Open Innovation Program to unlock cross-sector collaboration

Throughout four seasons, the BIA Smart City Hub has served as a catalyst for collaboration among startups, corporations, and city stakeholders, aiming to promote cross-sector cooperation and the exchange of expertise. The ultimate objective is to generate ideas and propel the development of smart city solutions in Berlin and beyond.









Program Concept

The Smart City Hub is a pioneering platform and program that combines expertise and resources from diverse industries. Our vision is straightforward: cultivating dynamic urban innovation ecosystems by bridging the gap between corporate partners, startup ecosystem players, and key city stakeholders. It's all about collaboration and knowledge exchange. We've teamed up with Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie to boost our mission of sparking innovation and closing the silos between innovation stakeholders and the cities.

Through community events, meetups, and workshops, we're building a dynamic environment that's driving the development of smart cities. With three seasons of our 8-month program, each focused on different partners and topics, the Smart City Hub is impacting issues like mobility, energy and buildings, data in the city, public and private collaboration, sustainability, and many more.

Initiatives like Smart City Hub bring together the right urban actors in an agile way. Together, we develop answers to urgent questions about our growing city.

Ramona Pop, Senatorin @ Berlin Partner fur Wirtschaft, Energie und Betriebe

Program Formats & Impact

Smart City Hub puts forward collaboration with startups to accelerate impact engagement and tackle pressing challenges head-on. This intense program filled with events, open innovation challenges, corporate startup pilot partnering, and networking activities enabled our partners to co-ideate, connect, co-develop, and create synergies. The program provided our corporate partners with intimate access to the Berlin innovation community – and a cutting edge formats for partnering with startups.

Public Events: These prominent meetups and webinars serve as collaboration and knowledge exchange platforms.
Ideation Workshops: Through exclusive design thinking sprint sessions, stakeholders had a chance to co-create ideas and foster synergies.
Challenges: Time-boxed co-creation processes dedicated to addressing specific smart city challenges.
Tailored Initiatives: Customized events and programs tailored to specific business objectives in smart city innovation.

BIA Smart City Hub events gave us the opportunity to nurture existing partnerships as well as extend our external network. It’s always exciting to learn from other companies’ insights, be exposed to facilitated cross-industry learning, and try new tools and workshop formats that BIA provides.

Sonja Schroeter,  Project Manager Innovation and Digitalization @ degewo

Smart City Hub 4 Seasons has made significant strides in fostering innovation and collaboration within its ecosystem. Through open innovation challenges, it has facilitated the creation of five corporate startup pilots, driving forward novel solutions. With the active involvement of over 30 partners, the hub has cultivated a dynamic network of stakeholders committed to advancing smart city initiatives. Moreover, its hosting of 50 events has served as pivotal platform for knowledge exchange, ideation, and forging strategic alliances.

Case: Corporate-Startup Pilot | Alba + Vitalitics

ALBA Group embarked on a journey with the BIA Smart City Hub, driven by ambitious goals: to innovate, explore novel business models, and carve out its niche in Germany's startup and innovation landscape.

Facing a dual challenge of exploring fresh business paradigms and defining ALBA's role within Germany's vibrant startup and innovation arena, we tackled this task through collaborative efforts across three key areas:

1. The collaboration kicked off with a LEX-Program to inaugurate ALBA's Innovation Lab (ALBA BlueHouseLab). Here, BIA partnered with ALBA's business unit leaders to pinpoint smart city innovation prospects and establish vital connections with city representatives and startups.
2. Building on these early successes, ALBA joined the Smart City Hub—an ecosystem and innovation program—setting the stage for further enriching its innovation ecosystem, igniting innovative projects, and forging connections with targeted corporations, startups, and cities.
3. In tandem with ALBA's Smart City Hub involvement, we facilitated innovation projects (Startup Partnering), fostering collaborative solution development and piloting endeavors with partners, while exploring fresh business models primed for internal implementation.

Within the Smart City Hub's framework, BIA supported ALBA in launching its Innovation Hub in Berlin, facilitating engagement with a myriad of intelligent city innovators and solidifying its foothold within the innovation ecosystem. Concurrently, we aided in kickstarting open innovation activities and navigating new business avenues through inventive methodologies.This process unfolded across three distinct phases:

Phase 1: Embarking on a design thinking journey with ALBA's business units, culminating in sensor platform experimentation.
Phase 2: Engaging in thorough scouting and meticulous selection of startup partners, resulting in a strategic alliance with Stuttgart-based company Vialytics.
Phase 3: Infusing a "lean startup mindset" and implementing a pilot project between ALBA and Vialytics, evolving into a sustainable collaboration spanning various cities and initiatives.The partnership with Vialytics empowered ALBA to enhance the value proposition of its waste disposal services through the integration of intelligent sensor platforms on ALBA trucks and the seamless integration of waste disposal with road condition surveys.

Using Alba's trucks as intelligent sensor platforms is one way to increase the value added to our waste disposal services. This partnership has brought us one step closer to this goal. Through the network of the program, we have established many cross-sector contacts with established companies and representatives of the city and identified new challenges for the smart city in an intensive exchange. The program has supported us extensively in establishing this cooperation, and we look forward to making our contribution to smart cities.

Martina Kessler, Innovation Manager @ ALBA Group

Case: Ecosystem Access | Vattenfall

In 2021, Vattenfall joined Smart City Hub to strengthen its position as an innovation leader and access a broader ecosystem with the goal of infusing intrapreneurial energy and innovation culture in Vattenfall’s business units to master a customer-centric approach and digital business models, as well as meet and collaborate with experts and practitioners from other companies.

During the Smart City Hub season, BIA collaborated with Vattenfall to host a multi-company workshop focused on devising heat energy-saving strategies. By convening key stakeholders in Berlin, Vattenfall initiated dialogues and co-creation sessions with the ecosystem, paving the way for potential collaborative ventures.

Additionally, BIA facilitated a series of internal masterclasses, equipping Vattenfall's business unit teams with innovation methodologies and a customer-centric mindset to integrate into their daily operations.

Being part of the BIA Smart City Hub enabled us with networking outside the organization and with insights into innovation methodologies and tools. We are also excited about how BIA events fuelled our partnerships with other companies that will drive our organization further.

André Schache, Business Development Manager @ Vattenfall Wärme Berlin AG

About Smart City Hub

Smart City Hub is an open innovation program launched by BIA in 2018. The program was running for 4 seasons with a focus on solving urban challenges and improving the quality of city life. It brought together corporates, startups, city officials, tech companies, and citizens - reflecting a 360-degree view of the smart city innovation ecosystem.