Can the cities of the future become more sustainable by combining citizen-driven innovation with Smart City technology?

Aarhus has a leading role in a new large-scale EU project that will make cities of the future more sustainable by combining citizen-driven innovation with Smart City technology.

The EU project OrganiCity has a total budget of more than DKK 54 million and is undertaken jointly with, among others, Aarhus University and the Alexandra Institute from Aarhus as well as local authorities in London and Santander. Like Aarhus, both cities have experience from working with technological solutions in urban development.

Sustainable urban development
According to UN projections, the urban population will have doubled by 2050, and seven out of 10 people in the world will be living in cities.

This development is forcing cities to find the resources needed to accommodate all these people, and therefore cities like Aarhus, London and Santander are already focusing on using Smart City technology – in Aarhus via the partnership Smart Aarhus.

An important point in the OrganiCity project is that technological solutions can act as a platform for anybody interested in engaging actively in creating a sustainable and efficient urban environment.

Open Data
One way of involving citizens is by giving businesses, researchers and interested members of the public access to data about the urban environment which they can use to develop targeted solutions.

The City of Aarhus already has experience from making data available to the public via the Open Data Aarhus (ODAA) project, which, among other things, manages the Open Data Aarhus platform at This is one of the initiatives which the City of Aarhus is contributing to the project.

Citizen involvement
Involving citizens in development activities offers many advantages.

First, citizens – through their unique knowledge of their local communities – are an effective resource when it comes to addressing the specific problems they experience in their daily lives.

Secondly, the involvement of citizens in urban development creates a sense of ownership in relation to the activities taking place in the city. When projects are instigated by and for citizens, it strengthens their commitment to creating sustainable development.

Open calls
Out of the total project budget of slightly more than DKK 54 million, 25% has been allocated to open calls for ideas from stakeholders who have not been involved in the project from the outset.

The project has a total budget of DKK 54 million.

The City of Aarhus receives OrganiCity funding of EUR 150,000, which corresponds to approximately DKK 1,117,500 over three years.

Participation by the City of Aarhus
The City of Aarhus participates in OrganiCity on the basis of its work with Smart Aarhus and the Aarhus Open Data portal,

The City of Aarhus’ activities mainly centre on:

  • Involving and facilitating co-creation processes with citizens and creating an Aarhus Open Data community with relevant stakeholders. 
  • Being part of an international communications team disseminating information about Smart City and Open Data.
  • Contributing to the specification and validation of a technical co-creation platform.
  • Arranging two open calls together with citizens.
  • Developing and implementing a relevant business model.
  • Defining strategies for how the co-created experimental prototypes and solutions in OrganiCity can be made sustainable and/or contribute to the sustainability of the project.

Expected effect
Aarhus’ participation in OrganiCity will affect the city in the following ways:

  • Increased international branding in relation to Smart City initiatives.
  • Increased local branding in relation to Smart City initiatives.
  • Strengthening of Open Data activities in Aarhus and the rest of Denmark.
  • Possibility of new business initiatives based on digital economy and Open data.
  • Strengthened experience with citizen-driven innovation.

Project organisation
Aarhus cluster:

  • Aarhus University (overall project manager)
  • City of Aarhus
  • The Alexandra Institute

London cluster:

  • Future Cities Catapult
  • Intel UK
  • Imperial College London

Santander cluster:

  • Municipality of Santander
  • University of Cantabria
  • Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
  • TST Sistemas
  • Luleå University of Technology
  • Computer Technology Institute & Press – DIOPHANTUS, University of Lübeck
  • Commissariat á l’energie atomique et aux énergies alternatives, University of Melbourne

The project receives funding from:

  • The EU. Horizon2020.

Michelle Bach Lindstrøm

Read more on OrganiCity website