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Through Innovation to Sustainable Solutions for Urban Hubs

BRIDGE for Cities Features Vienna as Best Practice Example for Innovative Urban-Industrial Solutions

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals,
 Oct 2018

Vienna, October 17, 2018 - Organized conjointly by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the “Finance Center for South-South Cooperation (FCSSC)”, the 3rd  “BRIDGE for Cities - Belt and Road Initiative: Developing Green Economies for Cities” event, which took place in Vienna from October 9-11th, 2018, aimed to promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by bringing together municipal officials and urban infrastructure stakeholders to present their inclusive and sustainable urban and industrial development initiatives.

The ultimate goal of the event was the creation of networks to facilitate cooperation, technology exchanges and partnerships between the case cities as well as with other cities along the Belt and Road region and beyond. On the second day of the event, four case cities – Trieste, Shanghai, Vienna and Chengdu – all of them selected through a careful nomination process following a member-state briefing - presented their individual solutions to concrete urban-industrial development challenges and problems.

Trieste – Urban Port and Regional Hub

In the case of Trieste, the main focus of the presentation was put on establishing a connection between the city’s role in the past as a Mediterranean region hub and gateway to Southern and Eastern Europe to the present, when the city is once again striving to establish itself as a regional center, a commercial and distribution hub and one-stop-shop for trade and transport, both by ship and by rail, within the wider context of the BRI project.

However, as the presentations showed, Trieste aims at expanding this traditional role and supplementing it through what was called a “gray revolution” – “gray” referring to the brain – a revolution that will transform Trieste to a center of science and innovation. In this respect, the experts from Trieste referred to the AREA Science Park – a high-tech research park built with the purpose of providing a link between the business community and the many high-level international scientific institutions in the city. It is now the most important multi-sector science park in Italy and one of the foremost in Europe.

Italy, and particularly the region Trieste Friuli-Venezia is also a hub of sustainable transportation into various European countries and cities, outlined the speakers and referred in this regard to CNH Industrial as one of the world's largest capital goods companies with offices worldwide and under financial control of the Italian investment company Exor. The trucks, commercial vehicles, buses, and special vehicles CNH Industrial produces also contribute to a circular economy. Through their use of natural gas and bio fuel, for instance in IVEC buses, the company pursues the goal of achieving sustainability through low-emission mobility. The city also introduced its various train projects that strive to move transport and logistics away from the streets and onto the rails. The “Cross-Moby Project” connects Italy with Slovenia and the “MI.CO.TRA Project” refers to the direct connection between Italy and Austria. Through implementation of the DAFI Directive, the EU Deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure, Trieste seeks to connect its ambition of boosting trade – by providing modern research, innovation, and logistics infrastructure – with the overarching goal of achieving sustainability through low-emission and slow mobility.

Smart City Shanghai – Towards Smart Productivity and Trade

The second case city, Shanghai, presented its master plan for a smart city environment to be generated through a heavy focus on technological advancement – so-called 4.0 technologies - and innovative industries and their potential to unlock new possibilities for SMEs and young entrepreneurs in urban areas. Shanghai’s development towards a smart city relies heavily on AI – artificial intelligence – and its potential in areas such as medical care, finance, transportation, and community.

A leader in technological innovation, China has established global offices for its Belt and Road Initiative that coordinate the respective activities of the initiative around the world. On the path towards digital transformation, Xcite Systems Corporation plays a major role in China, and particularly in Shanghai. Dedicated to serving the needs of the structural dynamism with a growing global applications base in the automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, power generation, turbo machinery and construction machinery industries, Xcite Systems strives to provide the finest products and services to its clients.

Shanghai also presented a wide range of other innovative initiatives and projects dedicated to a smart city development. They range from new ways of food production in cities, for instance lab-grown meat to counteract traditional meat production forms with their heavy CO2 emissions. Also, the city showcased examples of how vegetables can be grown in the cities to reduce transportation and logistics problems.

Last, but not least, education features big in Shanghai’s development towards a smart city. “Smart education” is the buzzword. A heavy emphasis is placed on the expansion of online learning platforms to facilitate equal access to education. Education is also an important factor in laying the foundation for China’s entrepreneurial future – encouraging young people to develop ideas and initiate projects that will then turn into start-ups and strengthen the economy.

