An infrastructure fund to help facilitate the development of smart city infrastructure across Australia, Europe, North America and other major urban areas has reached  first close.

Australian asset management company Whitehelm Capital has teamed up with financial services provider APG, on behalf of ABP and other pension fund clients, to create the Smart City Infrastructure Fund (the Fund), an investment vehicle set-up to pool pension fund investments in select smart city infrastructure.

The Fund was established to meet the growing demand for financing the scale-up of integrated smart city solutions, which currently do not have access to long-term institutional financing and capability.

Whitehelm Capital said the initiative will complement existing instruments from public institutions to enable a sustainable transition from small-scale pilot projects to mainstream applications.

The Smart City Infrastructure Fund is a large-scale initiative from the private sector with the view to unlock societal benefits and a rapid transition towards low-carbon, resource-efficient and competitive economies.

Graham Matthews, Chief Executive at Whitehelm Capital, said, “The Smart City Infrastructure Fund aims at transposing the benefits of long-term infrastructure investment to new business models and innovative use cases.

“The demand for better infrastructure and services is high, and the Fund will act as a hub to share knowledge effectively across markets and to realise the much-needed physical infrastructure that underpins smart city developments.”

Smart cities is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communications technologies and the sensor-enabled Internet of Everything solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets and processes.

The roll out of such developments at scale requires an effective combination of digital and physical components.

Mr Matthews said the Fund promotes an independent, open-access, modular layered approach to ensure appropriate control and risk transfer between each of these layers, and to make projects viable.

Ron Boots, Head of Infrastructure Europe at APG, said, “As a long-term responsible investor, we are very pleased to support investments that promote the development of a sustainable society for future generations.

“The Fund is the latest of the many exciting initiatives that APG is pursuing with the aim of incorporating the UN Sustainable Development Goals into a tangible investment product that can deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns.

“The ultimate objective of the Fund is to improve quality of life and meet the needs of cities, allowing city officials to interact directly with the community, to improve physical infrastructure and how essential services are delivered.

“The launch of the Smart City Infrastructure Fund — the first of its kind, globally —  fits the long-term goals of ABP and our other pension fund clients that we work for.”

Whitehelm Capital said the Fund has raised €250 million (AU$400 million) at first closing through commitments from APG.

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