Urban Systems Engineering

Urban systems in interaction with people, technology and the space they occupy

Our cities will change profoundly in the decades to come. They must not only overcome the challenge of steadily rising populations, but also deal with climate change, scarcity of resources, demographic change and technological transformation. For these reasons, cities and towns represent the most important field for innovative solutions and intelligent concepts for sustainable development, combining to serve as one of the largest markets and a field that demands our greatest attention. Urban systems are important not only in large cities; they also address the close interaction of people, technology and space in today’s polycentric systems of cities and their immediate surroundings. Walls used to demarcate city limits; firewalls seem to serve the same purpose today. The engineers of urban systems must manage the complexity and dynamics at the interface between government administration, business and the general public.

Our objective is to envision pioneering living spaces and their basic functions, from public administration to infrastructures, and to stimulate innovative strength, efficiency and sustainability. Fraunhofer IAO helps municipalities, public utilities and private companies create urban systems and processes in an agile, flexible manner. In this context, we combine our expertise in technology with the latest scientific findings on organization and spatial development.

Some current projects entail the creation of innovative participation methods and co-creative processes to involve people in development projects that will jointly shape the livable cities of tomorrow. Our scientists tap into the opportunities provided by digitalization, IT and communication technologies in built-up areas. We also create organizational and information technology concepts for our customers, in compliance with the latest data protection regulations, to further develop urban processes in the best possible way. In addition, our interdisciplinary teams carry out in-depth research on the societal consequences of urban developments and put current scientific knowledge to use.

Our Urban Systems Engineering researchers focus on:

  • System solutions for customer-friendly logistics and services that are geared to demand
  • Identification and assessment of service potential in the sphere of urban logistics
  • Integrated management of urban parking facilities and setup of microhubs in city centers
  • Scientific assistance on experiments and reality labs in urban spaces
  • Development of intelligent district concepts
  • “Morgenstadt – city of the future” as a new paradigm of urban development
  • Internationalization of potential solutions for sustainable construction and urban planning
  • Use of creative formats for the transdisciplinary networking of stakeholders
  • Shaping of innovation processes at the interface between municipal authorities, private enterprise and the general public
  • Optimization of crisis and disaster management in cooperation with various stakeholders 

Projects Selection

»2049: Zeitreise Mobilität«

In a contribution to Deutschlandjahr USA, a collaborative initiative to promote German-American friendship, the German regional broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk (hr) is taking a closer look at the future of mobility in the two countries. “2049: Zeitreise Mobilität” aims to survey and categorize the various views on this topic from the perspective of users and experts.  


The Digitalakademie@bw works together with towns, cities, administrative districts and regions to support them on the road to digital transformation. Its innovative services promote skills and qualifications, innovation, knowledge transfer and cultural change in public administration within the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Digitalization of municipal services

In the “AKTIV-kommunal” collaborative research project, Fraunhofer IAO and other project partners are developing concepts and instruments to support organizational change and innovation processes in the municipal service sector.

Morgenstadt: Creating the cities of tomorrow

11 different Fraunhofer institutes, 14 cities of varying sizes and 22 companies engaged in activities from automotive development to urban planning have come together to create the innovation network »Morgenstadt: City Insights« in order to collaboratively conceptualize and realize the future of an integrated, sustainable, liveable and resilient city of tomorrow. 

The Urban Systems Engineering Research Unit is organized in the following teams:


Smart Urban Environments

The Smart Urban Environments team develops viable solutions for urban, residential and living spaces of the future. Team members accomplish this by considering flexible technologies and the diverse factors impacting people, available space and organization. Our vision of the future consists of livable and pioneering urban districts, creating a link between solutions that are both sustainable and digital.


Urban Governance Innovation

This team helps cities methodically shape innovation processes at the interface between municipal authorities, private enterprise and the general public. Team members also support local communities in developing and implementing integrated strategies. Our vision of the future consists of bringing together sustainable urban development, data-based solutions, and the market for clean and connected technologies. 


Urban Data and Resilience

The Urban Data and Resilience team strives to make cities livable, safe and resilient. To this end, we focus on IT-based collaboration with the general public and the third sector; we also utilize existing urban data for resilient strategic and administrative processes. Our vision of the future aims at administrative and decision-making processes that are IT-based and resilient for the cities, towns and regions of tomorrow.


Urban Economy Innovation

The team "Urban Economy Innovation" develops new evaluation methods and tools for the integration of economic aspects into infrastructural and urban or regional transformation processes. 


Building Culture Innovation

The team "Building Culture Innovation" deals with the application of digital planning and building processes in industrial and municipal practice. The focus is on projects with the building industry and the use of modern VR/AR technologies for digital product life cycles. 


District Innovation Ecosystems