Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future
Nov 25, 2015
Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference, which takes place in Berlin on November 25 and 26, 2015, will offer participants a glimpse of the urban future. Scientists, engineers, politicians and economists will present new concepts for intelligent and sustainable urban innovation. The aim is to help transform our cities into clean and vibrant places to live and work.
Over half the world’s population lives in cities, and this proportion is set to rise. According to projections by the Organization for Economic Cooperation OECD, some 70 percent of the world’s population – more than seven billion people – will live in major conurbations by 2050. This growth poses a tremendous challenge for planners of urban areas and transport systems, logisticians, suppliers, and waste management companies. Plus there are climate targets to factor in, too. Global CO2 emissions must be reduced, with the EU aiming to cut emissions figures by 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 to 95 percent by the year 2050. “Achieving sustainable and CO2-neutral urban development is vital for meeting these targets. But we’ll only succeed by combining innovation management and urban planning to create hybrid solutions – everything from energy-efficient construction methods, electrically powered means of transportation and intelligent control systems to emissions-free production centers and wastewater purification schemes,” explains Steffen Braun, head of the Competence Center Urban Systems Engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO. Braun also coordinates the “Morgenstadt – City of the future” initiative, which was launched in 2012 as a joint project by Fraunhofer and several scientific and industrial partners.
Smart City – An urban paradise
Taking the Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF’s vision for the city of tomorrow (Morgenstadt) as their starting point, the expert network has been developing strategies for sustainable and intelligent urban development. Their objective is to create the “smart social city”, a central living space and economic environment for the 21st century. The underlying idea sounds sublime: Inhabitants of the city of the future will go to school, work, and enjoy their leisure time without these activities having any detrimental impact on the environment. And with access to clean water, healthy food, environmentally friendly energy, efficient transportation concepts, and good air quality, these modern smart citizens will have everything they need to live comfortably and shape their own urban habitat.
To make this vision a reality, interdisciplinary research teams are developing new concepts and testing the use of innovative technologies. Dutch scientists in Eindhoven, for instance, are working on strategies for emissions-free traffic, with plans to allow only electric vehicles (buses and cars) into the city center in the future. In the German cities of Chemnitz and Reutlingen, experts are investigating ways to capture visitor flows and road traffic data using an intelligent sensor network. Their system, which works a bit like a fitness tracker for cities, is intended to be used in the future to help urban planners avoid congestion and create shopping areas tailored to residents’ needs. In the Norwegian city of Stavanger, another interdisciplinary team examined the extent to which energy could be saved and medical care improved by enhancing links between companies, inhabitants and doctors. “Fraunhofer researchers are heavily involved in projects on both the German and European sides,” says Braun.
Urban Futures in Berlin
Results of this work will be showcased at the Morgenstadt: Urban Futures Conference in Berlin, where leading international experts will present their visions, solutions, and recommendations for action. Representatives from the worlds of politics, business and research will be able to discuss urban transformation guidelines and evaluate the technical, economic, and social impacts such changes could have. Also on the agenda are a “Call for ideas” innovation competition and a “Morgenstadt marketplace” where conference participants can exchange ideas and discuss new projects. “Here in Germany, we’ve largely completed the process of defining our strategy, but we still have a long way to go before we can make the city of the future a reality,” says Braun. Over the course of the next five years, he plans to work with numerous “Morgenstadt – City of the future” innovation partners to implement new concepts.