Urban Future - Research questions regarding the city of the future

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Elevation of research questions of the "Resource Efficient City of Tomorrow" and its impact to the Austrian research and technology policy
Urban Future
2009 - 2010
Ressourcen Management Agentur (RMA)
Unterstützt durch: 
Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (bmvit)

Project goal

The project goal is to raise and develop research questions on the "Resource-efficient city of the future". These questions should build the foundation for the strategic orientation of future agendas of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit).



It is expected, that cities for 2-3 billion people have to be built until 2050, most of them in developing countries and transition countries. Due to existing birth-rate trends, the world’s population is expected to reach its peak in 2060 and then will start to shrink again. In the year
2150 the world’s population will be only 5 billion people again. These developments challenge us to fundamentally rethink the way cities are designed.
Today, we live in yesterday’s cities. The current urban structure is largely based on the
cheap availability of resources like fossil fuels. Increasing resource depletion will result in
higher, more volatile prices and limited availability of indispensable resources, which will impose significant pressure on urban systems. Many technological solutions (e-mobility,…) on that problem carry a risk of reducing the dependency on fossil fuels but on the other hand
creating new dependencies on other scarce resources..

The changing demands on cities call for innovative approaches to city retrofit and city renewal. One of the central challenges is how to develop modern, efficient and forward-looking cities while remaining the charm and the heritage of the historically evolved cities.

The challenges of global urbanization generate a considerable demand on sustainable urban
solutions. Construction, maintenance and reconstruction of urban infrastructure are capitalintensive sectors. Thus the adaptation of the current infrastructure systems requires new business and financing models. In particular shrinking regions have huge problems in financing their infrastructure.

Sustainable urban development has to reduce urban resource consumption. The central
question is, how to satisfy human demands like nurture, work, communication or transportation in a resource efficient way.

The topic “city of the future” is a strategic topic for Austrian RDI-policies, which tackles central
societal issues. The bundling of existing R&D strengths (passive house technologies, environmental technologies, transportation technologies, energy technologies,…) in the focus
topic “city of the future” facilitates a converging development and allows the utilization of
synergies among the diversified competences of the Austrian R&D portfolio. The complexity
of urban systems and growing sustainability requirements call for integrative research, interand transdisciplinary cooperation and cooperative technology development. Thus efficient structures and an adequate framework have to be established, which support integrative research.

Austrian companies have technological knowhow in all relevant sectors, in some
subdomains, Austrian companies are even market leaders or technological leaders. It can be
concluded, that the fundamental scientific and technological requirements for an R&D focus
on the topic “city of the future” are fulfilled. Due to the complexity of the topic, strong international cooperation is recommended.

Ultimately, it can be concluded, that

  • urban technologies represent a large future market.
  • overall concepts and system solutions are increasingly important.
  • the demand is concentrated in cities.
  • system solutions require holistic approaches and have to fulfill sustainability criteria.
  • Austrian companies are already active in the market.
  • appropriate R&D subsidization would extend the lead of Austrian companies.