Isam Shahrour ©
Isam Shahrour Digital builder of smart cities

Isam Shahrour is an international digital innovation specialist. Issued from a modest Palestinian circle, he was born at the foothills of Samaria Mountains in the city of Tulkarm.

Son of a wood craftsman, Isam shared his childhood between school and family’s business, in the middle of a conflict environment which had pushed him through a precious and brave ambition: rebuilding. When he was 15 years old, Isam and his family moved to Jordan. In Amman, he discovered the sources of the knowledge associated to big agglomerations and cosmopolitan life. “Amman was a big city. I met there people from everywhere. There was a huge library offering extraordinary books. But, I’ve never forgot to continue to help my father. Hands and mind, that’s important”.

After finishing its bachelor’s degree, Isam received a study grant to go to France (Tours) where he stayed for a year to learn the language. “This was a real clash of civilisation, but also academic. The education was not provided in the same way. I had to work hardly to catch up in noth french and science.” Persistent in his efforts, Isam registered in BSc Mechanics Sciences at the University of Lille, where he easily succeeded. Then, he applied for prestigious French engineering schools and he finally joined the Civil Engineering Master at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées of Paris.

Isam started then the writing of a thesis about the usage of ICT and engineering calculations in marine platforms fundations. At that time, he began his career as a teacher-researcher at Polytech Lille and quickly joined the French Institute of Petroleum as a research engineer. In 1989, he integrated the teaching team of the Ecole centrale of Lille, but he returned to Polytech Lille in 1997. Ten years later, in 2007, he is named vice-president of research and President of Lille Technolopole in 2008, a regional agency of Innovation. He also collaborated to some projects like Euratechnologies and Haute Borne which raised its interest for urban environment.

“More than half of the world population lives in cities which become more and more populated. The rapid development of cities does not allow the establishment of an acceptable framework of life for the entire population. The city is the place where all sickness of humanity focuses: sanitary, social, economic, environmental. It is the expression of global warming. What are the most energy consumers in a city? Buildings, transports and networks (of water, electricity and gas). The city needs to be transformed into a reasonable standard of life, the buildings are old, the networks are poorly maintained and citizens are more and more exigent”.

Isam developed a smart city project at the Scientific City in Villeneuve d’Ascq, the SunRise project, a real and tangible research area where he could implement his knowledge and willingness. “What makes the difference is that we have succeeded to bring the experience to a city level and not only to a factory building. We have as well successfully integrated all the stakeholders in a real collective approach: the collectivities, the social landlords, the energy providers and the students/citizens. We need everyone to change the city. The citizen becomes a smart sensor, he can have access to real-time networks’ information, he can inform or be informed about a failure. The citizen is the city main stakeholder. How can we ask for advices to a citizen about something that he does not know or he does not control? Men need to be placed in the heart of the city.” Young students from everywhere come to Isam in order to join his team. Then, they go back home with renewed ideas to develop. He shares with them his optimism, his good mood and his insatiable hunger of knowledge resulting from the cultural diversity of his personal story.