Nairobi, Stockholm – 14 April 2021 - Curitiba (Brazil), Bogotá (Colombia), Bristol (UK) and Makindye Ssabagabo (Uganda). These are the four cities officially invited  to collaborate in the open innovation initiative Climate Smart Cities Challenge, with the aim of developing, testing and scaling cutting-edge solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

With the cities and respective challenges selected, the four cities will work on confirming arrangements, stakeholder engagement and challenge definition with support from the Climate Smart Cities Challenge partners: UN-Habitat, Viable Cities, Vinnova, Teknikföretagen, the Swedish Energy Agency, Smart City Sweden, Business Sweden, Expo 2020 Sweden and Nesta Challenges.  

The work will result in an open innovation contest which will be launched at the Dubai Expo in October 2021.

Maria Rosendahl, Head of Industrial Policy, Teknikföretagen, said: “We are facing an age of unprecedented possibilities. In order to make the most of them we must focus on how we support innovation and development. Whether it is through new business models, aggressive business policy, modern regulations or joint efforts. The focus should be the same.” 

The selected cities were chosen from applicants from all over the world through an open call application phase. The Climate Smart Cities Challenge focuses on specific areas that have the potential to reduce GHG emissions and at the same time deliver significant social impact, such as zero-carbon neighbourhoods, freight logistics management and green and affordable residential buildings. 

It also addresses the capacities needed by local governments to work with a wide range of stakeholders, especially the private sector, in order to lead and deliver innovation that tackles societal problems. 

Steven Bland, Climate Change and Innovation specialist, UN-Habitat, said: “By opening the process of defining solutions, rather than predetermining them in a call for proposals, new partnerships and collaborations become available that a local government might otherwise have been unaware of. The facilitated challenge definition design process prompts local governments to understand different local (and internal local government) perspectives on the nature of the challenge being explored.”

During the initial open call phase, each city was invited to share their aspirations to reduce GHG emissions, by identifying local challenges that would benefit from a multi-stakeholder and innovative approach, while also able to strengthen the capacity of local governments to procure, test and implement frontier technologies.

The City of Makindye Ssabagabo said: “Although the green homes concept is being adopted fast in urban cities in Asia, Europe and North America, the innovation is relatively new in Ugandan urban settings and this therefore calls for diverse international expertise with the participation of local stakeholders to pinpoint what will work best in order to reduce GHG emissions.” 

The City of Bogotá said: “Solving this challenge demands a change in strategy. Important stakeholders include freight companies, but also research centers and universities, and local populations in peripheral areas, most often affected by the negative impacts of freight traffic.” 

The City of Bristol said: “Where innovation is truly needed is in the model used to deliver housing by multiple stakeholders. Solving this problem could support not only housing that is affordable but also housing that meets a diverse need as well as the sustainable development goals, specifically those relating to health and well-being, and sustainable cities and communities.” - 

The City of Curitiba said: “Curitiba aims at carbon neutrality in 2050. Improved energy efficiency in buildings will have to play a key role. One way to pursue carbon neutrality is by establishing zero-carbon areas in the city of Curitiba. The innovation competition will help identify and test a broad spectrum of low-carbon solutions in an integrated manner.”

At the local level, challenge-driven innovation helps to achieve sustainable development goals. Challenge competitions can contribute to the development of mission-oriented policies, by connecting multidisciplinary expertise and cross-sectoral perspectives with societal needs. City leaders are able to ensure that Innovative solutions, originated from challenges, are directed towards improving people’s lives in cities.            

Olle Armstrand Dierks, Portfolio Strategist, Viable Cities said: “A real world test might even help reach a tipping point to behaviour change when involving many citizens in it, thus influencing many others. It enables transformative approaches to solving multiple societal challenges in an integrated and holistic way. A testbed can also demonstrate an emerging technology for regulators and engage regulators and policymakers in anticipating and shaping new regulations.”

UN-Habitat and partners are working closely to deliver operational, normative and financial support, in order to co-create solutions that will drive positive change and contribute to climate change mitigation and energy efficiency in cities. 

Four cities selected for the Climate Smart Cities Challenge

About the partners 

UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. UN-Habitat works with partners to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. It promotes urbanization as a positive transformative force for people and communities, reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty and provides technical assistance, policy advice, knowledge and capacity building to national and local governments in over 90 countries. 

Viable Cities is the strategic Swedish innovation programme for climate-neutral and sustainable cities, with the mission to achieve climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within planetary boundaries. It gathers around 85 members from several different research fields, business, public sector and civil society. The programme is the project owner of CSCC, responsible for coordinating the challenge-driven innovation process.

Vinnova is Sweden’s innovation agency helping to build innovation capacity that contributes to sustainable growth. It focuses on enabling innovation that address societal challenges, by creating opportunities and incentives for organisations to collaborate and share knowledge and skills. Vinnova supports early stage experimentation and testing of new ideas that can make a difference in the world. In the CSCC, it will be one of the funding partners in the challenge to develop carbon-neutral infrastructures in the selected cities. 

Teknikföretagen, the Swedish Association of Engineering Companies, works with 4.200 member companies, and has the mission to give its members the best possible competitive advantage, by promoting innovation and development in business. Small and large-scale companies are part of Teknikföretagen’s network, accounting for a third of Sweden’s exports. The organization is both a donor in the CSCC as well as a supporting partner, connecting its members to the innovative solutions derived from the challenge.  

The Swedish Energy Agency works with the promotion of energy efficiency measures and investments in renewable energy technologies, leading society’s transition to a sustainable energy system. It also collaborates internationally with the aim to develop and disseminate knowledge for a more efficient energy use to households, industry, and the public sector. In the CSCC, the agency continues to support UN-Habitat and its partners to finance challenge-driven innovation processes and research. 

Smart City Sweden is the Swedish government platform for sustainable city solutions, working with delegations and decision-makers from other countries interested in implementing Swedish solutions in their local context. The platform supports the CSCC as donors and also contributes with its vast expertise in different areas to explore smart and sustainable city solutions throughout the challenge. 

Business Sweden is jointly owned by the Swedish state and the Swedish business sector with a mandate and a mission to help Swedish companies grow global sales and international companies invest and expand in Sweden. Business Sweden supports CSCC with expertise in international business development of smart city solutions as well as local market knowledge in all selected markets (Brazil, Colombia, United Kingdom and Uganda).          

Expo2020 Sweden is responsible for the Swedish pavilion at the world exhibition Expo 2020 in Dubai, to be held  from October  2021 to March 2022, in the United Arab Emirates. The Swedish pavilion The Forest is located in the sustainability district at the Dubai Expo 2020. It will focus on new ways to build The Smart Society, including topics such as tech, life science, next-generation transport, Industry 4.0, new materials, smart cities, circular bio-based economies, and more. It will support the CSCC in showcasing the solutions designed in the challenge process.

Nesta Challenges is an UK-based partner focused on facilitating the development of innovative solutions, through the design of challenge prizes and challenge-driven innovation methodologies. It exists to support people, organisations and society in achieving solutions that drive change, improve lives, and solve the most pressing problems. Nesta collaborates with UN-Habitat and partners in the CSCC planning and engagement plans, supporting different stages of the challenge process.