSL is Copenhagen’s innovative incubator for driving smart city initiatives and serves a dual purpose of propelling the city’s digital competencies through living labs and governance platforms, and serving to meet KPIs of the City of Copenhagen.

We also met with representatives from TDC Group (major telecoms and Internet of Things provider), LeapCraft (provider of clean air solutions and analytics), the City of Copenhagen (traffic solutions and city strategy), and Cisco (network solutions). Based on our findings, we present a digital transformation framework of 4xCs that can be useful for cities and organisations across the world.

We see the 4xCs as a self-propelling framework as partners across the ecosystem contribute with knowledge, share expertise and innovate by challenging the status quo.



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About the Authors

Dr Mike Cooray is a Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School. Mike is an Academic Director and contributes to Executive and Masters programmes in London, Dubai and Shanghai. Mike has previously worked with Carlsberg, Mercedes-Benz and Siemens.

Dr Rikke Duus is senior faculty at University College London, School of Management, and visiting faculty at ETH Zurich. Her research is in digital transformation, connected cities and wearable technology. She frequently presents at international conferences and events and is widely published in leading global media outlets.

Lasse Bundgaard is an Industrial PhD candidate hosted by Copenhagen Solutions Lab and Copenhagen Business School. Previously he was employed with the City of Copenhagen. Lasse now explores the role of innovation in organisations.



1. United Nations (2018) Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Online:

2. The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2016). Empowering Cities. Online: – content / uploads / sites / 26/2016/09/Empowering – Cities.pdf

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4. Berrone, P., Ricart, J.E. and Carrasco, C. (2016). The Open Kimono: Toward A General Framework for Open Data Initiatives in Cities. California Management Review, 59(1), 39-70.

5. Gartner. (2018). Use AI to Make Cities Smarter. Online:

6. Woollacott, E. (2017) Seven successful government apps from around the world. The Guardian. Online: – successful – government – digital – service – apps – technology

7. Pereira, G.V., Macadar, M.A., Luciano, E.M. and Testa, M.G. (2016). Delivering public value through open government data initiatives in a Smart City context. Information Systems Frontier,July.

8. Visnjic, I., Neely, A., Cennamo, C. and Visnjic, N. (2016) Governing the City: Unleashing Value From the Business Ecosystem. California Management Review,59(1), 109-140.Bis enis


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