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Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Development (SASUI)

The world’s cities account for half of the world’s population, consume 75 % of our energy resources, and emit 80 % of the world’s carbon emissions. As such, city organizations play an integral role in catalyzing low-carbon innovation processes to combat the challenges of climate change. The SASUI project aims to identify the factors key to enabling successful innovation in urban environments. Sustainable urban innovation is at the core of the action program to reduce carbon emissions.

Download the program’s final report here. 


Recent developments such as the global financial crisis and climate change have raised debate regarding whether such important, long-term challenges facing our society are best addressed through market mechanisms. This requires a reconsideration of the public sector’s engagement in business affairs, as well as the role it plays in market regulation and creating incentives for purpose-driven innovations and sustainable development.

This trend is evident in recent developments in Finland such as the introduction of a new innovation program by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy called INKA (Innovative Cities) and Tekes’s Fiksu Kaupunki (Smart City) program. These initiatives emphasize the importance of the city organization as a nurturer of regional innovation activities, particularly emphasizing the commercialization of innovations through pilots and demonstrations. This context requires city authorities to find new cooperation forms, both to engage the public at large, but also to align the interests of the city with those of important companies.

Recent years have seen urban planning research increasingly turn its focus to the results of organizational and management theory in trying to understand how decision-makers can better address the complex issues facing them in city planning.

Project aims

The aim of the SASUI research project is to increase understanding of the highly complex, but also the extremely relevant question of how cities can best influence and nurture sustainable urban innovation. In addition to a city serving as a catalyst, it is also imperative that companies provide solutions that improve the sustainability of urban environments. However, this will not be enough either, we also need to shape the attitudes of citizens, to drive a shift in behavior towards a more sustainable. This requires new ways of conducting public-private – people partnerships. The architectural structure of such complex, socio-technical systems are the focus of this research project’s activities.

Research questions

This research was structured around three questions, the central research question was:

What social, operational, and informational architectural prerequisites are needed for successful sustainable urban development?
In addition to this question the project’s research also aimed to answer the following two questions:

How to set objectives and balance economic, social, and environmental factors in low carbon urban development?
How should the decision-makers take into consideration the various expectations and challenges related to urban low carbon innovation projects?
The research into these questions will describe and make tentative recommendations on the architectural prerequisites needed for successful ecosystem formation when promoting sustainable urban development.

The main research question was addressed through different combinations of inductive and deductive research, oscillating between the generation of hypotheses from existing scientific knowledge and looking for new grounded insights which emerged from the observations in the studied cases.

Contributing researchers at the University of Tampere undertook a LivingLab project aimed at promoting interaction between local residents and those planning the Tammela area’s future.