Vienna – Soft Environment for Urban Investments

Vienna’s unique selling proposition is its championing of the so-called “soft factors” as a way of increasing the liveability in the city – while already holding a record of having been named, in various rankings, as one of the world’s most liveable cities for several years.

What makes Vienna special is its focus on equality – equal access and equal opportunities are important factors that are reflected in policy areas and social development. Here, the areas of gender mainstreaming and diversity are especially important as they reflect the City of Vienna’s commitment to reducing inequalities and making the city a liveable place for all groups of society. Among the many areas where this is a determining factor is the city’s high-quality health care system that offers cost- free medical care and services for everyone and also places emphasis on gender-specific medicine. Equality of opportunity also plays an important role in the education sector, where a good, solid public school system and open-access universities – the University of Vienna is the largest in the German-speaking world – prepares young people for their future professional lives.

A broad range of recreational facilities and offers for leisure time activities is another area where Vienna excels. Large outdoor areas such as the Wienerwald and the Donauinsel offer ample opportunities for leisure activities such as hiking, sports, swimming, etc. that are open to everyone and are free of charge. Sports events, like the large-scale Vienna City Marathon, where all citizens are invited to participate contribute to quality of life as well as better health and well-being for all Vienna citizens.

However, Vienna is also a good example of how soft factors are combined with hard factors to create a liveable city. For instance social housing is an area where Vienna has a long-standing tradition – going way back to the 1920s - of reducing inequalities by providing affordable housing for people with lower incomes. And this tradition continues – one of the most recent examples is the Seestadt Aspern, which does not just offer housing for a steadily growing population, but combines this with offers  – combination of hard factors and soft factors.

On the political side, the strong emphasis on social partnership contributes to stability, which also promotes Vienna - and in a larger sense also Austria as a whole - as a business location and enhances its innovative potential. In this regard, particularly the social partnership is an Austrian success story. This does not mean, however, that there is no room for improvement. Bureaucratic obstacles for businesses trying to establish themselves are still quite high and could potentially deter companies from setting up their location in Vienna. There is a definite need for a lower bureaucratic threshold to encourage more companies to take advantage of what is otherwise a secure and stable business environment.

Summing up, Vienna as an urban hub prides itself on its inclusiveness – providing “good services for all people,” and has so far been very successful with this integrative approach!

Chengdu – “Park City” With Focus on Urban Agribusiness

Chengdu has approximately 16 million residents and is approximately the size of Tyrol. This makes it one of the largest cities. Famous for its efforts to provide a habitat for the Giant Panda – on an approximately 399,300 acres large area on Longmen Mountain in the city’s west – the city is also moving towards becoming a “park city” with a circular-economy approach and a focus on sustainability. The “Park City” concept aims at providing green living spaces in urban areas, thus making the city a more liveable place. By 2020 urban green coverage in Chengdu is expected to reach 46 per cent and park land per capita to reach 160 sq ft.

However, sustainability is not merely to be achieved by planting trees – Chengdu is also striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovations on the production and consumption side. This includes limiting the impact of waste – also of food waste. After all, it is estimated that about 30% of all food is thrown away, even before it lands on our plates. At the same time, agriculture is responsible for about 25-30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Modern urban agriculture projects illustrate how waste can be substantially reduced through integrated agricultural recycling technologies. The path into a sustainable future in the area of food production is to move away from monocultures and towards designing closed circular systems.

Aside from the sustainable production and consumption aspect, however, Chengdu’s “green city” initiative also includes other aspects, such as energy efficiency efforts, new “green building” housing initiatives and, finally, also a strong focus on green mobility with its bike lanes and high-speed trains that connect Chengdu with other cities in China and abroad.

Transferrable Solutions for Urban Challenges

Considering that ever more people will be living in large urban areas in the future, it is important to find solutions for the problems and challenges that naturally arise from such a situation. In this respect, the “Urban Issue Hub” sessions provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders from various countries to meet, network and exchange their different initiatives and approaches regarding how to make large urban areas liveable, sustainable and economically attractive at the same time.


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Petra Allekotte