United Future Lab Norway is part of the UN's smart city program United for Smart Sustainable Cities implementation program. The lab is located in the heart of the competence cluster at Sunnmøre, at NTNU Campus Ålesund, Norwegian Maritime Competence Center (NMK).
United Future Lab Norway is a network of partners from private business, academia, organizations and the public sector. The Future Lab facilitates for the partners to work together to realize specific projects. In the Future Lab, the partners share knowledge, competence and experience so that they can find solutions to their challenges.
The starting point for the work in and around the Future Lab, is the UN's analyzes of how sustainable and smart societies are. The goal is to contribute to achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The Future Lab is part of the UN's program for smart and sustainable cities - United for Smart and Sustainable Cities (U4SSC - ip). The core of the Future Lab is projects. The use of technology and simulation tools is important for the projects related to the lab.
The Future Lab works closely with AugmentCity/Offshore Simulator Center (OSC) which has developed digital twins of several municipalities. The lab work to stimulate that technology and simulation tools are used in projects, and that partnes who want to, have access to such tools.
The Future Lab is located at the Norwegian Maritime Competence Center (NMC), just outside the center of Ålesund - in the heart of the competence cluster in Sunnmøre. NMC is part of Campus Ålesund, Norway's closest business campus and the hub in the region for education, research and business development.
In the process where five municipalities became Ålesund municipality January 1st 2020,the political initiative was clear: Ålesund municipality should be a leading public body in technology and innovation. The letter of intent between the five municipalities, states that the new municipality will have a clear commitment to public innovation and development:
A department/professional environment will be established for this in connection with the competence cluster at Norwegian Maritime Competence Center (NMCC) and NTNU Univeristy. The department will work to develop an innovation culture in the entire municipality. This includes, among other things, establishing a culture for interaction between the service area, between politics and administration, between the municipality and the business community, and between the municipality and volunteers. The department aims to be a national resource center for innovation in the public sector.
In addition, Kari Aina Eik, Secretary General of OiER and leader and initiator of the UN Program for Smart and Sustainable Cities (U4SSC), played a key role in the establishment of United Future Lab Norway in Ålesund.
In May 2019, she was in her hometown Ålesund and talked with employees in the municipality and at the Offshore Simulator Center (OSC). In the meeting with OSC, the idea was sown that similar simulations could be done for cities in their attempts to become smarter and more sustainable.
These meetings led to Ålesund municipality becoming the first Norwegian municipality to join the U4SSC network, together with the neighboring municipalities Sula and Giske. In connection with the municipalities joining, a survey/ analysis of how smart and sustainable the region is, was carried out. Ålesund municipality was challenged by U4SSC to establish a lab and took the challenge: The municipality established United Future Lab Norway Å together with partners from private business, academia and public bodies.
On November 7th 2019, the Future Lab was opened with over 300 visitors and it was officially in operation from January 1st 2020.
An important factor that separates the Future Lab from others, is the research and development agreement with OSC to work with the development of digital twins. Ålesund municipality was the first municipality in the world to create a digital twin with the help of OSC and its subsidiary Augment City.