Science City Darmstadt focuses on Smart Water – a project for water, integrated urban development and climate resilience.

Darmstadt’s water management is getting smart. Under the project title “Smart Water”, a major collaboration project involving many Darmstadt stakeholders from science, business and interest groups was launched this week. Darmstadt’s water management system is becoming smart. This week, a major collaboration project was launched, called Smart Water, with many Darmstadt stakeholders from academia, business and interest groups. They are now developing ideas on how Darmstadt’s water capacity can be managed more intelligently than ever before. By offering a wide range of opportunities to participate, Darmstadt residents will also be encouraged to develop ideas for their city’s smart water.

‘Smart Water Darmstadt is a new measure for a climate-resilient city,’ explained Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch at the online kick-off event: ‘We currently have a new record in Hesse with almost 200 hours of sunshine in March and, at the same time, the very worrying negative value of just seven litres of rainwater per square metre. Water is an essential basis of existence – and it is disappearing more and more. So over the next five years, we will be rethinking our water management and investing €14.7 million in funding raised from the “Smart Cities made in Germany” programme into one of the most important climate issues of our time: water. To this end, we are combining our digital and climate target strategies more strongly than ever before – with the aim of generating resilience.’

The issue is complex. After all, Lord Mayor Partsch went on to say, it is not a matter of finding that there is no rain. Rather, it is a matter of designing and implementing specific measures. How can we better manage this dwindling resource? Where is there still untapped potential for water extraction? Three focus groups were presented for this purpose. Their task is to formulate water-related challenges and devise strategies for overcoming them. Their core tool for this is digital and other innovative technologies. These technologies can be used to work on multidimensional issues and simulate solution scenarios in order to determine, for example, what needs to change during sustained dry periods in the future. In recent years, Smart City Darmstadt and other city management companies have been able to gain experience with digital concepts in order to manage public services more intelligently; for instance, waste, public transport and the energy supply of street lights. Together with the Office for Economic Affairs and Urban Development, Smart City Darmstadt and Heag Holding are therefore responsible for this project.

‘Climate change has long since arrived in Darmstadt and the state authorities are forecasting even longer periods of drought, increased heat and less precipitation,’ explained Environmental Officer Michael Kolmer. ‘We need clever solutions to become more climate-resilient in what is already an acute situation. Our starting position for this is good. Thanks to our integrated climate protection concept, we have made climate protection our top priority and can quickly tackle the issue of smart water.’

How can rainwater be better used? Can wells and cisterns be revived or modernised? Is it possible to reduce the water consumption of every household and at the same time water public green spaces intelligently so that flora and fauna can grow, thrive and cool despite periods of drought? How can cooling effects be generated with reflective and heated facades in urban centres? Is it possible to divert exactly that energy? And how can corrosion and other effects in the sewer system be prevented during heavy rain events if it has previously been dry for a long time? Can water masses from hail and heavy rain be stored? These and many other questions will be discussed by the focus groups in workshops until autumn this year. The groups bring together representatives with relevant prior knowledge from science, business, city administration and management, as well as civil stakeholders. Head of Digitalisation and Education in Darmstadt, Holger Klötzner, will also be there: ‘Digitalisation helps us to control technically complex processes more intelligently. In the coming months, we hope to receive a lot of impetus from the focus groups and residents of Darmstadt for the intelligent use of water in our city. We will then implement many of the citizen- and focus-group approaches from 2023 onwards.’


Smart Water Darmstadt – smart city projects for integrated urban development and climate resilience is being implemented in the context of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) funding line ‘Smart Cities Model Projects’ and ‘Smart Cities made in Germany’. The goal is to build climate-resilient structures in Darmstadt with the help of digital and smart applications. Against the backdrop of increasing droughts and heavy rain events, the focus is on the topic of ‘water in the city’. The project aims to be holistic, collaborative and socially acceptable. It thereby supports Darmstadt’s integrated urban development and network city character.

Data is the raw material of the 21st century. The ability to process data is therefore essential for future viability. For cities, this means that they have to collect and evaluate data – even beyond the administrative work for its residents.

Urban data processing will then be an important driver of urban development in all its sectors and, in this role, just as interesting for urban planners as the local economy, for example. Members of the latter group were invited to the ‘table’ by the Smart City on 25 November 2021. Letztere wurde am 25.11.2021 von der Digitalstadt zu Tisch gebeten.

