The People Centered Smart Cities Programme applies challenge-driven innovation approaches to identify issues and challenges faced locally by cities and matching them with innovative and smart solutions from the private sector.

We partner with different stakeholders to develop collaborative projects to accelerate innovations with the potential to solve societal challenges and contribute to the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.  

Climate Smart Cities Challenge

The Climate Smart Cities Challenge is an open innovation competition to identify climate smart solutions to reduce the climate impact of Bogotá, Colombia; Bristol, United Kingdom; Curitiba, Brazil; and Makindye Ssabagabo, Uganda, while creating a better future for all. 

The winning teams will share up to 400,000 Euro in a planning phase to build towards demonstrating their solutions in the cities in 2023, with the ultimate aim of creating solutions that will create better futures in cities around the world.

Winning teams of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge will work with cities, investors and other partners to demonstrate new pathways and capabilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also contributing to nature restoration, social justice, health, security, employment and other societal benefits.

Climate Smart Cities Challenge

Katowice Energy Innovation Challenge

A joint effort between UN-Habitat and the City of Katowice, the Katowice Energy Innovation Challenge is a global competition for digital information management and communication solutions that will help empower the city of Katowice, including the local government, residents, and businesses, embrace a transition to clean and renewable energy systems in this city.

The Challenge called on start-ups, cooperatives, social cooperatives, companies, and joint stock companies with experience in the implementation of urban energy innovation projects.

Katowice energy challenge
Katowice Energy Innovation Challenge

Digital Platforms for Public Participation Challenge

Challenge-driven innovation offers cities and local governments the opportunity to experiment and test with solutions to understand better the innovation ecosystem.

In the Digital Platforms for Public Participation Challenge, cities had the opportunity to work with UN-Habitat and partners to identify best practices, learn more about digital platform tools, network with solution providers and other cities, and understand how to evaluate and assess digital technologies that promote inclusion and are people centred.

Digital Platforms for Public Participation Challenge
Digital Platforms for Public Participation Challenge

UN-Habitat's history with challenge-driven innovation

UN-Habitat has a long history of working with innovation challenges, starting in 1995 with the Dubai International Best Practices Award for Sustainable Development. Since the 2000s there has been many initiatives supported by UN-Habitat, such as the Innovate Kenya Counties Challenge, which contributed to increase the engagement and inclusive participation of Kenyan youth in local governance via ICT based solutions.

Challenge-driven innovation offers cities and local governments the opportunity to experiment and test with solutions to understand better the innovation ecosystem.

Timeline of challenge-driven innovation

In 2020, the Future Cities Challenge in partnership with the Botnar Foundation, encouraged young people from around the world to creatively imagine the cities of their future. In June 2021, the Plastic 3R Hacks PH a nationwide virtual hackathon identified solutions for marine plastic pollution in the Philippines, including AI-based solutions, mobile applications and disruptive non-tech ideas like business concepts for creative upcycling process. In May 2022, the Digital Platforms for Public Participation Challenge provided a space for cities and local governments to learn more about participatory platforms, enhancing knowledge about solutions that meet people-centered standards, such as transparency and inclusion.

Practical experience developed through challenges enhances local capacities in different areas, including procurement and investment of solutions aimed at addressing social and environmental challenges, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level.

Timeline of challenge-driven innovation