Recommendations for a consolidated Austrian research in the topic of "Smart Cities"
The terms “Smart Cities” or “Cities of the future” are used by persons with different professional and thematic backgrounds. The wide variety of topics included in the Smart Cities field makes it more difficult to clearly define future research strategies in these areas. Following the European industrial initiative “Smart cities and communities” in the framework of the SET-plan and the related calls for proposals in the 7th framework programme, national activities were initiated in Austria, like the ‘Smart Energy Demo – FIT for SET’ funding programme of the Austrian “Klima- und Energiefonds“ (KLIEN). This funding programme partly relies on knowledge and recommendations gained from this project.
Contents and Objectives
Based on a broad literature review, the project SmartCitiesNet provided clear definitions as well as an overview on Smart Cities topics and the most relevant current projects and stakeholders involved in Austria. Promising future research topics were defined and assessed and recommendations for political stakeholders were formulated.
The three main goals of the project SmartCitiesNet were:
- Providing definitions: What are Smart Cities? This was done while mapping research activities in the Smart Cities field in Austria and referring to the most significant international activities (state of the art).
- Providing a networking platform for Austrian stakeholders in the fields of research, industry and politics in relation to the complex research field Smart Cities.
- Assessment of promising future research topics and formulation of recommendations.
The following methodology was applied for literature review, analysis and formulation of recommendations:
- Definitions: Definition of approaches, contents and questions characterising Smart Cities topics. The question of future energy supply in urban areas is at the core of the concept. Based on this delimitation, a definition for Smart Cities was proposed and main research topics covering the interdisciplinary Smart Cities research were presented. See final report chapter 3 (download in German at the German project description)
- Analysis of ongoing and completed projects and research activities: Analysis results from a review of current research activities and demonstration projects are presented dealing with main thematic areas relevant for Smart Cities. The selected research and demonstration projects are categorized according to treated topics in order to provide an overview about the topics which are more or less intensively considered in current research activities. The review is used as an input to define and describe integrated research fields (fact sheets). See final report chapter 4
- Identification of Austrian stakeholders: Based on their know-how, the Austrian stakeholders identified during the review phase are presented in a knowledge matrix. The validation of the knowledge matrix is guaranteed by the feedback received by stakeholders themselves. See final report chapter 5
- Involvement of Austrian stakeholders: The main stakeholders in the Austrian Smart Cities research community were invited to participate in workshops. These workshops were designed to obtain feedback on relevant research fields and stakeholders as well as to enable knowledge exchange between experts. Feedback on the preliminary report was also gathered in written form. See final report chapter 6
- Fact Sheets for integrated research fields related to Smart Cities: Research fields were defined based on the literature review, own experience of project members and expert advice during the workshops. The research fields are described in dedicated fact sheets, which include implementation aspects. See final report chapter 7
- Assessment of integrated research fields related to Smart Cities: Spatial planning measures do not have the same impact as measures directly defined for the energy sector. As a consequence, the integrated research fields (single fact sheets) are assessed according to different criteria. See final report chapter 7
- Formulation of recommendations: The last methodological step consists in characterising research needs and formulating recommendations for the Austrian funding landscape (roadmap). See final report chapter 8
Results and conclusions
The analysis and characterisation of research questions is done for three research dimensions (structures, technologies, processes) while considering the most relevant research stages (basic research, methods, implementation) (Figure 1).
The evaluation of selected projects (77 projects dealing with 22 research topics) and the statistical analysis of the frequency at which given combinations of topics were addressed in research projects (see overview on Figure 2) has led to the following findings:
- There have been few research activities in the dimensions structures and processes: Most research activities have been identified in the technological dimension.
- The integrated consideration of energy related questions is missing: The integration between single energy topics is still rather low in many research projects. For instance, life-cycle analyses are often missing, energy system analyses are often incomplete (energy conversion steps are only partially considered), potential analyses for resources are often partial (waste heat potential in the direct neighbourhood of buildings often not considered) and suboptimal solutions from an exergy point of view are proposed. This has led to a strict thematic separation between different energy related questions, where the direct and high-level system interactions are ignored. This can lead to contradictory and counterproductive effects.
- The integration between energy and mobility topics or between energy and urban structures is missing: Very little efforts have been put on the integration possibilities between energy and mobility topics or between energy and urban structures (for instance via consideration of spatial planning issues). Holistic approaches for considering the implications of spatial planning on energy and mobility needs from an integrated point of view are rarely followed.