Recording the latest data quickly

More than 45 entrepreneurs from Darmstadt and the surrounding area came together for the Smart City Round Table online event. The central point of discussion was the Darmstadt data platform. It has been online since the beginning of 2021 and presents data about the city in graphs that are quick and easy to understand. The latest traffic volumes can be viewed at as well as data on air quality and the latest coronavirus case figures. And this is just the beginning. The data platform is currently being developed intensively and many other applications and graphics are possible. What might be relevant for business representatives was discussed at the round table.

Boosting cooperation

Die Datenplattform erfülle gleich mehrere Aufgaben, so David da Torre, Geschäftsführer der Digitalstadt Darmstadt GmbH und Projektleiter der städtischen Datenplattform. Sie stelle nicht nur die Zusammenhänge von einzelnen öffentlichen Datensätzen her, wie beispielsweise die visualisierte Veränderung von Umweltqualitätsdaten durch das Verkehrsaufkommen; die Datenplattform vernetze darüber hinaus die Akteur:innen hinter den Daten. „Was das bedeutet, äußert sich in der vereinfachten und schnelleren Kommunikation und effizienteren Abläufen der Inter-Amt-Arbeit“, so da Torre weiter. „Wir generieren nicht mehr einfach nur Daten in Darmstadt, sondern wir setzen sie in Kontext zueinander, verarbeiten sie, werten sie aus und erhalten dadurch neue oder vertiefte Erkenntnisse zu stadtplanerischen Fragestellungen. Die Datenplattform entwickelt sich damit zu einem Herzstück der Digitalstadt Darmstadt.“

The platform is still in its infancy. This is because a whole range of use cases are not yet visible, but are currently being worked on. After all, the platform will have numerous themed cockpits that provide an even more comprehensive insight into a particular topic. For example, the topic of the energy transition should soon be ready for examination: a graph will display real-time energy consumption broken down into private households, municipalities and industry. Another graph will show the share of renewables in 15-minute intervals, and there will be map views with information on charging-station infrastructure, public transport capacities, sharing offers and much more.

More information thanks to more cockpits

In other words, the urban data cockpit has so much potential that it can also enrich the local economy. As a result, the participants shared many use cases that they would like to see online. Mobility was one of the main points. Parking space utilisation, route situations and green mobility were mentioned, as was park-and-ride in connection with multimode transport services. Infrastructure and buildings were another topic, such as data on the housing and rental situation as well as information on structural elements of the urban area, such as the number and location of trees, construction sites and solar cells.

By the end of the evening, the hosts of the round-table discussion – the House of Digital Transformation e.V., IT FOR WORK e.V. and Digitalstadt GmbH – were delighted with the great response to the platform: ‘We hope that the Smart City’s information processing of urban data will be a valuable advantage for Darmstadt as a business location, allowing it to continue to grow and flourish.’

It was four years ago that Science City Darmstadt set out to turn into a digital city. This goal was supported by the state of Hesse, both as an idea and financially. As 2021 draws to a close, the state’s financial support is coming to an end, and so Smart City Darmstadt took stock of the situation at a virtual press conference today together with Hessian Minister for Digital Strategy and Development Prof. Kristina Sinemus, Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch and Darmstadt’s Chief Digital Officer Prof. Michael Waidner.

‘Since winning the title “Digital City” in 2017, Darmstadt has made the best possible investments in the future. And that’s not all. With a broad strategic approach, the state funding of five million euros was used wisely, enabling almost all areas of municipal activity to achieve a measurable boost in development. It is particularly noteworthy that the city’s inhabitants were not presented with a finished outcome, but were involved in a comprehensive and transparent process. This approach is entirely in line with the digital strategy of the state of Hesse, according to which digitalisation must not be an end in itself and whose focus is on people. Congratulations on a job well done to all those involved! It wasn’t an easy project, but it was worth it,’ explained Hesse’s Digital Minister Prof. Kristina Sinemus.

The minister also stressed that Darmstadt had developed into a model municipality for Hesse and the federal government. Transferring the findings and solutions from Darmstadt to other Hessian municipalities had been considered right from the start of the funding period, with the aim of developing the whole of Hesse into a smart region.

Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch added: : ‘We set out in 2017 to become Smart City Darmstadt, for which there were no urban planning blueprints from other cities or communities at the time. Back then, as pioneers, we set ourselves the goal of digitalising the provision of our public services in the interests of the city’s residents and creating a European counter-model to the Asian smart city. As a result, we have succeeded in establishing digital sovereignty, and we have also been able to achieve tangible added value for our ecological, economic and social goals with digitalisation. Things like intelligent waste disposal and traffic management using AI, as well as digital media education, have appeared on the agenda of other municipalities. Looking back, what really pleases me is the fact that our idea of using digitalisation as an urban planning tool has become very successful. We are using digital applications to make Darmstadt even more liveable – and have thus become the first blueprint for other municipalities. An important element in achieving this was the financial and personal support of the state of Hesse, for which I would again like to express my thanks.’

One of the secrets of the successful strategy, Partsch continued, is Darmstadt’s rigorous approach, whereby digitalisation projects are not implemented in a city’s historically established structures, but instead have to operate in a networked way between the administration and city management. This happened in 14 urban action areas and the state funding supported 20 projects. ‘As a result, we achieved a great deal – for example, being the first city ever to be able to work with a fully productive data platform. It links city data from the various offices, partly in real time, and enables faster and, above all, more targeted action to address challenges in mobility chains or environmental issues, for example.’

In addition to all of the project work, an important step in Darmstadt’s development into a beacon of digital urban development was the establishment of the Ethics and Technology Advisory Board, as CDO Prof. Michael Waidner further explained: ‘The ethical guidelines are another recipe for success in our history of digitalisation. They enable a high level of acceptance of technology in society and the economy, thus paving the way for a future in which Darmstadt can react quickly to change and accommodate and deploy new technologies and applications. The projects and laboratories also complement Darmstadt’s profile as a city of science with its strong research institutions, such as the Technical University of Darmstadt and other universities, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, GSI, ESA/ESOC institutes and, of course, the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE, the largest research centre of its kind in Europe. The aim of Smart City activities is always to focus on the benefits for the city’s inhabitants. This approach has become widely established, and we now know that other cities and communities are embracing our principles when they start their own digitalisation work.’

Smart City Darmstadt’s success story is not coming to an end. The established structures, which now include Smart City Laboratory, are being continued as part of the nationwide ‘Smart Cities made in Germany’ funding scheme of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). Focal points of future Smart City development include climate resilience and water management in Science City Darmstadt. The strategy phase for the new funding has already begun in 2021 and will continue to work out what will be undertaken in the new funding period of seven years with a financial volume of €13.3 million.

Smart City Darmstadt remains at the top of the Smart City ranking published today by Bitkom e.V. Darmstadt has placed fifth among the smartest cities in Germany. In doing so, it continues along its successful course with a comprehensive strategy for digitalisation.

Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch: ‘Our approach is to use digitalisation to help us solve the key future problems of urban spaces such as the mobility revolution, climate neutrality and participation in the interests of the people of our city. The current ranking values Darmstadt’s approach to understanding the digitalisation process comprehensively and sustainably and in a participatory and ethically sound way.’

Der Smart City Index zeichnet ein umfassendes und detailliertes Bild des Digitalisierungsstandes deutscher Städte. In den fünf Hauptkategorien Verwaltung, Energie und Umwelt, IT und Kommunikation, Mobilität sowie Gesellschaft wurden 133 Vergleichsparameter für die Bewertung herangezogen. Die Digitalstadt Darmstadt forciert Digitalisierungsprojekte in insgesamt 14 Bereichen der kommunalen Daseinsvorsorge und hat somit ein umfassendes Portfolio, das sogar weit über die Kategorien des Index hinausgeht. Die Veränderungen im Ranking gegenüber dem letzten Jahr zeigen die enorme Dynamik in dem Thema Digitalisierung in der Daseinsvorsorge, lässt der Bitkom verlauten. „Die erneut sehr gute Platzierung im Ranking ist für uns Lob, aber auch Ansporn zugleich, unseren Weg in der Digitalisierung konsequent weiterzuverfolgen“, resümiert Jochen Partsch.

Background #SmartCityIndex Bitkom

Bitkom e.V. has been compiling the SmartCityIndex for three years. This ranking on the digitalisation of cities and regions in Germany will be presented at the Smart Country Convention in Berlin on 27 October 2021.

