Several Fraunhofer Institutes have been working together with partners from both municipalities and industry for the past ten years to develop system innovations for the city of the future as part of the Morgenstadt Initiative. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO is responsible for the overall coordination. This interdisciplinary initiative considers cities as complex, adaptive systems and collaborates with various cities, companies as well as the research community to develop and test local innovations and urban developments. Founded on the belief that the climate-neutral and digital transformation of our cities is pivotal to addressing the major challenges of our time, the ultimate goal is to identify solutions and transformation pathways for CO2-neutral, livable and resilient cities, and to implement them using social, technological and organizational innovations as examples and scale them up. This is why the new work program for 2022 and 2023 has the central vision of “the sustainable smart city”. Through this the Morgenstadt Initiative addresses the connection between the two topics of digitalization and sustainability, i.e., the interface between technology development and sustainable urban development in terms of the social, environmental and economic impact. “The smart city offers great potential for sustainable urban development. However, it is important that it also addresses citizens' needs and that it also promotes social integration as well as climate goals when implemented,” emphasizes Hendrik Frieling, Research Coordinator of the Morgenstadt Initiative at Fraunhofer IAO.
The initiative always prioritizes population-centric implementation within its transformation measures and activities. This means that it is essential to include citizens in the process and that the needs, particularly those of vulnerable groups, should be incorporated into the design of the sustainable smart city. What is more, the social compatibility of the climate-neutral transformation of our cities should be the main evaluation criterion for selecting and designing our projects.
Triad of market design, research and international knowledge transfer
The Morgenstadt Initiative takes a comprehensive and integrative approach that reflects the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable solutions must therefore contribute to the common good and should be affordable for municipalities regardless of their size and economic situation. The result should be a more livable city for everyone. Activities are therefore aimed at scaling up previously tried-and-tested solutions and sharing relevant expertise, for example through cooperative projects for municipalities of all sizes both in Germany and across Europe. At the same time, the development of other research projects is being driven forward in order to optimize existing solutions and demonstrate new approaches. This triad is reflected in the work program's structure as three major pillars: “Market design,” “Collaborative research and development (R&D),” and “Global scalability and international knowledge and technology transfer.”
From data governance to smart neighborhood development
To solve a particular challenge, Fraunhofer institutes work together with cities and companies in different combinations as part of the Morgenstadt Initiative to form an innovation partnership aimed at jointly developing corresponding projects and formats. Each partnership focuses primarily on one of the three aforementioned pillars of the Morgenstadt work program.
Following the successful first phase of the project, the “Urban Data Partnership 2.0” innovation partnership will now move to the second phase. This aims to create a shared knowledge of complex structures, processes and bases for decision making in the field of digital transformation for cities and municipalities as well as provide practical handouts for specialist workers and managers. The growing opportunities and challenges associated with the use of municipality data were also key topics at this year's “Morgenstadt Data Conference” in Lemgo. In line with the motto “sustainable.digital”, the event explored various approaches to the design of sustainable digitalization in small and medium-sized municipalities.
A unique innovation partnership “Morgenstadt: Future District Alliance” for the smart and climate-neutral neighborhoods of the future started in fall 2022. It aims at transferring existing Fraunhofer know-how regarding innovative neighborhood and district development to specific projects in order to develop a technological forecast, blueprints as well as new business models. On October 11 of this year, the “Future Districts Summit” has taken place in Munich's Werksviertel-Mitte.