Urban Innovation Vienna Office Visit

The second day in Vienna was off to a great start for the global leaders with an office visit to Urban Innovation Vienna (UIV). This company is completely owned by the city of Vienna and their responsibility is to work with the municipality to implement smart city strategies within Vienna while also maintaining a certain level of social inclusion, quality of life and standard of sustainability. While our visit focused primarily on the work done by the Smart City Agency department, the company has two other departments: Energy Center and Future Cities.

The company presentation was conducted by Senior Expert of Smart City Agency, Nikolaus Summer. His previous experience with one of the largest urban development projects in Vienna proves to be a great asset in his current work as a Senior Expert where his responsibilities include governance coordination, stakeholder management, and project development.

To understand this company and what they do, it is important to understand the background behind what “smart city” means. A smart city is an urban area that uses technology and data to more effectively manage their resources and services. The ultimate goal is to improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint. In the case of Vienna, they are very proud of their current high quality of life and aim to maintain this quality through innovation and conservation. Collaboration with the citizens, businesses, and research institutions is essential to Urban Innovation Vienna to reach the goals they have set forth.

Vienna is an ideal city to implement these practices due to its density and size. A compact city means there are shorter distances for citizens to travel within the city, therefore they are more likely to walk or take public transportation rather than a car. The Smart City Agency recognized the importance of their public transportation system and was able to triple the number of public transit users by decreasing the cost to just one euro per day. Eventually, they hope to integrate public transportation with autonomous vehicles to further increase travel efficiency. And while the current population density is great for the travel incentives, the Smart City Agency hopes to increase the density and reduce urban sprawl by the use of social housing throughout the city. Social housing is currently used by 60% of Vienna’s population by citizens in both the lower and middle classes and can be an asset in increasing the city’s population density.

Throughout the presentation, Nikolaus stressed the importance of communication. They have faced many challenges in getting everyone within the city to open up and try new things, and with Vienna’s rich history citizens are reluctant to change. Funding can also be difficult, and implementing these smart city strategies is very expensive. Effective communication by Urban Innovation Vienna has led to increased conversation and awareness by the public and as a result a shift in their behavior and an acceptance of change. Other cities in Europe have become stagnant in their attempts to implement smart city strategies due to a lack of acceptance from the people, but UIV’s strategy and vision were created with the people in mind to be something they can believe and accept.

Thank you to Urban Innovation Vienna and Nikolaus Summer for hosting the global leaders in your office and for such an insightful presentation.

Blog by Calli Fletcher