The Urban Data Challenge – Reflecting On the Journey


The Urban Data Challenge – Reflecting On the Journey

How can we gain insights into cycling and micromobility flows and the ecosystem in Hamburg to make the city more liveable and sustainable?

In August 2023, we announced the University of Bremen as the winner of our Urban Data Challenge Hamburg. Their innovative and scientific concept, entitled “MoveAI”, convinced our jury and will now be implemented as a prototype in close collaboration with the City of Hamburg. Congratulations again!

But how did we get there? What exactly was the Urban Data Challenge? And what kind of organisations participated? In this article, we want to briefly revisit key milestones of the challenge and share some of the learnings we gained from it.

It all started in February 2023, when we launched our Call for Participation, challenging the innovation ecosystem to join our competition and develop solutions that help analyse micromobility flows on the Reeperbahn and in surrounding neighbourhoods on the basis of shared private and public data. Our objectives were twofold: to improve micromobility infrastructure and traffic planning for citizens, while also exploring new methods of data sharing for the public interest.

Over the following weeks, we received 35 applications from diverse backgrounds - academia, startups, large companies, consultancies – and from Germany, Europe, and the USA. Subsequently, 29 of them successfully submitted their basic concepts, which were reviewed and evaluated according to criteria such as creativity and innovation, technological and economic feasibility and data protection.

The top five contenders were then invited for Pitch Day in May 2023 at the Authority for Transport and Mobility Transition. The event gave them the opportunity to present their concept to a distinguished interdisciplinary jury, which selected the two most promising finalists based on i.e. the experience of the team, the scalability of their proposal, and the degree of innovation. The members of the jury were Christian Pfromm (CDO of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, ITD), Prof. Dr. Jana Kühl (HAW Ostfalia), Thomas Fuchs (Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Hamburg), Edda Becker (Innovation Expert and Mentor for Startup Teens), Diether Schönfelder (CDO of the Authority of Transport and Mobility Transition, BVM), Aline Blankertz (Wikimedia), Mario Schmitz (IOT Venture), and Natascha Spörle (Bolt).

Following the jury's decision, in-depth negotitations between the two finalists and the city took place, culminating in the announcement of the University of Bremen as the winner of the Urban Data Challenge Hamburg, with €40,000 to implement their proposal. We are very excited to follow the development of their prototype over the coming months and to see its potential for planning and enhancing micromobility infrastructure in Hamburg and beyond.

For now, however, we would like to leave you with a short list of key takeaways from the Urban Data Challenge Hamburg that may help inform similar initiatives in the future:

Building bridges takes time: The Urban Data Challenge Hamburg is a multi-stakeholder project involving different departments of the City of Hamburg as well as external stakeholders. It was challenging at times to manage the bureaucratic differences and varying working cultures and yet worthwile to build bridges and to learn jointly how to foster public data-based innovation.

Innovation wins: Most of the proposed solutions were dashboard systems focusing on analysis only, so the few more specific solutions that involved exploring new technologies stood out. Examples include the use of artificial intelligence to define spatio-temporal communities for more in-depth analysis, or the development of a fairness indicator for micromobility traffic planning.

Micromobility data is out there: For a long time a key problem in city planning was that there is little reliable data on micromobility, which is partly because of a lack of economic interest, compared to car data. Through this challenge we learned, however, that this is now changing and also, that several companies holding micromobility data are open to explore options to share and use the data for public purposes, although some were hesitant due to challenging bureaucratic experiences in the past.

If you are interested in further lessons from the Urban Data Challenge Hamburg, particularly concerning methodas of data sharing and governance, please bear with us! Our forthcoming blueprints for data sharing for the public interest will be published this fall and will draw connections between the work of our Data Commons Working Group and the insights from this challenge.

So stay tuned and follow the process of The New Hanse via our website or write us an email to

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