Operator/ Market Engagement

Market engagement is a proactive form of dialogue with operators to collect information about new ideas, interest, prices, commercial viability or capacity. It can also involve public presentations, exhibitions and pilots for communities.

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Market engagement is a powerful tool to educate the city, open up the conversation about alternatives and validate key assumptions.

It helps you get a better grip on how far suppliers might be able to go on adapting solutions, considering new business models or projecting potential impact. It is also useful to defuse attempted lock-ins into ‘exclusive’ proposals from individual operators.


San Francisco learned during its street light upgrade project that traditional lighting suppliers were unable to deliver the open universal wireless control system the city desired. 

A call for pilots yielded 59 proposals from previously unknown suppliers and the city decided to implement eight pilots to publicly evaluate different systems. The pilots led to better exchange of supplier experience, as well as feedback on privacy concerns from residents. The pilots led to a decision in the city not to pursue a wireless control system because maintenance contractors could not maintain advanced circuit boards in 18,000 streetlights. 

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Market engagement plan

What answers did we not get through research? Consider the right times in your project to test the market and plan to do it systematically.

Use the simplest forms of market engagement

What are the simplest ways of market engagement that you can use in different situations? E.g. RFI, exhibitions, meet the buyer, meet the community,  matchmaking events, surveys.

Avoid false readings by asking the wrong question

Example: Some suppliers will not respond to market testing if they fear that a public information request requires them to reveal a ‘secret sauce’ or unique competitive idea.

Test, test, test at all stages

If you have simple ways to test the market it can be used at all stages of a project to provide more certainty and improve your statement of needs, help matchmake or create evaluation criteria.

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