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The Leipzig Lab: What Cities Can Learn From Germany’s Pioneering Smart City







The Leipzig Lab: What Cities Can Learn From Germany’s Pioneering Smart City

Published: 2023/09/14

6 min read

Around the world, public sector employees and private citizens are pushing for initiatives that boost quality of life, increase the efficiency of urban infrastructures and services, create economic opportunities, provide cost-effective energy solutions and deliver social, cultural and entertainment options.  

Innovation is key to these efforts, as is the role of emerging technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), data science, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded software. Indeed, the technological aspect of this development has led to the terms ‘smart city’, ‘digital city’, ‘intelligent city’ and ‘wired city’, as municipal governments deploy solutions that gather electronic data from citizens, cars and other devices to manage resources more effectively. While encouraging sustainability and enriching the well-being of residents are driving factors, there are financial motivations as well. Statista reports that global revenue from smart city projects will reach $89 billion USD by the end of 2023. Moreover, revenue is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.3%, meaning a market volume in 2028 will top $165.80 billion USD. 

Though the rewards are high, beginning the process of becoming a smart city can be a daunting task. What can civic and business leaders learn from the success of Leipzig? How important is finding digital transformation partners to team up with? Read on to find out. 

Smart Infrastructure Hub Leipzig

One of the first steps to take in the journey to becoming a smart city is to unite various groups who share this vision. In Leipzig’s case, this meant gathering the many corporations, startups and research institutions that are based there under the same umbrella – Smart Infrastructure Hub Leipzig. This innovation hub, which fosters collaboration across industries, provides networking opportunities and promotes knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas.  

For the people involved, smart infrastructure means innovation in socially relevant areas, in particular energy, smart city policies and eHealth. While this community is made of Leipzig-based organizations, it also receives project proposals from startups from around the world. Together with its partners, the Smart Infrastructure Hub selects the projects that are the most innovative and exciting. These projects receive assistance for six months in areas like market introduction and financing, which includes support with venture capital, funding programs and establishing contacts with relevant companies and investors. 

Gathering leading minds is both important for Leipzig’s needs and completely in character with the city’s past. Beyond being one of the fastest growing cities in Germany, with an annual population growth of 2%, Leipzig’s reputation as a center of learning and technology dates back centuries. It is both a city with a history spanning over 1,000 years and one of the youngest cities in Germany that is growing at a dynamic pace. While the Smart Infrastructure Hub is a modern take on an age-old tradition, it is by no means the only exciting initiative in Leipzig. 

Connected urban twins

Funded by the German government, the connected urban twins (CUT) program is a smart city model project that connects the cities of Hamburg, Munich and Leipzig. This tri-city partnership enables extensive knowledge exchanges between these cities and ensures that solutions can be implemented further afield than the city from which they developed. 

Launched in 2021 and set to run until the end of 2025, the CUT program receives €21 million from the German Federal government and an additional €11 million from the three participating cities. Currently, 70 specialists work with 73 model project smart cities, with a project volume of €32.4 million. The overall goal of the program is to develop urban digital twins for an integrated urban development that produce digital representations of the cities involved so that hypothetical situations can be played out, analyzed and used to influence planning decisions. There are five key areas: 

Urban data platforms and digital twins: Providing the infrastructure for urban digital twins and making data available via interfaces that increase participation and drive decision-making processes, while supporting cities’ data sovereignty. 

Urban development use cases: Integrating digital solutions, eliminating data silos, deploying sensor technology in urban environments, adopting analytical tools, conducting real-time simulations and involving external stakeholders. 

Urban awareness and participation: Moving residents’ engagement from analogue to digital formats to increase involvement through a digital participation system (DIPAS). In Leipzig, a great example is the redevelopment of the churchyard of St. Matthew’s. 

Experimental urban research: Exploring ways to support new digital tools through urban research so that policies are more adaptable to dynamically changing forces (economic, social and environmental). 