- Given topics are insufficiently considered: Some single topics have been rarely analysed in combination with urban energy questions. This is for instance the case for the topics materials, resources, embedded energy, social aspects, urban climate, natural environment and economy. The interfaces between these topics and the urban energy topic have not been sufficiently analysed so far in Austria.
Based on the analysis of interfaces between single research topics with particular focus on synergy potentials and potential contradictions between different topics (contributions from the workshop), 18 fact sheets for integrated research fields have been defined for smart cities development.
The synthesis from these 18 fact sheets leads to the following general recommendations:
- Adapted and new planning and implementation processes are key factors for a smart cities development: Basic research works as well as new methods and implementation cases are necessary in this field. Basic research works have to focus on the theory of such processes in order to capture social, economic, legal and psychological factors from an integrated and systemic point of view. Methodological aspects in this field include the development of business models and integrated policy instruments. Economics and political sciences are required here. The implementation includes the review of common technical rules and processes (e.g. in spatial planning).
- Methods need to be further developed: In the smart cities field, methods need to be further developed in the three research dimensions (structures, technologies, processes). Methods are required to deal with the increasing complexity in an interdisciplinary field (assessment and planning tools for strategic, policy-relevant and practical questions). Some questions require the development of new simulation software (simulation and optimisation models for complex technology combinations). Other problems can be handled thanks to an adapted combination between existing tools. Interfaces and standardised data systems are necessary to support this. In the process field, methods of process guiding and optimisation are meant.
- Technologies enabling the interaction between measures in different sectors are most relevant in the smart cities field: Even if energy, building, transport and information technologies are the enabling technologies for the realisation of smart cities, research has been traditionally embedded within these single sectors. In the Smart Cities context, particular effort has to be put on “interface technologies”. These technologies are at the interface between different urban subsystems and enable the integration between these subsystems. This is about building integrated energy technologies, network infrastructure technologies (including process automation and control technologies), technologies for cascade use of resources, information and communication technologies (including telematics).
- There is further need for basic research works: Smart cities cannot only develop through market mechanisms and a broad offer of information and communication technologies. Basic research work is still needed in all three smart cities research dimensions (structures, technologies and processes). This means that research programmes with basic research character are necessary to support works in the related topics. Basic research on indicator systems, data structures, system analyses, multi-criteria analyses, modelling of complex system interactions, energy optimised urban planning etc. are meant.
The project offers a background of literature references, information and recommendations to research actors in the smart cities field when it comes to shaping and implementing future research projects and programmes.
The assessment of integrated research fields leads to a set of characteristic aspects related to implementation issues. These aspects provide indications on the feasibility and potential impact of measures and projects in these fields:
- Short to medium-term implementation period: All proposed measures can be initiated in the short and medium term. Results can also be obtained in a short and medium term.
- Effects visible on a broad time period: In the technological field, effects can be seen right after implementation of measures, whereas measures in the strategic and spatial planning sector have rather long-term effects. Therefore measures and research projects are to be combined in order to obtain short-term and long-term effects.
- Broad potential for energy saving and emissions reduction: The direct potential for saving energy and avoiding emissions might differ significantly according to the type of measure or project. Many measures having limited direct energy saving potential might enable significant savings (and emission reduction) at a later time. Prioritising measures according to this criterion would therefore be premature.
- From low to medium investment costs: Many process related and structural measures do not require significant investment costs. Measures are more cost intensive in the infrastructure sector.
- Large number of stakeholders to be involved: The implementation of smart cities projects goes beyond bilateral projects. More than three stakeholder groups are to be involved in each integrated research field whereas all named stakeholder groups are to be involved when it comes to strategic questions. However, depending on the type of measure and research project, each stakeholder group has to be involved in a different way. In participation processes the main issue is to define when in the process and in which form single stakeholder groups are to be involved.
- Knowledge transfer and implementation projects: Research questions in the smart cities field have a high degree of complexity. The use and application of gained knowledge in practice has to be ensured by adapting planning and implementation processes. Targeted communication and public relation measures are required. Best practice examples have to be presented on a communication platform (e.g. website www.smartcities.at).
Dipl. Ing. Barbara Saringer-Bory
Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning (ÖIR)
Dipl.-Ing. Ursula Mollay MA MSc
Mag. Wolfgang Neugebauer (Autor)
Österreichisches Institut für Raumplanung (ÖIR)
Project or cooperation partner
Österreichisches Forschungs- und Prüfzentrum Arsenal Ges.m.b.H (AIT Energy)
- Dipl.-Ing. Olivier Pol
- Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Edith Haslinger
- Branislav Iglár
- Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Lukas Lippert
- MMag. Michael Maritschnegg
- Dr. Jessen Page