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.

Our key research areas are:

  • Municipal digitalization strategies and processes
  • Urban utilities and logistics solutions
  • Intelligent urban districts and surroundings
  • Co-creative innovation partnerships and strategies
  • Data-based business models and processes in urban systems
  • Shaping user behavior and preferences
  • Resilient infrastructures and public safety



»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.


logSPAZE – Alternative Delivery Concepts for Citites

Together with the City Council and logistics service providers such as UPS, we’re testing how to switch from trucks to an environmentally friendly solution for what’s referred to as the last mile.  


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. 


Managing requirements virtually with a customer-integrated innovation process

The VitAmIn project aimed to integrate customers into the virtually supported innovation and development process at a very early stage. To do this, researchers developed methods and tools and summarized them in the VitAmIn method.


VisB+: Visualization in the public participation process

How can modern visualization technologies be used to involve the public when planning large construction projects? Large-scale construction projects invariably generate a certain degree of conflict. They must therefore be planned and communicated so that the public accepts them. Together with the University of Hohenheim, a Fraunhofer IAO project team is investigating the overarching research question: what part can visualizations play in ensuring that construction planning is understandable and credible?