Replications and knowledge transfer: Documenting and sharing information to increase engagement and facilitate duplication of successful strategies. 

Transformation goals 

Leipzig, like many cities, has ambitious plans to increase its sustainability and improve the quality of life for its residents.  One of the biggest goals, outlined in Leipzig’s Mobility Strategy 2030, is to become carbon neutral by 2040, which would be ten years before the European Union’s goal. In its quest to have an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, Leipzig plans, over the next two decades, to reduce CO2 emissions from 5.18 tons per capita to 0.25 tons. 

On a broader scale, the German government also aims to pursue a policy that focuses on climate-friendly gas as a way of reducing pollution. Its National Hydrogen Strategy calls for increased hydrogen investment as a viable means of protecting the environment, creating new jobs and securing a safe, reliable energy supply. Significant work is already underway – by 2027-2028, a network of 1,800 kilometers of hydrogen pipelines (either new or repurposed) will be in place throughout Germany. Of course, there are other options worth considering, including smart grids and intelligent devices, which have been proven solutions for improving the performance and efficiency of energy suppliers. 

Technology will play a huge role in helping Leipzig further cement itself as a model smart city. Take for example AI, which offers striking opportunities, especially in terms of data analysis. Beyond extracting meaningful insights from vast datasets and summarizing findings in a concise, coherent way, AI tools can be hugely beneficial in identifying patterns that can drive municipal decisions. Additionally, AI can provide automated updates, analyze residents’ behaviors and preferences and screen datasets for specific information – all huge time savers that enable public servants to focus on more high-level tasks.  

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Another area where AI offers support is research and development, which is a significant aspect of Leipzig’s smart city policy. Along with accelerating ideation processes and generating potential solutions, AI technologies can review and summarize materials so that staff can save time and still stay up to date with the latest developments. Importantly, AI can speed up exploration stages by generating and testing scenarios, while predicting future outcomes.   

Turning digital transformation plans into reality 

Leveraging emerging technologies, of course, comes with challenges. Even if you have the right AI experts to design, develop and deploy solutions, this technology often relies on embedded systems. For example, embedded software supports the censors that collect data and transmit it to AI so that action can be taken. This is why any technological steps need to be supported by a cross-functional team of experts with AI, cloud and embedded systems experience. 

Cognizant of the importance of developing a network that attracts and encourages innovation, Leipzig is active in supporting diverse organizations and forming partnerships with business and tech leaders. One example is SMILE – the University Startup network, which supports students, graduates and research assistants in any field who want to establish a business. Another is SpinLab, an incubator that helps innovative tech startups. The pursuit of forming tech partnerships extends far beyond Leipzig’s city limits. Invest Region Leipzig is an economic development agency that helps businesses, from across Europe and the world, set up operations in the region. Representatives of Invest Region Leipzig, along with Clemens Schulke, Leipzig’s Deputy Mayor for Economics, Labor and Digitalization and Dr. Gabriele Goldfuss, Director of International Affairs for the city of Leipzig, visited Software Mind’s office in Krakow as part of their efforts to build ties with innovative partners who want to create solutions that improve people’s lives.  

Leipzig’s leaders are looking for a proven digital transformation partner that has expertise in implementing emerging technologies, from cloud and AI to embedded systems and IoT technologies. Beyond technical competences, Software Mind, with an office in Leipzig and five development labs just across the border in Poland, understands the challenges German organizations face and has the specialists to deliver customized solutions. To find out more about operations in Germany and how we can support your digital transformation, fill out the contact form. 

About the authorAleksandra Dramska-Manterys

Business Development Manager

A Business Development Manager experienced in creating growth-driven business strategies and increasing operational excellence, Aleksandra has supported organizations across various industries in finding trusted solutions and skilled development teams to address their specific challenges. An active interest in emerging technologies and a deep understanding of the energy market enable Aleksandra to build strong relationships with clients and identify the right services that meet their business goals and customer expectations.

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