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Whether technically, linguistically, artistically or just for fun, continuing education makes sense in many ways – and awakens undiscovered potential. Hardly anyone knows this better than the educators at the Volkshochschule Darmstadt (vhs), who deal with lifelong learning in adulthood. Together with Smart City Darmstadt, the vhs (adult education centre) is now publishing the Digital Education Pathfinder Darmstadt. ‘This new portal is an ever-expanding offer for professional and vocational, voluntary and recreational education in Darmstadt, which we hope will be actively used,’ explains Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch about the new online education offer. ‘It’s motivating to look something up in this educational guide and see what you can learn in Darmstadt, a city of science and culture.’ explains Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch about the new online education offer. ‘It’s motivating to look something up in this educational guide and see what you can learn in Darmstadt, a city of science and culture.’

vhs Director Dr Monika Krutsch explains: ‘In the Science City Darmstadt, with its many cultural institutions, museums and clubs, so much expertise also lies dormant outside of the typical educational institutions. Unfortunately, far too few people realise that.’ This is precisely why vhs has developed the Digital Education Pathfinder together with Smart City Darmstadt. vhs Director Dr Monika Krutsch explains: ‘In the Science City Darmstadt, with its many cultural institutions, museums and clubs, so much expertise also lies dormant outside of the typical educational institutions. Unfortunately, far too few people realise that.’ This is precisely why vhs has developed the Digital Education Pathfinder together with Smart City Darmstadt. The platform is the right place to go (online) for anyone who wants to catch up on school-leaving qualifications, or anyone who is looking for skills for work, (vocational) training or studies, or who wants to learn a language or do something completely different. Maybe a mosaic class or a memory-training course? The portal should also be the first stop for anyone who wants to learn how to acquire the skills to become a volunteer in a hospital (a ‘Green Lady’) or to become qualified as a telephone counsellor. From now on, Darmstadt’s Digital Education Pathfinder will present the wide range of educational opportunities in Darmstadt in an easily accessible way.

The online platform was developed with the support of h_da researchers Dr Pia Sue Helferich and Dr Werner Storck from the departments of administration and online communication, who thought about the prerequisites, expectations and intentions of an educational pathfinder. In summary, education for work and leisure time is an attractive mix for an educational portal. What’s more, the offerings should be categorised according to city districts so that users can navigate the site quickly and easily. And so 45 educational providers from Darmstadt are already taking part in the launch of the platform. ‘Online portals such as the Education Pathfinder would be inconceivable without digitalisation. If you were to print a kind of telephone book with all the courses, seminars and educational opportunities in Darmstadt, it would be immensely cumbersome and more difficult to update than an online tool. That’s why, as a digital city, we are naturally keen to create lasting clarity and transparency about our offerings in Darmstadt with projects such as the Digital Education Pathfinder,’ says Simone Schlosser, managing director of Smart City Darmstadt.

Users can expect a clear and straightforward structure at in which they can find educational offerings using the slide function. Providers of educational opportunities are encouraged (effective immediately and for the future) to use the Education Pathfinder to advertise their offerings and to fill in the database so that the people of Darmstadt can benefit as much as possible from their city of science and culture. The portal is being developed with the financial support of the state of Hesse. Hessian Minister for Digital Strategy and Development, Prof. Kristina Sinemus, explains: ‘Lifelong digital learning is the prerequisite for a good life in the digital future. But we are already expected to have digital skills. That is why I am extremely pleased about the fact that a pathfinder is now available to the Darmstadt area, helping people to navigate through the jungle of offers out there and presenting the regional opportunities for strengthening digital skills. This complements the state-wide overview that we offer on the “” website very well. Adult education centres are important players in lifelong learning, including with regard to digital education. The Pathfinder will make it even easier for Darmstadt residents to take action and improve their own skills.’

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It is omnipresent and yet sometimes goes completely unnoticed. Or it hasn’t even come to mind yet: digitalisation. Science City Darmstadt has been home to it for some time now, as Darmstadt is the flagship digital city model of ‘Smart City made in Germany[1]. But even in one of the most digitally savvy cities in Hesse, there are people who have had few or no touch points with digitalisation at all. That is about to change. The creators of Smart City Laboratory Darmstadt, the latest project of Smart City Darmstadt, have set out – on electric cargo bike – to report to the local people on digitalisation in a very personal way and with a keen sense of the target group. The first presentation took place yesterday at the Darmstädter Werkstätten und Wohneinrichtungen (EDW), an institution for people with disabilities. Darmstadt’s Lord Mayor Jochen Partsch and Social Affairs Director Barbara Akdeniz welcome the commitment of Smart City Darmstadt and thank the stakeholders of the Smart City Laboratory.

