SPRINKLE - Smart city governance processes in small and medium-sized cities

The project aimed at comprehensively analyzing existing approaches for the coordination and regulation of Smart City development in small and medium-sized cities. In the context of case studies, this study combines the analysis of relevant legal-institutional frameworks as well as of governance processes for selected, energy-related fields of urban activity.

Short Description




Starting point/motivation

In Austria and in the European context in general, the discussion on smart cities has been mostly focused on large urban areas. There is a pronounced lack of knowledge on smart city related activities in small and medium sized cities. In many of those cities, different approaches have been developed to save energy or to increase the amount of renewable energy – both within the territory of the constituency and beyond. Against the background of these developments, new forms of coordination and steering have been implemented, that markedly differ from those in larger urban agglomerations, both in terms of legal framework conditions and of governance processes; local approaches have to be tested and some are currently being developed. While larger urban agglomerations benefit from relatively well endowed and thematically specialized municipal bureaucracies, small and medium sized cities do frequently have to face up to the challenge of having to attain "smart" targets with relatively lower resources and equity.

Contents and Objectives

This project's objective has been to comprehensively study the governance structures and processes for a smart city development in small and medium sized cities for a selected set of energy related intervention fields. Urban governance includes all coordination and steering activities. Elaborating analyses from an energy-related planning perspective (1) included the research concerning the aim of cities' activities or the importance of different fields of activity. From a legal and institutional governance perspective (2), the project was particularly concerned with competency domains, policy instruments and resource allocation. The actor-centred and process oriented perspective (3) particularly focused on actors, their perception of problems, their interests, behavioural logics and orientations, actor coalitions, bargaining and decision making processes as well as communication activities.


The selected methodological approach was based on a systemic comparison of selected case studies of small and medium sized cities – Amstetten, Leoben and Villach – which already had experience in the preparation of smart city strategies and in the implementation of respective measures and projects. Additionally extensive research was carried out in order to analyse the activities of various Austrian cities of comparable population size. By bringing together analysis and conclusions from different perspectives, new insights into smart city development in small and medium sized cities have been elaborated.


The integrated discussion of those different perspectives led to a comprehensive picture of the current situation in terms of smart city development in small and medium sized cities. Actual challenges show that small and medium-sized cities often have to deal with various local conditions as e.g. population growth, economic development, but also in terms of staff and financial resources. Cities are highly conscious of energy and quality of life-related benefits of Smart City implementation which forms a major aim also of many smaller cities. Nevertheless the promotion as a Smart City seems less important for smaller cities. Due to the financial require¬ments of Smart City development, also financial incentives drive the Smart City agenda. However, these incentives can neither replace the political debate on the issue nor the ambitious implementation.

The broad range of specific approaches shows a large thematic field of Smart City that makes it necessary and useful to set priorities (in terms of time and content). At the same time, the range of legal instruments that could be used for Smart City activities is not fully exploited for several reasons. Within the cities' authorities Smart City development requires a change in planning processes, especially in terms of stronger integrated processes, at the same time cities are trying to involve economic parties in the city development.

With regard to public participation, the current debate shows that comprehensive participation and involvement of the population are seen as an actual challenge which is in many cases getting started currently. Finally, vertical cooperation (cities – federal state – national level) is of highest importance for future Smart City development. The authorities of the Austrian federal states influence development options of cities by subsidies and support services and define their power by their provincial legislation and can play an important supporting role through knowledge transfer. In addition to funding from federal states, cities may make use of national research funding opportunities for implementation (pilot and demonstration projects). To steer future implementation in a larger range of cities, a strengthened dialogue between cities and responsible funding institutions seems reasonable in order to better consider the needs of small and medium-sized cities.


The project results are available as a basis for information and further exchange of experiences that shall enhance further Smart City development in the sense of integrated, resource efficient urban development for the 21st Century.

Project Partners

Contact Address

Dipl.-Ing. Ursula Mollay MA MSc
Franz-Josefs-Kai 27
A-1010 Wien
Tel.: +43 (1) 533 87 47-0
Fax: +43 (1) 533 87 47-66
E-Mail: oir@oir.at
Web: www.oir.at