GrowSmarter Story

Follower City Graz: Strong partnerships are the basis for replication

At the final Conference of GrowSmarter, the City of Graz as a Follower City was represented by City Councillor Dr. Peter Piffl-Percevic and Head of EU Unit at Graz’s Directorate for Urban Planning, Development and Construction Christian Nussmueller.

To share its experience of being a Follower City in this European Smart City Project, earlier this year, GrowSmarter talked with Christian Nussmueller about how Graz has used GrowSmarter to begin building partnerships and what lessons it is taking away from the project.

Read more about the experience in GrowSmarter’s follower cities in 'Road to replication – Guiding cities on smart urban development' or visit 'Smart City Graz' online.

Why did Graz join GrowSmarter as a Follower city?
First of all, we thought it would a good self-assessment opportunity for our Smart City Strategy here in Graz. When we joined of course we also focused on the offered exclusive knowledge transfer and the replication possibilities of innovative smart solutions from the Lighthouse Cities.

The integrated urban development approach is crucial for the Smart City Strategy of Graz and GrowSmarter offered exclusive exchange of knowledge and experience with the Lighthouse cities and other Follower cities, as well as with industry partners and research facilities. That was also a big argument to join the consortium.

What city governance and stakeholder structures facilitate replication?
I believe that strong public/private partnership consortiums on the local level is in general the basis for any replication, because at least in the case of Graz the private sector and non-public housing cooperatives are implementing the vast majority of building and refurbishment projects.

Which replication steps in GrowSmarter have proven to be effective for the process?
We had major success with implementing a replication workshop sharing knowledge from GrowSmarter with local stakeholders. It was very useful that experts from Lighthouse cities visited us in Graz to give different local experts the chance to gather valuable international expertise.

Nevertheless a dedicated amount of EU-funding as a start-up finance for implementing and replicating the Lighthouse solutions developed would have been beneficial hen we look back. That is still a big driver to form the necessary public/private consortiums when you can offer them an “extra funding carrot”.

How would you advise other cities to identify and select a useful measure for replication based on your experience in GrowSmarter?
The first advice would be to very clearly assess the local framework conditions. Of course, they are very different in every city. That is something I learned in GrowSmarter. It can be about differences in climate, differences in how public and private property is distributed or the role of non-public housing cooperatives, which for example is very strong in Graz. I would look at those kind of framework conditions at the very beginning.

Also, it is important to have a clear plan for how to finance the implementation of such smart urban technologies.

How do you assess the replication potential of smart solutions within Graz?
We are very closely looking at the refurbishment issue within GrowSmarter and the replication potential they contain. Even though we are not replicating them right now, the potential is still there. It is not going to be in the close run but rather within the next decades. In the medium or long term smart refurbishment will be a big issue for Graz and other European cities as well.

What resources, knowledge and capacities are generally needed to replicate solutions and how can they best be transferred?
I think EU-funding schemes that combine transfer of knowhow with the possibility to invest funding in concrete [pilot] measures would help very much in transferring innovative smart city solutions from big cities to medium size cities like Graz. I would strongly recommend combining these two aspects. Such funding schemes would also help to build up the private/public partnerships consortiums that are needed as a base for implementation.

What external support and engagement is helpful and at which moments?
I can only answer this generally, but external support is always helpful for any administration. We always lack resources. For us that means we are very limited both with our financial and personal resources’ and therefore of course in need of external support and expertise. What methodologies has been adopted by Graz in the project? An important thing we have learned is from the feasibility assessment. For example, we learned to look very close at the lifetime calculation of smart infrastructure projects. This is a matter which we will devote sustained attention to and work to share with our colleagues in the infrastructure departments.


City Councillor Dr. Peter Piffl-Percevic was the political representative for Graz at GrowSmarter's final conference. Source: City of Graz/Pachernegg

Learn more about Graz and its smart city efforts: