Northern Connections

New business plan in Aarhus with focus on Living Labs

18 November 2019 - Published by Anne Katrine Arentsen
The municipalities in Denmark are facing challenges from several major agendas – not least climate change. In response to the climate change challenge, the City Council has decided to make Aarhus CO2 neutral by 2030. In addition, the future will bring more elderly and disabled citizens who need care, as well as socially disadvantaged citizens and school-age children, while at the same time there will be fewer people on the labour market to pay the taxes that finance welfare.

In the Interreg North Sea Region Project, Northern Connections, we have been working with Living Labs and their focus on challenges rather than solutions. And in Aarhus, we believe that all municipal services, from waste management to energy systems to welfare services, can be made more efficient through the use of new technology and smart solutions. With our new strategy for Smart Aarhus, we will make Aarhus a partner for development, test and implementation, for example through our city labs and test facilities, in order to make sure that choosing the right technology doesn’t become difficult and expensive.

One good example is Aarhus City Lab, where entrepreneurs and others can test their Smart City products before they are implemented in real-world applications. In this way, the City Lab makes it possible to work with innovative and experimental solutions and ideas in the early phases of idea generation. But at the same time, the area can also serve as a dress rehearsal for Smart City solutions on a larger scale. This means that the center can both serve as a space for developing new Smart City concepts and for putting the last touches on fully developed solutions that are close to being ready to benefit the entire city outside the lab.

One solution being tested at the City Lab right now is sensors for monitoring urban air quality. The focus is on air and noise pollution through the measurement of particle size and noise levels. This will allow us to inform local residents about particularly high concentrations of pollutants, for example, or a high level of UV radiation on a sunny day.

Another Living Lab is the municipal health and care hotel Vikærgården, which has been serving as a test facility for healthcare and rehabilitation welfare technology solutions for several years.

The point of departure for new technology is the municipality’s needs and challenges, not the solutions that are already available on the market. In this way, we can also become a stronger driver for innovation, which in turn will strengthen business development, with export opportunities for the companies involved.

The new business plan for Aarhus, "Partnerships for Sustainable Growth", aims to foster the use of these city labs and Living Labs as tools to promote business development. However, this requires the development and prioritization of a tradition for risk-taking in the test and maturation phases as well as the implementation phase, and that greater use is made of a 'trial and error' approach. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the innovative solutions must have a good business model for the City of Aarhus, on account of the financial challenges we face in our performance of the statutory municipal services and tasks.