The transformation of society into sustainable structures is one of the most important tasks for the future. That cities have a decisive role to play in this transformation process has been known at least since Rio 1992. They have enormous pressure to act for change: They are at the same time problem and solution for sustainable development. Currently there is another significant development for cities—the need and external pressure to be “smart”, often understood merely as applying the latest digital technologies to become more efficient. The Smart City and the Sustainable City can work hand in hand or hinder each other, depending on their interpretation. In this study we focus on five Smart Cities in Western Germany to get a closer look at how they shape their processes and whether the underlying motivation is to become a technologically Smart City, focus on sustainable development, or both. With the help of the innovation biography research method, we show how cities shape the dynamic process towards forming a Smart City, the role sustainable urban development plays in the process, who the actors involved are, and the important role improved knowledge management then plays for the diffusion of the Smart Sustainable City within the region. It becomes clear how important communication and narratives are both in the process within each City towards forming a Smart Sustainable City and for the first step of diffusion, the adaptation of other cities within the region. This study is intended to serve both as a basis for cross-regional consideration and dialogue for the transfer of successful processes.
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