The future of our cities

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Highway from above

The new millennium rang in the era of cities. For the first time in the history of mankind, the majority of the world's population lives in cities. It is expected that by 2025, a further billion people will live in cities compared to 2015. They all require electricity, clean water, safety, mobility, communication, wastewater and waste disposal. But the city infrastructures and resources in nearly all metropolises are already overburdened now. The sheer size of these cities alone becomes a risk to their citizens: In the event of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, they can no longer be evacuated extensively. Most city administrations in the world do not have enough time, resources and expertise to achieve a sustainable city development and infrastructure modernisation.

The City of Tomorrow

traffic jam

But German city researchers are nevertheless optimistic. They have developed innovative digital technologies and management strategies for smart cities. City planners across the world can use these to supply their population with what they need, reduce waiting times and trips to work, raise the levels of safety, quality of life and leisure time, and preserve resources.


Metropolises in Colombia gain points with their willingness to experiment and their colourful variety

German traffic researchers are seeking inspiration from Colombian megacities such as Bogotá, Calí and Medellín which have added some colour to their public transport, e.g. express buses, cable cars, Bici-taxis (bicycle rickshaws), rental bicycles and public as well as private taxis. In the absence of strict regulations, this mixture of informal and formal transport providers developed much more dynamically and with greater differentiation than in Germany, as if in fast motion in a real-life laboratory. The researchers of the campaign network MoviCi (Movilidad urbana en ciudades intelligentes) led by Mirko Goletz from the DLR Institute of Transport Research gained valuable findings from their experience of Colombia – such as how a greater variety of public transport providers could also work and be integrated in Germany.

Virtual planning provides better protection against hurricanes and terrorist attacks for US citizens and cities

In the USA, German researchers of the network TAURUS led by Daniel Hiller from the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics together with experts from Washington D.C., Boston and New York City have developed a pilot project to better protect people and infrastructures in the cities of the East Coast Metropolitan Area of the United States against the dangers of extreme events. Terrorist attacks, storms and floods have brought these cities to a halt repeatedly in the last few years. Their innovative planning tool allows German researchers to minimise the consequential damage of extreme events. This tool virtually measures the resistance of cities and identifies weaknesses in their infrastructure. City planners can thus include the aspects of safety and resilience when planning new buildings.

Introducing a sustainable planning culture in China

As part of the BMBF campaign, German and Chinese experts in China are swapping ideas on how to prevent unnecessary costs and save on resources when building hundreds of thousands of new houses in the growing megacities. Hoping to introduce a sustainable planning culture in China the German-Chinese information campaign GENIUS led by Dr. Dirk Schwede of University Stuttgart provides decision-makers with information about its benefits. According to scientific findings sustainable and needs-focused buildings offer more functionality and greater value for future users and help cut costs. So far, only very few young Chinese architects, who have studied “sustainable construction” at universities, get the opportunity to use their expertise and system knowledge in practice. Still today senior architects, owners and decision-makers focus on aesthetics and size rather than incorporating or paying for sustainable planning of individual buildings.


More information

"Shaping the Future – Building the City of Tomorrow"
The international BMBF campaign “Shaping the Future – Building the City of Tomorrow” will be running until July 2018 and offers 10 excellent research networks from Germany a platform to present their innovative projects for sustainable urban development abroad. It reaches out to connect strong partners from research, industry and municipalities around the world – for smart city solutions worldwide.


DLR Project Management Agency | European and International Cooperation

Jennifer Neumann
Heinrich-Konen-Str. 1
53227 Bonn
+49 (0)30 – 67055 9679