What are leading-edge technologies? Starting in autumn 2016, a grant will be available for leading-edge technologies and advanced system solutions in urban environments. We explain the term leading-edge technologies below. svenska Share Contact Listen In the ordinance for this call, leading-edge technologies are defined as “technologies with a high degree of innovation and high environmental performance”. In this context, information technology, biotechnology, space technology and nanotechnology play a crucial role because they are broad and enabling technology disciplines that affect most aspects of society. Sweden stands at the forefront in developing and applying these technologies, and a focus area for further development is the urban environment. The EPA’s report “Spetstekniker för miljömålen” (“Leading-edge technologies for environmental objectives”) (2015) identified sustainable development as an important field of application for leading-edge technologies. Other areas besides information technology, biotechnology, space technology and nanotechnology can, of course, serve as the basis for leading-edge technologies for urban sustainability. For example, green chemistry and chemical substitution can be important for sustainable urban development. Other examples include innovative technologies and methods for heating, cooling and the ventilation of buildings, methods for energy recovery from low-temperature waste heat, and advanced materials. Essential to grants calls for cutting-edge technologies and advanced system solutions is a high degree of innovation and high sustainability impact. More than just technology It’s not just technology that is needed to obtain technical solutions that work in society. Other considerations include new business models that create economic incentives for collaboration among stakeholders and provide incentives for using new technologies and system solutions. Technical integration between different systems also requires organisational synergy between stakeholders. Administrative instruments, information, education and other behavioural measures may be needed to bring about an impact on urban innovations. Information technology (IT) IT and digitisation play an integral role in today’s society. Computers, mobile phones, apps and the internet can be seen as part of the digitisation of society, but so can software, algorithms, visualisation aids and robotics. Better information can improve almost any technical or administrative process and sets the stage for a better environment and sustainable cities, facilities and buildings. IT and telecommunications can create sustainability in the built environment through solutions like computers and software that monitor building performance. Other IT contributions to environmental improvements include “smart houses” that communicate with your smartphone, smart grids for neighbourhoods, robotics (for construction production, waste management or property maintenance), equipment for HVAC and lighting, displays that provide information to residents about their energy consumption, communication platforms for the sharing economy and much more. Transport IT shows great potential to reduce problems related to transport. In the future, self-driving cars might enable us to reduce the total number of cars in use. We will need fewer parking spaces and will be able to use fit-for-purpose vehicles, since a neighbourhood or residential area could share a common fleet. The co-ordination of different transport requirements offers a potential way to reduce the unused transportation volume. This would close the gap between society’s transport capacity and its actual transport requirements. IT can also create opportunities for us to reduce our daily commutes and create travel-free meetings. Private consumption IT also has great potential to affect private consumption. With the help of IT platforms, we can share products and services— like carpooling and car-sharing—with other people. Monitoring systems IT helps to create systems for monitoring our urban environments. Sensor data can be combined with air surveillance from drones to analyse the current state of monitored environments. This can be used for alerts about traffic jams or accidents. Biotechnology Under the convention on biological diversity, biotechnology includes all technologically practical applications that use biological systems, living organisms, parts of organisms, or substances that come from living organisms. What they share in common is that they involve the technical application of biological or ecological knowledge, and provide nature-based solutions for urban sustainability. The extended use of biologically or ecologically based technology includes biomimetics (mimicking the functioning of organisms in technical solutions) or urban industrial symbiosis, which sees the material cycles in a city as analogous to the material flow in a natural ecology. Bio-based technologies can create new products and materials. Different types of wood composites can serve as structural materials in buildings. New bio-based polymers can provide coatings and barrier coatings in walls and ceilings. The raw materials for paints, glues and coatings can now be produced using biotechnological processes and can replace oil as a raw material. Another area of application in the urban environment is infrastructure and purification processes, such as wastewater treatment by biologically based filters or constructed wetlands as the final phase of stormwater management. Biological methods can be used to clean up contaminated soil, so that the land can then be used for housing. Bioenergy Bioenergy for urban energy and transport systems can take the form of biogas, motor alcohols, biodiesel, hydrogen and biomass, which can all be produced by biological methods from biological substrates. Biotechnological development can significantly increase the yield in the production of energy carriers. Besides having a decorative purpose, building-integrated vegetation like green roofs and green facades also possess technical and practical functions. The plants enhance building insulation, slow down stormwater runoff and mitigate urban heat effects. Space technology For more than 60 years, space technology has been a strong innovation-driving force in society. Space technology includes all the technologies that make space activities possible or use its results. It consists of three broad technology areas, all of which have actual or potential links to the built environment: Technological spin-offs from space activities Space-based systems that are needed as life-support systems Data and communications via satellites, such as weather data, environmental monitoring and positioning systems. Space activities have continuously led to applications and spin-offs that greatly benefit society but that are not primarily associated with space activities. Solar cells, fuel cells, and LED lights for cultivation were all originally developed for use in space. Buildings and vehicles made of new, lightweight materials that were developed for the aerospace industry are energy efficient and enable new architecture and new production methods. The aspect of space technology that is perhaps most interesting for developing sustainable neighbourhoods is life support: supporting humans in space with air, water and food. Human spaceflight and extraterrestrial bases need space-based, life-cycle oriented system solutions with high stocking levels for air, water and food. It is not technically or economically feasible to bring in large amounts of water which are later dumped into space; instead, recycling solutions must be created. Air purification is also a key technology for human spaceflight. System solutions for use in space are often interesting because they must be compact, energy efficient, quiet, and easy to manage for users whose main tasks do not include managing these systems. Many such environmental innovations originating from space technology can be used to make our cities sustainable. Satellite-based positioning systems can streamline virtually all transport planning, logistics and public transport. Satellite data, for example, can be used for monitoring, calculating green areas and following up on climatic conditions. Nanotechnology Nanotechnology is, to a great extent, a key enabling technology that has many different areas of application. It is like a toolbox that can be used to tailor the properties of different materials, such as materials for solar energy production, energy storage, water purification or building materials. But there are concerns about this technology because of actual or potential adverse environmental and health effects caused by its use. One of the most important aspects of nanotechnology is that it allows for the design of multifunctional materials with multiple properties. This versatility enables a single nanomaterial to have all the features that more traditional materials possess. New composites (artificial composite materials) with nano-materials can easily be made fire-resistant, electrically conductive and super strong. The ability to design multifunctional materials can save energy, reduce the costs of cleaning, bring about environmental improvements and prevent illness linked to buildings. A huge transformative potential stands to be gained when nanotechnology enables innovations that can show superior environmental performance and cost benefits that lead to more comprehensive, more transformative technological paradigms. As an example, if water treatment is effective and cheap it can be managed locally. This would eliminate the need for central treatment plants and extensive pipeline networks. Nanotechnology can help develop and improve the environment and sustainability for neighbourhoods, buildings and facilities, including lightweight and material-saving constructions, flow-regulating surfaces and materials, and areas and materials with special properties. Nanotechnology is used for solar power, lighting, water and air purification, and in technical improvements to structural building materials like steel, concrete and wood.