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CityTech RUHR Smart City Startup Challenge
Thomas Mueller9. April 20205 min read

CityTech RUHR: The Bochum & Hagen Challenges

With Germany's largest international smart city startup challenge, the Ruhr Metropolis - City of Cities - is calling start-ups from across the globe to apply and solve the real-world challenges of four cities: Bochum, Bottrop, Hagen and Gelsenkirchen through a paid pilot. The application deadline has been extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic until May 3, 2020.

In the following paragraphs, we will look more closely on the Bochum and Hagen challenges:

The challenges represent a huge opportunity for startups to pilot their solutions in one of Europe's largest metropolitan areas, offering the potential of scaling the solutions to numerous other cities in the region and Germany's most populous state North-Rhine Westphalia that face similar problems.

The Bochum Challenge: Automated preliminary review of building applications

The building authority of the city of Bochum is looking for solutions for faster processing of building permit documents. The current procedure is too cumbersome and requires the involvement of too many departments.

The examination of applications for compliance with federal and state building regulations takes up a lot of time of city officials. The building regulations office (Bauordnungsamt) is looking for a solution that allows applicants to carry out an automated preliminary examination of building projects and, after this preliminary examination, to submit complete and qualified building applications in order to enable a faster and less time-consuming examination.

At present, approval procedures go through a manual and laborious process. The increasing number of applications for permits (both residential and commercial) is difficult to handle with limited manpower. The procedure takes too long, is very complex and inefficient.

One of the problems for investors and developers is that requirements and specifications differ regionally and locally. Information about which requirements have to be taken into account in the planning process is not easily visible and retrievable for everyone. This leads to the submission of insufficient building applications. 

As a result, the authority loses a lot of time in complex review procedures. Incomplete applications lead to recurring additional demands and inspection loops that extend the approval period for both sides.

With the automated preliminary review, applications can be checked directly and feedback is given by the system so that the overall quality can be drastically increased for the final application. The City of Bochum is looking for a smart solution to support and relieve the officials involved in the approval process. The desired goal is to have flawless building applications, with correctly selected building classes and comprehensibly and completely presented plans. Ideally, the submission should be in a consistently digital format that allows for rapid processing and internal approval (based on BIM and other data).

Click below to apply for the Bochum Challenge of CityTech RUHR!

Apply now for the Bochum Challenge



The Hagen Challenge: Incentivizing residents to use public transport and alternative modes of transportation

The city of Hagen wants to raise the awareness of citizens for different transport options available to the public and incentivize the use of public transportation or more environmentally friendly alternatives (e.g. micro mobility options, walking, cycling and others).

Although the public transport service for residents has already been improved and various incentives have been created by the city of Hagen for residents to use environmentally friendly transport options on the first and last mile - and to use the private car less -, residents are hesitant to try them out.

Many citizens feel that public transport is too expensive and not efficient (reliable and convenient) enough, or they are often not aware of the alternative modes of transportation that are available (e.g. the E-Mark - the electricity provider - offers a 250 € voucher for the purchase of an electric bicycle if it is bundled with the "green electricity tariff").

In a survey of the city of Hagen, 48% of the inhabitants stated that their preferred means of transport for the daily commute to work was public transport. Even e-bikes and similar alternatives were rated with 32%. Car sharing scored very poorly in this survey. 54.1% of the inhabitants are not interested in this possibility. Only 18% of surveyed employees were interested in sharing their cars with others (Carpooling). The main reason was that they did not want to be dependent on other people in their scheduling. However, 66% of the inhabitants are interested in e-bikes.

Further results of this survey show the willingness of employees to choose public transport, bicycles and other alternative means of transport, if the costs incurred would be borne by the employer. Most employees don't want to pay more than 30 to 40 € monthly for the bus ticket for commuting to work.

In the future, the city of Hagen would like its citizens to make greater use of environmentally friendly mobility alternatives in order to reduce NOx emissions and reduce congestion in the city. The city would like to see an increase in both, the options and the use of public and alternative means of transport, which the majority of residents use instead of choosing a private car to get to work and move around. The developed incentives should be attractive and easy to use for the residents. The solution offered should also include local offers (e.g. vouchers for the Christmas market it to make them even more popular with the residents. In addition, the residents can be informed and become aware (through data and knowledge they receive) of how environmentally friendly they are, which helps to motivate them.

Click below to apply for the Hagen Challenge of CityTech RUHR!

Apply now for the Hagen Challenge


Startups are encouraged to apply for one of the program’s challenges until May 3, 2020. All relevant information about the overall CityTech RUHR call, the individual challenges and the application process are easily accessible on the challenge website. Click below to go directly to the CityTech RUHR website.

Explore the CityTech RUHR Challenges



Thomas Mueller

Thomas Müller is Managing Partner at bee smart city. With more than 15 years of public sector experience, he is an expert on smart city strategy and projects.