The battle for the title ‘Smart City’

The ‘Smart City’ competition is a joint initiative of the digital association Bitkom and the Deutsche Städte- und Gemeindebund with the aim of creating a digital model city with international appeal. The competition went from November 2016 to June 2017. In the multistage application process, Darmstadt was able to prevail with the best overall concept. From 2018, a broad alliance of more than 20 partner companies will support the digital expansion of Darmstadt pro bono with products and services worth double-digit millions.

Medium-sized cities with around 100,000 to 150,000 inhabitants were eligible to apply. In addition to the population size, the prerequisites were an urban character, good infrastructure connections and proximity to a university. What the Smart City looks like is largely determined by the local challenges and goals. This is why every city should submit its own concept for its ideas of the Smart City when applying.

In the first round, 14 cities applied: Bergisch Gladbach, Bremerhaven, Cottbus, Darmstadt, Göttingen, Gütersloh, Heidelberg, Jena, Kaiserslautern, Konstanz, Ludwigsburg, Paderborn, Ratingen and Wolfsburg.

The five-member jury evaluated the 14 cities on the basis of a points system that included the overall concepts submitted, the support of local stakeholders and the quality of local project management. The jury included Bitkom, Deutsche Telekom, SAP, Software AG, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Vodafone. The Deutsche Städte- und Gemeindebund was on hand to advise the jury. The five cities with the highest total score made it to the final round: Darmstadt, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Paderborn and Wolfsburg.

The competition then went into an individualisation phase which aimed at tailoring the companies’ digital offerings to the specific needs of the finalist cities. The mayors presented the finished concepts in a pitch in front of the audience and the jury in Berlin on 31 May.

12 June 2017


Science City Darmstadt won the ‘Smart City’ competition run by the IT industry association Bitkom in cooperation with the Deutsche Städte- und Gemeindebund (DStGB). Mayor Jochen Partsch accepted the certificate on Monday evening (12 June) at the Bitkom reception in Walldorf (Baden-Württemberg) for the Digital Summit 2017 of the Federal Government in Ludwigshafen by Federal Minister of Economics Brigitte Zypries and in the presence of the city’s Chief Digital Officer, Michael Waidner, from the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT and more than 20 other supporters, including the former president of the IHK and now Hesse’s Minister for Digital Strategy and Development Kristina Sinemus, Director of HEAG Holding AG, Klaus-Michael Ahrend, and Dieter W. Fellner, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD.

‘The result of years of pioneering thinking and preparatory work in order to become a pioneering Smart City for Europe.’

‘With Bitkom, an industry association has initiated such a far-reaching competition for the first time. The aim was to find the ideal pioneering city of the future for digital processes and services. Political guidelines did not play a role, but only hard facts. It was a long, intense, but always exciting competition that we took part in together with our colleagues from Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Paderborn and Wolfsburg, from which the Smart City Darmstadt is now emerged the winner. At the mayor’s pitch in Berlin on 31 May, we noticed that our concepts relating to implementation were well received. Ultimately, we showed that Darmstadt is able to stay on the ball until the very end in a national competition with international appeal and to win it.

But we will definitely stay in touch with the other cities that took part in the competition and continue to work together on issues of digitalisation,’ said Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch, pleased about the victory as Germany’s ‘Smart City’, emphasising: “Darmstadt has been a science city for 20 years. It is no coincidence that we have succeeded in becoming a Smart City for Germany and Europe in our anniversary year of all years. It is the result of years of pioneering thinking and preparatory work, for example, as a continental centre of cybersecurity. Digitalisation will not succeed without trust. Just as it is blue-eyed to turn a blind eye to the negative aspects of the digital transformation of society. But now we have the opportunity to test the future in Darmstadt and shape digitalisation instead of letting it happen to us. In doing so, we always keep an eye on the benefits for citizens. At the same time, we want to make the most of digital opportunities to organise everyday life in our growing city with scarce space and high traffic density even more efficiently than today. This is where digitalisation and ecology come together.’

A broad alliance of digital companies is taking part in the expansion of Darmstadt into a pioneering Smart City. They are supporting the project with products and services worth double-digit millions. Project management will start work as early as July. The first applications will follow next year. Lord Mayor Partsch thanked the supporters of Smart City Darmstadt: ‘I would like to thank all those in local politics and administration who have invested a lot of time, energy and enthusiasm into the competition over the past six months. This also applies to the very large number of partners and supporters who support us on our journey to Smart City Darmstadt. This includes the state of Hesse. It is one of the unique selling points of Darmstadt to have an innovative ecosystem of business, science, associations, politics, administration and citizens that cooperates extremely closely, quickly and with great level of trust. This is the only way to turn great ideas into reality.’

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