Man speaking in front of a crowd at the Sustainable Urban Solutions 2018 conference.

Creating Sustainable Urban Solutions Together

How to assist cities to find innovative solutions to their major sustainability challenges was the main theme of the day when more than 400 international and Nordic guests gathered at the Sustainable Urban Solutions conference in Copenhagen 23 May. Present were also 12 selected cities from all over the world, as well as several global networks working with sustainable urban solutions.

The conference was an official side event of the Nordic Clean Energy Week and hosted by CLEAN, Climate-KIC, Innovation Norway, Business Finland, Cleantech Scandinavia, Promote Iceland and Tillväxtverket. The conference was co-funded by Nordic Innovation as part of the Nordic Sustainable Cities project.

Photos: Click here to see photos from the conference.

Cities as green transition drivers

The way we build our cities will have great implications on the lives of the majority of the world’s population. More than half of us already live in cities, and another 2,5 billion people are expected to move to cities by 2025. Cities can play a major part in drive innovation towards a more sustainable future. Keynote speakers Mark Watts, Managing Director of C40, Anne Skovbro, CPO of Realdania,  and Anders Wijkman, Chairman of Climate-KIC all gave their views on the role of cities in the green transition.

“Change is coming in the big cities. If all cities came together we could reduce CO2 emissions to reach the Paris Agreements”, said Mark Watts, highlighting the rapid move to electric vehicles in Chinese cities and Vancouver’s leading role in building zero carbon buildings.

Mark Watts, Excecutive Director of C40 on stage.

After the keynotes, the guests split into four different groups with different themes where selected cities presented themselves and allowed for a deeper delve into their challenges and create a basis for the workshops that were going to be held later in the day.

Innovative partnerships between cities and companies

After lunch, the topic turned to innovative partnerships and solutions, with keynote Hans Jørgen Koch, CEO of Nordic Energy Research talked about Nordic energy perspectives, before lending the stage to Oras Tynkkynen. The Sitra Senior Adviser offered his thoughts on Nordic solutions for further climate action across the globe.

The Nordic culture of co-creation is really strong, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the world

Vinay Venkatraman, CEO, Leapcraft

Continuing on the same topic, a panel consisting of company representatives discussed the opportunities and challenges with public-private partnerships and some of their own experiences with working with municipalities. The panel consisted of Mirelle Vitale, Senior Vice President of Rockwool, Helia Antila, CTO of Fortum and Vinay Venkatraman, CEO of Leapcraft.

They all presented positive examples of working with municipalities but emphasised that slow processes often posed challenges especially for smaller SMEs. However, the will between both the public and private sector often still made partnerships work well.

“The Nordic culture of co-creation is really strong, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the world”, said Venkatraman, who has worked both in his home country India and several other places in the world before moving to Denmark almost a decade ago.

Mirelle Vitale (SVP, Rockwool) and Heli Antila (CTO, Fortum) discussing public-private partnerships.

After the panel debate, Pamela Lynn Tiller from the Danish Trade Commission in Toronto launched the Nordic City Solutions platform, and Henrik Bjørnager Jensen from CLEAN launched a new Nordic initiative based on a cooperation with C40. Both projects are funded by Nordic Innovation through Nordic Sustainable Cities.

Last on the programme came perhaps the main event for many of the guests – parallel workshops with each of the 12 specially invited cities, including Singapore, Athens and Hamilton. Here the participants got to discuss solutions to the cities’ problems with the cities themselves.

The creativity of the way our challenge was approached was way beyond the expectations I had before I came.

Edward John, Senior Project Manager, City of Hamilton

Edward John, Senior Project Manager in the City of Hamilton, which experience challenges with retrofitting of social housing, was impressed by the collaboration and the creativity they experienced in the workshops.

“The creativity of the way our challenge was approached was way beyond the expectations I had before I came” says John, who promise to take with him the input they got as they explore their challenges further.

Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges

The conference clearly demonstrated the important role cities play in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and the need for innovative solutions to global urban development challenges. Through the Nordic Sustainable Cities project, Nordic Innovation works to showcase and export Nordic solutions to those challenges in close collaboration with global partners.

The project is one of six flagship projects under the Nordic prime ministers’ initiative Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges, which is coordinated by the Nordic Council of Ministers.


Portrait Rasmus Malmborg

Rasmus Malmborg

Senior Innovation Adviser
Rasmus has extensive international experience in complex project management, predominantly within health care system development. Prior to joining Nordic Innovation, Rasmus has been with LHL International for nine years and worked the last four years as CEO.

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