The Fraunhofer Morgenstadt Initiative uses a broad, interdisciplinary approach to accompany - or even lead - cities into a sustainable and resilient future. Spatial analyses are indispensable in this context.

Mr. Frieling, we are living in the century of cities. The importance of the city as a living space will continue to increase worldwide in the coming decades. The Morgenstadt initiative is a network of Fraunhofer research institutions, administration and business for the innovative city of tomorrow. Please briefly tell us about the most important aspects you are working on.

The Fraunhofer Morgenstadt Initiative aims to think ahead, develop and test system innovations for the city of tomorrow. As an interdisciplinary group of Fraunhofer institutes, municipalities and companies, we work together on the transformation towards climate-neutral and livable cities. In doing so, we use a systemic approach - this means that we look at the entire urban system, analyze the sectoral interdependencies and derive recommendations for action and strategies for cities from this. Currently, for example, we are working on smart and sustainable neighborhood development (Link) and data-based optimization of the drinking water cycle (Link).

How does digitization help to maintain or even increase the quality of life in cities?

Digitization offers many opportunities for sustainable, smart and community-oriented urban development. Without digitization, we cannot achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Enormous efficiency gains in energy use are possible through the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, demand-oriented street lighting or even heating control can quickly achieve effects that benefit citizens. But digitization does not only bring added value in the field of energy. The sectors of mobility and logistics, urban water management, and administrative digitization also offer countless opportunities to optimize system processes and improve the quality of life in cities through the intelligent use of data.

Mode of operation of the Morgenstadt Initiative

From a geoscientific perspective, I'll just say that without networked geoinformation in the form of a smart city context or a true "digital twin," nothing works in your work. Is that true?

Spatial analyses are indispensable for the sustainable development of cities. To achieve this, it is important to have very good (geo)data and, above all, interoperable systems. This concerns, on the one hand, real-time data platforms that can be used for forecasts and, on the other hand, (urban) geodata portals that cannot perform evaluations in real time but are enormously important for planning and visualization. In the future, it will become increasingly important to agree on common standards in order to make data mutually usable.

Let's move on to climate change. Cities, with their well-known heat islands, are becoming hotspots of climate change. Older people in particular, but also people with pre-existing conditions, are suffering especially. What are the levers you are working on to anticipate the overheating of cities and, in the best case, to take action against it? And how does geoinformation help you in this?

Avoiding urban heat islands is a key task for adapting our cities to climate change. On the one hand, heat islands can be detected by means of built-in sensors in the urban system, and planning and construction measures can be taken accordingly. In the "SMARTilience" project, for example, measures were planned with the cities of Mannheim and Halle (Saale), which are now entering the implementation phase in "SMARTilienceGoesLive". These include the installation of drinking fountains, increased planting and use of shading elements, intelligent irrigation systems and the implementation of a heat action plan in the city of Mannheim. The latter contains concrete measures for protecting vulnerable groups from the effects of heat. Furthermore, the city of Halle (Saale) wants to implement a smart networking platform for stakeholders. For all these aspects, available and high-quality geodata are of course of great importance.

They now work with 19 so-called City Labs. In these, interdisciplinary teams study urban systems and, based on this, develop a roadmap for sustainable urban development. To what extent are the characteristics of city A transferable to another city? And do the CityLabs thus provide a blueprint for other cities?

In the City Labs, data collection and analysis are first used to create individual city profiles that depict the strengths and weaknesses of a city system on a sector-by-sector basis. Based on this analysis, recommendations for action are developed and concrete steps and measures to achieve these goals are defined. Thus, City Labs are first and foremost highly context-dependent and offer solutions that are as precisely tailored as possible to the cities under study. Of course, the replication factor is always taken into account. However, it has been shown in practice that the transfer of solution systems to other cities only makes sense if the initial situation is similar. This factor should always be taken into account.

Finally, the global South is suffering greatly from the effects of climate change. How do you incorporate this aspect into your work?

The transfer of know-how to the global South is a central aspect of our work. In the Morgenstadt Global Smart Cities project, model cities in India (Kochi), Mexico (Saltillo) and Peru (Piura) are being supported in developing and implementing sustainable transformation processes and in achieving the international sustainability goals. Here, too, the City Lab methodology was applied to design tailor-made roadmaps for the participating cities. The measures focus on increasing resilience to the effects of climate change. These deal with the sectors of energy, housing, water, mobility and urban planning. Depending on the local context, priorities are set and steps are defined, for example, to increase energy efficiency, water pollution control or locally adapted construction methods. As the effects of climate change are already very visible in the global south, it is therefore essential that we further intensify our cooperation with these countries.

Mr. Frieling, thank you for the interview. The interview was conducted by Monika Rech-Heider