31 August 2020

New study provides the keys to sustainable community development

What do robots in a food distribution warehouse have in common with blockchain technology and autonomous vehicles? Tyréns presents a new study identifying eight factors that make innovative, sustainable community development projects successful. The findings offer significant insights into how we can work together to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Out of 100 cases of cutting-edge innovative projects from different regions of the world, the research project chose 30 for a more in-depth analysis. Although the projects differ considerably, they are all innovative sustainability projects from which a great deal can be learned.

“Over the course of the project, we were moved by the exciting and inspiring story behind each case as we read about the successes and challenges, enthusiasts and sceptics, and visions and reality that they encountered along the way. We want to share these stories because we believe other projects can benefit enormously from the insights they give and the lessons they teach," says Dr. Mia Wahlström, a project manager and consultant in strategic urban development at Tyréns.

Some of the cases covered by the study:

  • Connected infrastructure for the smart and sustainable management of essential social services, such as clean drinking water
  • Transport solutions and energy supply
  • Testing autonomous vehicles
  • The first sale of real estate with blockchain technology
  • How a project with robots at a food distribution warehouse is revolutionising the food industry
  • An app for the blind that delivers spoken information about public places and spaces
  • New technology that makes it possible to predict who will become ill and to take preventive steps

"Being able to work with true innovation is a luxury because nobody can say you’re doing it wrong!"

Mats Snäll, Chief Innovation Officer at Lantmäteriet – the Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority

8 common success factors
A key question that this study aimed to address was whether these very different projects have any common factors that led to their success? Project owners, project managers, entrepreneurs and researchers were interviewed to find an answer to this question. The findings reveal that several common elements stand out as contributing to the success of innovations for sustainable community development.

These can be summed up as eight factors that show how to develop an innovative organisation, innovative leadership, an approach to the prototype society, and how to establish a vision that inspires working cooperatively in modern forms of networking in pursuit of shared outcomes.

A good example for number 3 on the list – “Caring and Sharing” – is Elon Musk. Lots of students who have read Musk’s “white paper”, in which he transparently explains his concept for a Hyperloop, have chosen to work on this new form of transportation. A sustainable alternative to flying. The fact that Elon Musk openly revealed his plans meant that almost everyone wanted to work with him.

“We launched Urban Trends & Innovations because we want to contribute to the improvement of society. We believe that collaborative relationships and transparency are critical to the successful achievement of this aim. As part of our project we developed a model for working with this type of project – in other words, innovative solutions that promote sustainable development across communities. We believe that this model can be extremely useful when applied to any kind of innovative urban development project in the early stages,” Mia Wahlström says in conclusion.

View more findings from the study here

The R&D project Urban Trends & Innovations is funded by the Sven Tyréns Foundation.