Focus areas and themes

Viable Cities works with four focus areas and five themes, which are interlinked through the programme’s activities and initiatives. This creates opportunities for cross-linking and gives the programme a clear structure for collaboration and development.

Focus areas

The programme’s focus areas are based on citizens’ interests, motivations and needs, and are implemented with the close citizen involvement. Lifestyle and consumption, together with planning and the built environment, mobility and accessibility, and integrated infrastructure, are the four main sectors of energy use in a city. The focus areas are described in more detail below:

Click for larger image.

Would you like to add your own pins and see what choices others have made? Click here! 

Focus area 1:

Lifestyle and consumption

To make smart sustainable cities a reality and minimize the climate impact of individual choices, it is essential to put people at the centre and understand their lifestyles and consumption patterns as well as the associated energy consumption and emissions. Big data, mobile platforms, visualization, and GIS-based tools present opportunities to empower citizens and enhance community engagement in sustainability issues – provided that citizens have the opportunity to pursue and engage in technological and social development.

Focus area 2:

Planning and the built environment

Smart, sustainable cities require energy-efficient urban districts with easy access to urban facilities and ecosystem services that create attractive and liveable cities that also integrate renewable energy, energy storage, resource-efficient infrastructure planning, and integrated intelligent building systems that adapt to usage. Viable Cities’ solutions can be applied to improve efficiency and flexibility in planning, as well as new urban development projects and the refurbishment of the existing building stock. Smart urban environments and effective planning of the built environment and common urban spaces will contribute to a stronger sense of community, identity building, integration and reduced alienation.

Focus area 3:

Mobility and accessibility

Smart, sustainable cities need new solutions and ways of working that facilitate smart accessibility, mobility and travel, such as car sharing and car pools, intermodal transport, remote accessibility and virtual forms of meeting. Constant advancements are being made in IoT, in areas such as communication, connectivity, cheap sensors and computing capacity, and these are opening up new ways of utilising information and payment services.  New stakeholders and strong citizen engagement will make it possible to overcome obstacles associated with lack of coordination and sub-optimal supply and demand matching.

Focus area 4:

Integrated infrastructure

One requirement for smart, sustainable cities is intelligent integration of urban infrastructure, such as energy generation, power grids, district heating and cooling, ICT, water, transport, and waste. Digitalisation is central to effective planning, investment and management of infrastructure and ecosystem services. At the same time, this integration must allow sufficient flexibility from a socioeconomic perspective to enable citizens and stakeholders to work together for the best solutions.


Five concrete themes give focus to activities and ensure that technology and knowledge are developed with strong input from citizens, and by putting people first.

Viable Cities’ activities and initiatives act at the intersections between focus areas and themes. Click for larger image.

Would you like to add your own pins and see what choices others have made? Click here! 

Theme 1:

Testbeds and living labs

To achieve breakthroughs in the development of sustainable urban energy systems, so that targets for energy use, climate impact and sustainable growth can be met, it is essential that citizens are involved in their everyday testing and evaluation. For this purpose Viable Cities will set up testbeds, which also includes living labs, to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Questions regarding finance and business models, forms of governance, intelligence, cybersecurity and ethical issues must also be addressed.

Theme 2:

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Successful implementation of smart, sustainable urban energy systems is essential if we are to transform urban energy systems and dramatically reduce urban climate impact. Strong ecosystems for innovation will need to be developed in Sweden to increase the reproducibility and scalability of smart, sustainable urban energy systems while supporting commercialisation and growth.

Theme 3:

Financing and business models

Transformation of the energy system will never be achieved by continuing with business as usual. Large-scale implementation of smart sustainable and innovative urban solutions requires the complete rethinking of business models, the creation of value chains, the introduction of new value calculation models that take into account a wider range of societal values, as well as new approaches to investment and finance.

Theme 4:


To achieve the ambitious goals for smart sustainable cities, different governance methods need to be applied, including strategic and collaborative planning, integration of policy instruments and the involvement of key stakeholders in the decision-making process. New urban planning models are vitally important to Swedish cities and have a high export value.

Theme 5:

Intelligence, cybersecurity and ethics

Smart sustainable cities are highly interconnected sociotechnical systems that are increasingly reliant on electronic information and technology. It will be of major importance that the programme can safeguard collaborative processes for learning between stakeholders and ensure that urban platforms are organised so that different data sources and systems can be linked to create intelligent, robust and resilient solutions. Cybersecurity and ethical issues are vital for ensuring that smart sustainable cities systems can operate securely and fairly.