EU Smart City Lighthouse Projects between Top-Down Strategies and Local Legitimation: The Case of Hamburg

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

EU Smart City Lighthouse Projects between Top-Down Strategies and Local Legitimation: The Case of Hamburg


  • Katharina Lange Institute of Urban Planning and Regional Development, HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany
  • Jörg Knieling Institute of Urban Planning and Regional Development, HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany


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Abstract:  The concept of the smart city has become increasingly popular in recent years and a large number of cities globally follow smart city strategies. By awarding subsidies in the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Union (EU) has taken on an influential role in how smart city projects are conceived and implemented in European municipalities. Using the example of the smart city pilot project mySMARTLife in Hamburg, the purpose of this article is to examine the area of tension between strategically pursuing own objectives and adjustment to external provisions of the EU funding framework. In a qualitative single case study, the article analyses what implications the project mySMARTLife has on urban development practice and local governance arrangements in Hamburg. Examining current literature on smart cities from the perspective of multi-level governance and presenting the current state of research dealing with EU smart city projects, a theoretical framework is developed. The analysis reveals that, due to the EU funding framework, precise project contents are contractually defined at an early stage when local stakeholders have limited involvement in this process. Furthermore, the analysis shows that the EU smart city funding in the project mySMARTLife is more limited to the implementation of individual interventions than to a comprehensive smart city strategy. As a result, this article considers EU-funded smart city initiatives as experimental fields that enable cities to gain experiences that can be incorporated into local strategic development objectives.

Keywords:  EU funding; governance; Hamburg; smart city; strategic urban planning; urban transition

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v5i1.2531


© Katharina Lange, Jörg Knieling. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.