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5Q PropTech Interview – Jaewon Peter Chun President at World Smart Cities Forum

July 21, 2020

1. You have a hugely dynamic profile and background. Could you describe briefly who you are and what has brought you to where you are today?

I’m President of World Smart Cities Forum (WSCF), which is a non-profit organization based in London, England.

I founded ARK-i Labs in New York City, which is a smart city curator and investment company.

Besides, I founded and have run XnTREE, a Tech accelerator in Level39 which is the largest open tech cluster in Europe, which is located in Canary-Wharf financial district in London.

In the past 7 years, Level39 has been the cradle for more than 300 successful tech startups and more than 10 startups have become unicorns.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I became interested in Technology Innovation through Tech companies I encountered when I worked at Investment Bank in Wall Street.

In particular, as I participated in ‘Cognicity’, the Canary Wharf Smart City Challenge programme, through Level 39, I established my own concept of smart city based on innovations, and through this, I have expanded my career with global smart city projects.

In 2018, I was appointed Master Planner, head of Korea’s smart city national pilot project, to create a master plan framework, and from 2019 until now, I have established smart city master plans in many countries and cities including Vietnam, Ukraine, and the UK.

2. What is the mission of the World Smart Cities Forum and what drives your passion to expand the international landscape of smart cities?

The main mission of WSCF is to select a city that needs urban regeneration to create a differentiated smart city basic master plan framework and a sustainable growth model.

It is also one of the important missions of the World Smart Cities Forum to help the leaders create a framework for inter-city cooperation between cities to create a cross-demonstration project.

Besides applying the People-oriented PPP model (4Ps) is also an important mission that World Smart Cities Forum is aiming at.

Over the past 30 years, I have visited more than 50 countries and more than 500 cities, realizing that the problems of the city and the worries about the future are not just a city.

And in the new era of digital transformation, it became clear that solving problems in cities and drawing blueprints for the future is more important than anything else.

3. Could you briefly explain the Tech Sandbox Model within the Smart City space?

The Smart City Tech Sandbox model presented by WSCF is a Smart City Open Tech Cluster that allows at least 30% of the cost of all Smart City projects to go directly to competitive SMEs or startups.

Since urban regeneration-type smart cities must focus on various ideas and technologies such as software, hardware, and contents, it is important to exclude existing bidding methods and select operators through an open competition system in order to properly apply them.

Therefore, less than 200 companies are invited to the Tech Sandbox, and technology and ideas are verified through cohorts for one year.

By accumulating the accumulated credits in about 5 open competitions and selecting the final operator, they can make a direct contract with the local government.

4. What lessons can be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to the use of tech in smart cities?

Various conference call platforms, webinar platforms, data analysis to cover fake news, cashless-based fintech, tracking system to identify coronavirus confirmers, life-saving healthcare platform, PropTech, etc., are frequently mentioned during COVID-19 pandemic.

However, technologies and services such as identifying the entrant’s circulation can be controversial in terms of personal information protection, and only a few countries in Asia actually use it.

Anyhow, the COVID-19 pandemic will change our way of life in the future.

The increasing number of non-face-to-face tasks will accelerate digital transformation, and as a result, advancements in data, cybersecurity, E-commerce, FinTech, Blockchain, Digital twin, and healthcare fields will be noticeable.

In particular, the demand for technology to prepare for invisible threats such as viruses will inevitably increase.

Normally, when dealing with the main topics of smart cities, there is a priority, and as the COVID-19 pandemic era enters, safety and healthcare in each city are becoming the most important topics.

Until a vaccine is released, the environment of a metropolitan city vulnerable to collective infection is bound to adversely affect the future of the city in a situation where the unstable situation is likely to continue.

Therefore, in a large city with a dense population and concentrated economy, the key is how the anti-virus system and safety nets have been well established.

5. Which city do you believe is currently leading the way for Smart City innovation and why?

In fact, the concept of smart city has been discussed for a long time, but it has not been long since it led to implementation.

Therefore, almost all cases are in progress.

In addition, many of the smart city projects are actually infrastructure new city development projects that build residential facilities and roads.

In terms of people-centered urban regeneration, cities that pursue citizen participation, transportation innovation, zero energy, and eco-friendliness are London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Singapore, and Toronto.

At this point, I think these cities are at the forefront of smart cities. What these cities have in common is that the level of innovation is quite high compared to other cities, and the government has an active innovation policy.

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