Nairobi, 20 May 2022 – The United Nations Human Settlements Programme and several national and international partners have launched the first UN-Habitat collaborative centre to support the co-development of capacity building formats for local authorities, planners, practitioners and entrepreneurs.

The Urban Living Lab Centre, co-hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Technical University Berlin (TUB) and the Wuppertal Institute, will foster local policy and planning capacities, improve the ability of local authorities to access funding and financing mechanisms and support the take-up of innovative business models by companies and start-ups in the partner regions.

The centre, initiated by the Urban Pathways project funded by the German Government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI), has already started setting up “Living Labs” across the globe in cities such as Nairobi, Kenya; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; and Quito, Ecuador.

“We understand cities as testbeds for innovation. Cities bring together bright minds, political leadership and a strong and creative economy. Through implementing the concept of Living Labs, we hope to strengthen the role of cities - for them to be able to fully exploit the potential for sustainable growth” said UN-Habitat Executive Director Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif in her opening remarks.

She further emphasized: “We are very excited about the opportunity to co-create solutions with the various partners involved, as we believe that Living Labs are the place for experimentation in a real-life setting, right where the solutions are planned and implemented.”

The transformation of cities towards sustainable and inclusive development is a key objective of the New Urban Agenda. There is substantial potential to improve urban access, air quality, safety and the quality of life in cities along with reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions if an integrated policy approach is applied that combines all intervention areas for urban policy and involves multiple public and private stakeholders.

Linking key sectors and actors is a vital step towards an integrated approach that helps decarbonizing urban systems and delivers liveable and accessible cities for all. Testing innovative solutions in urban living labs can be a key steppingstone. Lessons learned from such experiments can then be transferred into scaled-up public or private sector actions, a vital next step towards transformative change.

The partnership will start with projects funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) such as “Urban Pathways” and “ACCESS - Accelerating Access to Low Carbon Urban Mobility Solutions through Digitalization” as well as projects funded by the European Union such as SOLUTIONSplus and Smart Energy Solutions for Africa (SESA).

In a next step, it will also reach out to other key funders to maximise synergies among projects and promote effectiveness in an effort to boost local climate change mitigation action and foster sustainable development.