The LIN City # 4 – Urban Simulation and Sustainability Innovations

How simulation tools and regional innovation ecosystems contribute to livable, smart and sustainable cities

The fourth online seminar collaboration with the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce on "LIN City" took place on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 and dealt with the topics of urban simulation and sustainability innovations. Prof. Dr. Volker Coors and Prof. Dr. Tobias Popović from the University of Applied Sciences presented their research in the iCity partnership and current findings.

Prof. Dr. Volker Coors

Prof. Dr. Volker Coors is the Scientific Director of the Institute for Applied Research and Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Surveying at the University of Applied Sciences. He spoke during the first block of the expert panel and discussed the possibilities offered by urban simulation tools with regard to sustainable urban development.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Popović

Prof. Dr. Tobias Popović is a Professor in the Department of Economics, Ethics Officer at the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences and Co-Director of the Center for Sustainable Business and Management. In the second block, he presented fundamental approaches for metropolitan regions as innovation ecosystems. Mr. Popović highlighted the transformative forces that can emanate from a region in questions of sustainability.

Following the expert panel, the round opened up for questions and comments from the total of 70 connected listeners.

Dr. Dirk Pietruschka, Managing Director and himself an active researcher in the iCity network, opened the event by presenting the central research areas and strategic goals of the iCity research partnership to those present. In particular, Mr. Pietruschka pointed out how iCity seeks to place the livable aspects of a city at the center of urban development and smart applications.

Using simulation tools to contribute to sustainable urban planning

Prof. Dr. Volker Coors then opened the expert panel. His presentation focused on the possibilities of urban simulation in the context of urban development. Using concrete examples from his research work, Prof. Coors demonstrated how simulation can support cities and planners in their everyday work by means of the tools developed within the framework of iCity. Based on the simulation environment SimStadt, it was demonstrated how integrated considerations can be made for new planning as well as for existing buildings and how information such as heat demand, PV potential or water demand can be determined from the individual building to the city level. This is made possible by sufficiently accurate CityGML data, which provide a 3D city model and thus contain information about building geometries, as well as climate models from local authorities, which are used as the basis for the calculations. The layout of a suitable district heating network can also be calculated using the application. For urban development, scenarios and recommendations for action, such as renovation roadmaps, can be derived using urban simulations. In response to a question, Prof. Coors pointed out that it is a matter of concern to his team to seek increased cooperation with municipalities. The application itself is provided free of charge by the HFT. At the end of his presentation, Prof. Coors emphasized the enormous opportunities that arise from the simulation of integrated scenarios, especially for early planning phases. In this way, a planning design and a technology mix can be achieved that will meet the demands and requirements of an urban neighborhood in the future.

Lively Q&A session on possibilities and limits of urban simulation

Audience questions regarding the extent to which dynamic wind simulations and the demands from sustainable mobility can already be taken into account in the simulation environment illustrate the depth of the examination of the topic. Prof. Coors was able to confirm the fundamental possibility of dynamic simulations, i.e. with expected measured values over a period of time. Limitations still arise due to the high computing power required for this. He referred to his team's experience with the calculation of wind potentials at the neighborhood level in steady-state mode (state at a point in time) and at the same time drew attention to the work of his colleague Ursula Voß, who is moving in the direction of dynamic simulations with her approaches and is already advancing this, among other things, through final theses. The implementation of road networks has also already been tested; with regard to knowledge gains for sustainable mobility offers, reference was made to the research in the corresponding iCity field of action Sustainable Mobility.

Metropolitan regions as drivers in major transformation processes

In the second expert panel of the evening, Prof. Dr. Tobias Popović took a look at the "Grand Challenges" or the major transformative challenges of our time. These include climate change, digitization and the energy and mobility transition, and their current intersections with global healthcare. The forecasts are underpinned annually by, among others, the Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum, to which Prof. Popović also referred: for 2021, four of the top five risks presented for the global population are in the context of climate change. From the point of view of economics, Prof. Popović said, this results in the so-called framework conditions of the VUKA world for economic action: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

The great transformation requires, in particular, steps towards a new way of doing business in order to achieve a decoupling of positive economic development from CO2 emissions. Many actionable areas lie within the framework of regional policy, for example, in the area of mobility.

