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Students discuss with politicians: How “smart” can the city of the future be?

Students of the Hof University of Applied Sciences at the Münchberg campus had an information session about the municipal structures and processes of a city within the semester project “City of the Future” and also had the opportunity to speak directly with leading local politicians. Using the city of Münchberg as a concrete example, the communication design students also presented their ideas for an intelligent region and city of the future that presents itself as attractive for young people and offers founders a suitable environment. District Administrator Dr. Oliver Bär and Münchberg’s Mayor Christian Zuber were enthusiastic about many of the ideas and now want to take up and continue some pilot projects.

In a large round, communication design students presented their ideas for the city of Münchberg;
Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Professor Norbert Diedrich, who has been teaching at Hof University of Applied Sciences as an expert in storytelling and user experience design in the communication design course for just under a year, invited students to the exciting event at the university campus in Münchberg. His concern and that of the teachers Prof. Claudia Siegel and Prof. Michael Zöllner was also that the students should deal with the future of their study region in a very concrete way through project development. The team worked on the aspects “City in Change”, “City in Dialog” and “City of Data” together with their students.

Change and vacancy as an opportunity

“It is quite clear that the shortage of skilled workers will continue to worsen for demographic reasons alone. The question of how we get young people into the region and then retain them is all the more acute. The best way to do this is to ask them ourselves. The selection of their project ideas alone shows where the interests and concerns of the young generation lie,” says Prof. Norbert Diedrich about the project approach, which he wants to be understood as thoroughly optimistic

Every structural change and every vacancy offers many opportunities!”

Prof. Norbert Diedrich
Prof. Norbert Diedrich; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Participation of young people more necessary and valuable than ever

The event was introduced by a keynote speech by Dr. Pia Beckmann, mayor of the city of Würzburg from 2002 to 2008. Beckmann, who holds a doctorate in German studies and also taught “e-government” at the University of Würzburg, emphasized the importance of local self-government in particular in her talk on “City and Processes

It’s not just the municipalities that are called upon, but also the citizens – especially in times of change, young people can and should help think and shape things.”

Dr. Pia Beckmann, former Mayor of the City of Würzburg

Together, the region needs to develop the vision of a “Hof Smartland”. Hof University of Applied Sciences could act as a “think tank”, but other parameters such as favorable settlement prices, low bureaucratic hurdles, the leasing of vacancies for innovative start-ups and the creation of co-working spaces must also be in place if a start-up dynamic is to develop. A university, however, is a “treasure of the region” and a non-exhaustible source of novel ideas that should be used for politics, the former local politician said.

Dr. Pia Beckmann, who holds a doctorate in German studies and is a local politician, moderated the exchange between students and politicians; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Broad spectrum of projects and ideas for the future

As if to prove the point, the students then presented their semester projects, all of which deal with the region and the city of Münchberg in particular. In applications, some of which are already well-developed, they deal with countless explosive and challenging topics of the present and future: waste disposal, energy consumption, a 3D presentation for current vacancies, a visualization of radio networks, the creation of a digital town hall or a data analysis for public transport were implemented just as much as an app for finding the perfect flat-sharing partner or a platform for presenting particularly regional and sustainable products. The students also showed a very practical commitment in Münchberg’s Lindenstraße, where a previously vacant store was repeatedly brought to life with ideas and exhibitions. The city makes this store available to the innovative students

Expanding cooperation between university and politics

District Administrator Dr. Oliver Bär and Münchberg’s mayor Christian Zuber were impressed by so much inventiveness and creativity. Much of it was directly relevant to current fields of action in local politics and administration. The question is which ideas can now be continued and expanded

In general, we need to institutionalize cooperation between the university and local politics. We need to find ways on both sides to continue the right projects even after the students have long since graduated.”

District Administrator Dr. Oliver Baer

According to Mayor Zuber, it is not acceptable to have to start anew every two years due to the fluctuation of students and teachers: “In 5 to 10 years, we will already be living in cities that have changed considerably in some cases. In order to steer this in the right direction, we must come to a regular dialogue with research and teaching as quickly as possible and to a reliable cooperation for the region.” The students’ ideas are also an enormous added value for the administrations and the urban society, the two local politicians said in unison.

District Administrator Dr. Oliver Bär (center) and Münchberg’s Mayor Christian Zuber in conversation with Prof. Diedrich (left); Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Concrete help promised: “We are hungry in this region!”

In the discussion that followed, the students also pointed out to the politicians existing problems with start-ups. For example, it is sometimes difficult to convince landlords of vacancies to also rent to young founders, who naturally do not yet have so many securities to offer

Involved intensively in the discussion with local politicians: the students of the communication design course; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Here, District Administrator Dr. Bär brought the municipal vacancy managers into play: “Please contact us in such cases – we are happy to mediate here and try to eliminate any problems. We are absolutely hungry in this region and want to help them!” Mayor Christian Zuber also referred to short distances to City Hall. University president Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Lehmann also brought up the Digital Incubator Einstein 1 and the startup ecosystem at Hof University of Applied Sciences

Cheap rental solutions can also be feasible via our Digital Startup Center – practical help anyway. Please never be discouraged!”

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Lehmann
University President Prof. Lehmann also came to Münchberg; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Mobility a question of fate for the region

Inspired by a question about the cultural scene in the region, especially for young people, District Administrator Dr. Bär emphasized the versatility of the local and regional creative scene. In addition to many well-known beacons of established culture, there are also many smaller nuclei for youth culture or alternative music. The problem here, however, is often transportation. “We must succeed in offering affordable transportation for everyone in the future. That’s exactly why we’re currently fighting to expand the Hof rural bus service.” In addition, by joining the Nuremberg transport association VGN, it should also be possible to cover longer distances more cost-effectively in the future. Mayor Zuber also sees high quality in the local cultural scene

Maybe we have to motivate one or the other to reopen the old offer. But the potential for a thriving cultural life is also there after Corona.”

Christian Zuber, Mayor of Münchberg

, however, “after Corona, we certainly have to motivate and encourage one or the other somewhat to relaunch the old offer.” In addition, the mayor pointed out that one is always open to creative ideas: “Come to me and we try to support.” As one of the first measures to improve mobility, Hof University of Applied Sciences now wants to examine whether a car-sharing service for students can be established between Hof and the Münchberg campus. Both local politicians were in favor of exploring this demand-oriented transport between Hof and Münchberg.

Project ideas are being examined

In conclusion, Professor Norbert Diedrich and the students thanked the two politicians for the very open and productive dialog. Together, ideas from the course will now be taken up and, if necessary, implemented in cooperation with the administrations.

Invitation to the exhibition

By the way: The course of studies communication design cordially invites to the work show on 08.07. at the Campus Münchberg at 15:00 o’clock and to the Lindenstraße 11 at 18:00 o’clock.

Rainer Krauß

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