Guest blog from Climate Week NYC: Urban Innovation for Livable Cities

FORESIGHT magazines were available to the participants at the Urban Innovation for Livable Cities conference during NYC Climate Week 2016. Danish Cleantech Hub shares the background for the conference and discusses the need for a transatlantic collaboration to create resilient and liveable cities. 

Urban Innovation for Livable Cities is a call for action to deliver on the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. We need to rethink global engagement around multi-stakeholder partnerships, and share best practices and approaches to progress sustainable communities and clean energy.

Living labs

The Urban Innovation for Livable Cities is also a call to create livable and inclusive communities. This implies rethinking architecture, urban planning, resiliency and community engagement. New York City and Denmark pioneer in architecture and urban innovation, and have turned cities into living labs.

Faced with deciding on a Cloudburst Management Plan in 2011, the City of Copenhagen turned its back on traditional sewer-based solutions and decided to go for a combination of blue-green infrastructure. This is not only a more cost-effective way to address heavy rain, but it also bring wider benefits to the citizens in terms more parks, open-water spaces, improved public health and mobility in Copenhagen.

We don’t simply need to include our citizens in a process, we need to engage them and we need them to inspire us. This is why we created the Copenhagen Climate Neighborhood as a living lab with 15,000 residents, and this why we recently opened the Smart City test lab, Copenhagen Solutions Lab”, says Copenhagen’s Mayor of Technical and Environmental Affairs, Morten Kabell. For Copenhagen, sharing results and getting inspiration from other international cities plays a major part. “We try to create goal oriented partnerships that could help inspire others. The best example is our collaboration with New York City, which are now working on designing their own climate neighborhood based on co-creation, partly inspired by our experiences”, Morten Kabell continues.


New York City and Denmark pioneer in architecture and urban innovation, and have turned cities into living labs.


In New York, what began as a new kind of design competition in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has transformed into an innovative process that places local communities and civic leaders at the heart of a robust, interdisciplinary, creative process to generate solutions for a more resilient region. Rebuild by Design’s inclusive process has since provoked a paradigm shift in the way that planners and local governments deal with disaster response and emergency preparedness across the US.

Technological innovation and new energy partnerships play a vital role in NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio plan One New York City – The Plan for a Strong and Just City. As an example, the plan promotes the implementation of distributed energy resources to empower residents to make independent decisions about their energy consumption and requires a rethinking of public-private partnerships across the whole value chain.

Launched by Mayor De Blasio’s Office of Technology and Innovation, Neighborhood Innovation Labs is another example of a living lab initiative, intended to provide test beds for urban tech companies to demonstrate their technologies on NYC infrastructure. Similar to Copenhagen Solutions Lab, this initiative aims at aligning community needs with new technology investments and lower barriers of entry for tech companies with smart city solutions, as well as boost local economic development.



High Line Park, New York.

Delivering on the SDGs locally

Combined with innovation around public-private collaboration and co-creation, the second focus of the Urban Innovation for Livable Cities conference is the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially in relation to Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7), Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11), and Climate Action (Goal 13).

New York City’s Mayor’s Office for International Affairs is spearheading local efforts to align the SDGS with the City’s progressive development plans.

I am excited to welcome Climate Week to NYC. Events like the Urban Innovation for Livable Cities conference bring stakeholders together to find innovative ways to translate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a local level. New York City is achieving these goals through Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC, an innovative blueprint for a stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more resilient city. Through my office we have worked to create a global platform from which we can share best practice, and learn from cities across the world how to create more sustainable and livable cities”, says Commissioner for NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena.

An example is the Parks Without Borders initiative, which aims at making city parks more accessible and welcoming to everyone by tearing down fences, improve neighborhood livability, and public health. New York City has asked park goers to help choose the eight parks that would benefit most from the Parks Without Borders approach to design. New Yorkers across the city commented on parks in every borough, sharing insights on their local parks. 6,100 suggestions were collected for improving 692 parks, which is more than a third of the parks and playgrounds in New York City.

The Danish Cleantech Hub is proud to host the Urban Innovation for Livable Cities event at NYC Climate Week, and contribute to the crucial task of delivering on the new SDGs.

“We have summoned bold innovators and high-level decision makers from New York and Denmark to share their experiences, but also to challenge each other. Sharing experience, solutions and concerns is vital if we are to achieve the ambitious targets of the SDGs by 2030 as they do require inclusive co-creation among public, private, academic, and civic stakeholders”, says General Manager of Danish Cleantech Hub, Andreas Brunsgaard.


TEXT: Klaus Lehn Christensen, Danish Cleantech Hub New York