Top innovative ideas for the city of tomorrow

Die drei Gewinner des »Call for Ideas« auf dem Fraunhofer-Kongress »Urban Futures«
Foto: Ulf Büschleb, © Fraunhofer

From left to right: Winner: Green City Solutions - Zhengliang Wu, Second place: Park Here - Sasan Amini, Third place: Breeze - Robert Heinecke

Three winners of the “Call for Ideas” competition at Fraunhofer’s “Urban Futures” conference

As part of the Fraunhofer “Urban Futures” conference, ten selected young entrepreneurs and start-ups took to the stage to dazzle the jury and the audience with their innovative ideas. The finalists presented their concepts for the city of the future at an “idea pitch” event on November 25, 2015 to about 250 prominent representatives from municipalities, politics, business and research. The top three received a membership in Fraunhofer’s Morgenstadt innovation network, each of which is worth 25,000 euros.

“We were surprised and delighted by the variety of ideas pitched from Germany and around the world. All of the entries are excellent examples of young and forward-thinking entrepreneurs – the next generation of urban dwellers,” said Steffen Braun, who heads the Urban Systems Engineering competence team at Fraunhofer IAO.

First place went to Green City Solutions, a start-up that offers intelligent solutions in environmental services, clean tech and sustainable urban development. With their “CityTree,” Zhengliang Wu and his colleagues aim to better equip cities for the future and make them more appealing places to live. CityTree is the world’s first vertical, ecologically active communication space. It combines the latest Internet of Things technology with the natural ability of specially cultivated moss to filter particulate matter and nitrogen oxides out of the air, thereby ridding it of large quantities of CO2 equivalents. What’s more, relevant information can be displayed as text or images on CityTree’s green surface, and implementing an iBeacon QR code or an NFC makes it possible to transfer digital data.

Second place went to Sasan Amini and the team at ParkHere in Munich. ParkHere is a spin-off of the Technische Universität München and has developed the world’s first self-powered sensor system for parking solutions. The system plays an active role in reducing traffic, since it means drivers don’t need to endlessly circle the streets looking for a parking space. Towns and cities can also benefit from this solution as they think about how to manage their parking availability in the future. ParkHere allows them to efficiently design parking areas and manage all of them effectively. In spring of 2016, the start-up will face its first major test as the sensors are embedded in the streets for the first time, initially on charge spots for electric vehicles.

A business idea by Breeze in Hamburg won third place. Robert Heinecke’s team has set itself the goal of shaping the future of air quality monitoring, in order to help cities and companies create an environment worth living in. Founded in February 2015, this start-up develops smart sensor networks that monitor their surroundings. The environmental data they collect is then evaluated on a cloud-based analytics platform. One sensor for measuring air quality has already been made and is currently being used by a customer. Based on the data, users can derive recommendations for how to improve the environment. Compared to other solutions, Breeze costs less, takes up less space and is easier to use and integrate.

The ideas competition was sponsored by Fraunhofer’s Morgenstadt innovation network. “Entrepreneurs are our future,” emphasized jury member Alanus von Radecki, Fraunhofer IAO. “As a research institution, we’re happy to help new ideas get off the ground. Innovative concepts that connect the latest research with new approaches offer an ideal combination, especially for the cities of the future.”

About 50 ideas and projects were entered into the ideas competition. In addition to students and start-ups, other players such as cities, innovation agencies, creative thinkers, and SMEs were encouraged to present new concepts and ideas for revolutionary products, technologies or processes.

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