Nurturing a collaborative research and innovation ecosystem to accelerate sustainable urban development

On 18 June, the first day of the ICLEI World Congress 2024 in São Paulo, Brazil, the Global Research & Innovation Symposium will convene researchers, innovators, urban practitioners, and investors to foster a new generation of “next practices.” Significant topics will shape this seventh edition, including high-level plenaries on the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Cities (SRCC) and discussions on agenda-setting innovation and emerging technologies. The event also features its signature Research & Innovation Marketplace, offering an interactive space for bridging the gap between concepts, action, research, and financial support.

Under the motto “Ignite innovation, accelerate action,” researchers and academic scholars, innovators, city officials, policymakers, funding agencies, incubators, private sector leaders, and representatives from subnational to international agencies worldwide will gather for a full day at the ICLEI’s Global Research & Innovation Symposium 2024 to catalyze collective action. 

Held every three years as the official research and innovation component of the ICLEI World Congress, this seventh edition is geared towards contributing valuable insights and best practices to advance collaborative solutions to accelerate sustainable urban development. Aligned with ICLEI’s vision of enhancing the interface between science, policy, and practice, the Symposium is framed under ICLEI’s Global Research Strategy, which sparks collaborative research activities to enable subnational governments to push sustainable climate action forward informed by robust scientific findings. This ensures that local and regional governments worldwide can leverage and benefit from cutting-edge science in their decision-making and policy processes.

This timely event occurs at a pivotal juncture, midway between the last COP28 in Dubai, which elevated the role of cities and regions by urging multilevel action, and the upcoming COP29 in Baku, set to focus on climate finance. With the second round of updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) due by COP30 in 2025, the Symposium seeks to identify actionable steps to ensure that COP30 becomes the first “solution” COP. This is critical as enhanced NDCs demand collaborative climate action across vertical and horizontal governance levels to meet the 2025 deadline effectively.

Pourya Salehi, Head of ICLEI Urban Research, Innovation, and Development, emphasized, “The Symposium is not just a platform to present the latest scientific climate research. Instead, we are creating a vibrant community where collaborations are born and deep exchanges take place. This environment fosters a new generation of ‘next practices,’ helping practitioners integrate research into policy and decision-making effectively.” 

Recognizing that cities and regions cannot drive ambitious climate targets alone, the Symposium fosters cross-sector collaboration to meet local needs and accelerate global action by bridging research, innovation, and real-world application. Co-organized by the São Paulo School of Management of Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV EAESP) and the University of São Paulo (USP), the event aligns the insights of researchers and the ingenuity of innovators with the pragmatism of practitioners and investors. Such synergy ensures initiatives are informed, disruptive, and actionable for tangible impact.

The Symposium has been co-designed in partnership with Mission Innovation Net-Zero Compatible Innovations Initiative, UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub, Open Earth Foundation, and Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM). It is being delivered as a complementary event to the upcoming Innovate4Cities 2024 Conference, which will be held in September in Montreal, Canada. 

Insights from the IPCC Special Report: Research for and with cities

Given the significance of research-informed discussion and policymaking, particularly reflected in the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Cities (SRCC), the Symposium features the high-level plenary “Research, Cities & Sustainability: Insights from the IPCC Special Report,” discussing how the SRCC will impact local climate policy and action and offering data-driven strategies for cities to thrive amid climate change and urbanization pressures.

Distinguished speakers will lead the discussion, including Prof. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Prof. Ürge-Vorsatz was recently elected as Chair of ICLEI Urban Research and Innovation Portfolio.

As ICLEI Portfolio holder, Prof. Ürge-Vorsatz cites her excitement to bridge research into practical and timely urban solutions. “Scientific evidence underscores the vital importance of local action, particularly from cities. It also shows that a few charismatic individuals in cities can drive changes that become globally exemplary. Cities will play a crucial role over the next couple of years, as we see an increasing focus on catalyzing action through cities, both at the IPCC and the UNFCCC, as key to addressing climate change,” said Prof. Ürge-Vorsatz.

As leader of the Scientific Steering Committee for the ongoing SRCC scoping process, Ms.  Ürge-Vorsatz highlights the report’s uniqueness stating that it is the only special report under the IPCC’s seventh cycle emphasizing cities’ crucial role in the global climate discussion. Its pioneering collaborative approach, involving urban practitioners alongside scientists from the onset for the first time, ensures the report will be co-created, making it an invaluable resource for cities worldwide.

“The report will tap into the wisdom and exemplary experiences of cities as living laboratories. By catalyzing knowledge exchange between practitioners and scientists, we can initiate joint research projects. Often, cutting-edge practices aren’t yet in scientific literature. For the IPCC to inform decision-makers effectively, including these novel experiences in our report is crucial. This way, we can embark on new research agendas that capture city innovations and fertilize urban action with IPCC insights,” detailed Prof. Ürge-Vorsatz. 

Following the discussions on the IPCC Special Report, the Symposium will feature the plenary “Agenda-Setting and Human-Needs-Centered Innovation,” exploring disruptive technologies and pioneering solutions that redefine systems beyond mere optimization, which are essential for driving systemic transformation toward a sustainable future.

The Research & Innovation Marketplace: Turning ideas into action

After a successful debut at the ICLEI World Congress 2021-2022 in Malmö, Sweden, the Research & Innovation Marketplace returns for its second edition. It offers an interactive space for local and regional governments, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, and funders to bridge the gap between concepts and action, and between research and financial support.

The Marketplace lies at the core of the Global Research & Innovation Symposium 2024 and is focused on four cutting-edge thematic areas driving sustainability discourse:

  1. Digitalization: Technology enabling transformation: Showcasing innovative technology to drive societal and environmental change, like smart city initiatives that optimize resource use.
  2. Finance: Directing resources through green/digital finance: Focusing on novel financial instruments and platforms channeling investments into sustainability using innovative policies or digital tech, while ensuring transparency and accountability in green funding.
  3. System Transformation: Addressing root causes: Illustrating comprehensive approaches to tackling underlying causes of climate issues through integrative solutions for systemic economic, social, and environmental change.
  4. Governance and Urban Planning: New collaborative models: Exploring new cooperation models across governance levels, private sector, civil society, and international organizations for dynamic responses to complex climate challenges.

“Framed under these key thematic components, the Marketplace will guide efforts to achieve the necessary scale and speed of city-led research and innovation by enabling the conversion of ambitious ideas into concrete actions,” explained Mr. Salehi. 

The Marketplace kicks off with selected pitchers receiving direct feedback from diverse stakeholders, including funding agency experts. Participants then can engage with these pitches, casting their votes “with their feet” by choosing the thematic area they wish to explore further with the pitch makers in breakup rooms. This interactive session is designed to foster radical and deep collaboration and co-creation among all attendees.

Outcomes from these workshops will be presented in a “Dragon’s Den style” plenary session, where enhanced pitches receive feedback from an expert panel on how to take the projects from concept to “next practices.”

The event finalizes with a closing plenary reflecting on the Symposium’s key takeaways to inform the future of sustainability and climate action. “At the end of this full day of radical collaboration, participants will be equipped with valuable insights and tools to address climate challenges back at home and reshape the narrative of existing possibilities by adopting human needs and solution-finding approaches for a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive urban landscape,” concluded Mr. Salehi.

See the ICLEI Global Research & Innovation Symposium 2024 full program here

Get ICLEI’s latest urban sustainability news

Similar Posts