So how can a metropolitan region like the Stuttgart Region tackle the transformation?

Prof. Popović sees part of the solution in dynamic, local innovation processes in which different players in a region – large, established companies as well as young start-ups and science – cross-fertilize each other. As Prof. Popović gathered from his own conference visits to Vancouver,  a clear stance and commitment from policymakers to such a path sets the course.

As a pathway to "good" economic action, he pointed to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a suitable framework. By operationalizing political as well as economic action along the SDGs, the influence of our actions could be positively and effectively shaped in ecological, social and also economic terms. The development of sustainable business models and the creation of new jobs in sustainability-relevant business areas were highlighted as central tasks of the economy, which could be advanced by promoting start-ups, among other things. Prof. Popović also presented applied universities as an important player in a regional innovation ecosystem: through transdisciplinary research and collaboration in Living Labs, well-founded scientific findings can be implemented in a marketable and useful way with partners in business and wider sections of civil society. In such processes, universities can additionally act as knowledge carriers who know and can communicate the different needs of the actors involved in the transformation process.

Role models already exist worldwide

Stuttgart could set a good example with a regional initiative. Internationally, Prof. Popović has seen some examples, which he presented to the panel. He was particularly impressed by the city of Vancouver in this regard. The region around Vancouver has been showing strong economic growth for many years. Politicians there launched a participatory, social dialog process early on, through which the city has placed itself on a sustainable foundation of values. Successful start-ups in the green jobs sector, Living Labs in conjunction with science, and a broader social discourse have emerged from this. As a result, future trends for the economy could be engaged with at an early stage. The entire region sees itself as an innovative, growing center, according to Prof. Popović impression on site. A creative and innovative atmosphere that serves as a role model for the Stuttgart region.

Prof. Popović viewed the University of Applied Sciences as being well on the way to achieving this. He referred to projects such as the iCity Innovation Hub and the means by which such a transformation process, especially in the area of the intelligent and sustainable city, could be initiated. Decision-makers in the regions have been given additional impetus to set the course for the future and make sustainable investments, for example, through action plans such as the EU's Green Deal. 

Through the joint event series of the IHK and the HFT Stuttgart on LIN City, our member companies gain exciting insights into current research topics. In addition, initial questions can be clarified within this framework, giving rise to perhaps even more in-depth collaborations.

Dipl.-Ing. Stefanie Rau,
Departement for Innovation, Technology transfer and digitization of the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Commerce

Overcoming obstacles – but how?

The subsequent round of questions revolved around the existing Living Lab approaches in the Stuttgart region and in particular, the obstacles to major economic transformation processes.

Research at the University of Applied Sciences has already gained some experience with transdisciplinary research projects. Some current projects follow a Living Lab approach, such as in the community of Wüstenrot, which is being supported by the HFT on its way to becoming a plus-energy community. It is up to universities not only be politically accountable but also to reduce barriers because teaching and transferring strengthens both knowledge and awareness in society, thereby reducing obstacles in the long term. More sharing of research with political decision-makers more could help set the right course.

The final open discussion focused on the concrete impact of the Corona pandemic on urban planning and the resultant vacancy rate, with the panel noting opportunities to combat the tense housing situation. With regard to the region as a driver of innovation for sustainable development, reference was also made once again to the role of technologies as "enablers" whose financial support should be promoted.

The "LIN City" series will continue on May 18, 2021. Information and the opportunity to register for the upcoming event will soon be made available from the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce (link: and at

iCity and IHK Region Stuttgart are pleased about the growing interest in HFT research and the great participation in the joint seminars. We look forward to welcoming you to our next event as well.

Publish date: 22. March 2021 By Niklas Uebel ()