Smart and sustainable: shining beacons for future urban living

Fraunhofer IAO joins SPARCS, a newly launched smart city initiative

How can today’s urban centers be transformed into smart cities that leverage digital technology and provide a good quality of life for their citizens while also – increasingly an essential criterion – meeting sustainability targets? Fraunhofer IAO has now teamed up with 31 partners from ten EU member states in order to develop pioneering solutions for a new smart city initiative by the name of SPARCS. The aim of this project is to create a network of Sustainable energy Positive and zero cARbon CommunitieS.

Greater communal involvement and close consultation on city planning are vital if urban areas are to undergo a successful process of transformation and become smart cities. At the same time, the issue of sustainability is becoming an increasingly vital consideration.

Key issues for sustainability: digitalization, energy and electromobility

The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO has joined a new smart city initiative, together with 31 partners from ten EU member states. The SPARCS project (Sustainable energy Positive and zero cARbon CommunitieS) aims to stimulate urban transformation and, in the process, improve the quality of life for the citizens of seven European cities. The project is scheduled to run for five years. During this time, partners will help participating cities develop a shared vision of future urban living. City Vision 2050 focuses on the areas of digitalization, sustainable energy, improved air quality and electromobility. In addition, the project team is to develop a framework for monitoring the performance of the solutions that emerge. A key task will be to establish participatory management and planning models along with ecosystems and ecological processes. This will be undertaken in close cooperation with companies, planning and other municipal departments, research organizations, and most importantly of all, city residents. The SPARCS project aims to place citizens at the very heart of the decision-making process and to ensure clear and transparent communication throughout.

Shining the way: lighthouse solutions for the whole of Europe

The project will provide systematic support for sustainable urban transformation and community involvement in two lighthouse cities – Espoo (Finland) and Leipzig (Germany) – and in five so-called fellow cities. The lighthouse cities are both adopting an integrated approach to the introduction of new technology and the development of carbon-neutral neighborhoods. The fellow cities – Maia (Portugal), Kifissia (Greece), Reykjavik (Iceland), Kladno (Czech Republic) and Lviv (Ukraine) – will closely monitor the process of urban transformation in the lighthouse cities and adapt any such developments to their own requirements. This will deliver flexible variants of the solutions implemented in the lighthouse cities, tailored to the size, structure and specific circumstances of the various fellow cities.

“By enabling, informing and supporting efficient urban transformation in the lighthouse cities, we anticipate that the SPARCS project will have a major positive impact on driving forward the sustainable energy and zero carbon agenda, and generate targeted and effective solutions that can be replicated across and beyond Europe,” says project coordinator Francesco Reda from the Finnish research institute VTT.

A key task facing Fraunhofer IAO will be to investigate and coordinate ways in which these new solutions for effecting urban transformation can be applied to other cities of varying sizes and with different requirements. The aim here is to ensure that project results can be used by the entire consortium and that they are implemented effectively. The lighthouse cities are free to use these solutions not only for projects that are already in the pipeline but also for other schemes. Project partners are also drawing up a road map for fellow cities that will provide basic guidance on questions of governance, funding and the technological requirements for various projects. Thus, a city that is planning to introduce a fleet of electric vehicle fleets, complete with a battery-charging infrastructure, would then be able to access a standardized and scalable solution for the procurement and implementation phases. Online support for this process is also available via a digital platform provided by BABLE, a Fraunhofer IAO spin-off.