‘The Darmstadt Smart City Laboratory has the task of making the difficult topic of digitalisation come to life. For this reason, the Smart City, as the initiator of the City Laboratory, has already offered many online events in the past year, which are now also entering the analogue world with the mobile version of the City Laboratory. We do not want to and must not leave digitalisation in the digital space,’ explains Lord Mayor and Head of Digital Affairs Jochen Partsch. Barbara Akdeniz adds: ‘It is important for us to involve all the people of Darmstadt in this issue. After all, digitalisation must not be difficult or incomprehensible, as it is currently the biggest transformation of our society, and for us that means embracing the digital world for everyone.’

And that’s exactly what the EDW residents did – along with their carers and other EDW employees who listened to the Mobile City Laboratory team’s presentations. They were amazed when the project group playfully showed how digital assistants can be used in the everyday lives of people with disabilities and what help apps on smartphones and tablets can provide. The fact that the WWW search not only works by entering a question into an internet browser, but that Alexa, Siri and Co are also able to answer the questions, fascinated the EDW audience in particular. Simone Schlosser, managing director of Smart City Darmstadt: ‘The Smart City Laboratory is a real collaboration project in which many different players from Darmstadt’s institutions participate and volunteer. They, like us, are keen to communicate digitalisation in a low-threshold and comprehensible way – to all people. After many weeks and months of exclusively digital communication, we now finally have an analogue instrument again to position our topic with the Mobile City Laboratory and are delighted that EDW wants to book our offer again.’

The Smart City Laboratory is financially supported by the state of Hesse. Hessian Minister for Digital Strategy and Development Prof. Kristina Sinemus: : ‘As a state government, our residents are central to us when it comes to digitalisation. The benefits of digitalisation must be clearly visible and bring added value. We have to and want to involve everyone in this, from schoolchildren and professionals to senior citizens. The City Laboratory is a great example of digital participation in practice. This digital participation and the involvement of residents is also something I care about very much!’


‘Data and information are an essential resource of the information society. As a result, there is a growing desire among business, academia and civil society to have more and easier access to public administration data. Many specialist departments of Science City Darmstadt already make data and information available to the public. The provision of open data is an appropriate means to better respond to the growing demand for data and information, to promote transparency and to stimulate knowledge and innovation processes.’

The adopted open-data strategy creates a basis for the systematic provision of administrative data for Science City Darmstadt. The adopted open-data strategy creates a basis for the systematic provision of administrative data for Science City Darmstadt. It is guided by best practices in order to participate in the experiences of other municipalities. The guiding principle is to understand the handling and provision of open data as a learning system in which processes are continuously monitored and improved. The available resources must be sufficient for sustainable operations, which requires pragmatic thinking and actions. For this reason, the aim is not to provide as much data as possible, but rather to concentrate on important databases for users and to permanently keep them up to date.

The open data of the city of Darmstadt should be made available to its users in a machine-readable and easily accessible manner and be permanent and free of charge. Personal data or data subject to confidentiality cannot be made available as open data. The open data of the city of Darmstadt is all made available to its users centrally via the open-data platform of the City of Science. A centralised data offering promotes the traceability of data and helps to secure and comply with uniform standards for data provision. In future, the open-data platform will be linked to the recently launched data platform of Digitalstadt Darmstadt GmbH and will be an important data provider for applications placed there.

The open-data strategy was developed by the Statistics and Urban Research departments in cooperation with the IT department of Science City Darmstadt and with the support of Digitalstadt GmbH. Accordingly, the Statistics and Urban Research departments will in future be responsible for the open administrative data, while the IT department will be responsible for the technical aspects of the open-data platform.

Once a municipal ‘Open Data’ officer has been appointed, the strategy will be implemented step by step in cooperation with the individual departments of the city administration. An ‘Open Data’ working group from the central departments for the topic will also meet under their leadership in order to strategically and organisationally support the process around the provision of open data.

Field of action