With public infrastructure funding in the U.S. nearly tapped out, a new study says smart city projects could tap into billions in private funds, according to a report by Siemens Financial Services into funding for smart cities.

The report found that smaller “SmartStart” projects have the potential to access around $33 billion in private sector asset financing.

The researchers defined SmartStart projects as initiatives that help cities digitalize their infrastructure that are characterized as low-risk and high return on investment.

Siemens Financial calculated the total private funding amount available by looking at 13 countries and the potential accessible financing that the top 40% of these nations’ cities could raise privately for SmartStart projects.

This report follows a similar study that found the U.K. could access nearly $7 billion in private capital for similarly small-scale smart projects.

“Cities around the world are increasingly engaging in smart development to improve efficiency of local services, enhance sustainability, improve the lives of their citizens, and develop their competitiveness,” said Siemens Financial CEO of Commercial Finance Gary Amos. “Private sector asset finance allows cities to make the full range of SmartStart technology investments in a timely manner.”

Siemens Financial chose to focus on private sources of capital as public sector budgets around the world are proving inadequate for properly funding the many smart city projects that are on the books.  With governments struggling to find the resources, private financing is becoming a top priority for smart city proponents who want to see these initiatives become reality.

A $1 trillion infrastructure financing gap

This sentiment was reinforced by the U.S. Transportation Secretary who recently admitted there is not enough government funding to cover the nearly $1 trillion gap in infrastructure financing.

“By diversifying their sources of funding for smart investments, cities can benefit from the resulting savings and improvements to citizens’ services without any delay,” said Amos.

The report said that asset financing is a good fit for SmartStart projects because funding options are widely available, uncomplicated, cheap and quick to set up.

Researchers concluded that nine types of early stage smart projects are ideal contenders for private funding because of their good record for delivering ROI and their history of having already attracted asset-financing deals.

These projects include: low-energy street lighting, road pricing, parking systems, improved medical technology and online citizen self-service.

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