How can Swedish innovation promote climate-neutral cities?

14 Jan 2021

“Which technology is key to your work helping cities become climate-neutral?”  This is the question I hear the most  from international visitors and potential partners interested in knowing more about the story of how Sweden is transforming cities and delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sweden is, as well as the rest of the world, facing an age of unprecedented possibilities.  New technology and new business models will give us the tools to tackle the greatest challenges of our time. 

In my view, Swedish engineering companies are right in the middle of this movement. They are the motor for the innovation now taking place in business and in society and we at Teknikföretagen support the Swedish engineering companies which in many cases will have the answers to the challenges that we face both globally and individually. 

At Teknikföretagen, we represent one of the largest urban tech portfolios of solution providers (+4200 companies) with global leading players such as ABB, Ericsson, Scania, SAAB, Volvo and Alfa Laval, as well as small innovative companies. Tech companies are committed to delivering solutions and systems to fulfill the goals of Agenda 2030, support economic growth and reverse the trends of climate change. Teknikföretagen also chairs Team Sweden Smart City, the Swedish public-private partnership for exports and investments, initiated by the Swedish Government, and is on the board of ElectriCITY in Hammarby Sjöstad, now a well-known global lighthouse project and one of the leading sustainable cities and real-life testbeds. 

ElectriCITY in Hammarby Sjöstad, now a well-known global lighthouse project and one of the leading sustainable cities and real-life testbeds. Credit: Ola Ericson/

Aerial shot of Hammarby Sjöstad

But, is the key to transformation only technology itself? In my opinion the answer is no. There are already well-proven robust technologies available that can enable climate-neutral cities.  What is needed now is something not as tangible: firstly, the key to success is strong leadership with ambitious vision and targets. Secondly, we need to enable the process for transformation, a process that involves in-depth stakeholder dialogues (detailed below). And thirdly, we need institutional capacity to handle the process, from research to implementation and operation. 

We believe that the transformation of cities requires:

  • new ways of working, throughout the whole value chain from research to implementation, between sectors and in a quadruple-helix mix (strong co-creation model linking public sector, private sector, academia and citizens), and with a broad political collaboration. The companies need to be given the opportunity to participate in mission-driven dialogues in each part of the value chain. 
  • unlocking policy and technical silos in the city. One example of where we have been working in silos is in the buildings sector. We see separated silos of systems for energy, waste, ventilation, water, and IT. Systems that today are not able to interact with each other and support each other if not co-planned.
  • procurement processes that open up early stage dialogues with all stakeholders, and procurement of innovative solutions that includes climate smart criteria. 
  • a transformed green financing framework that assess the possibilities of achieving climate smart impact and that is more attractive than financing “not-as-smart” projects. 
  • shared risk among different stakeholders and a public flexible supporting system that is created to support the stakeholders wherever they are in the process.  

In order to contribute to this new way of thinking we have initiated the Climate Smart Cities Challenge, in partnership with Viable Cities, UN-Habitat, Smart City Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and Vinnova. Next year, we will launch the Challenge and partner with the World Expo in Dubai 2021 to highlight the opportunity and to capture the imagination of players on a global level.

We are facing an age of unprecedented possibilities. In order to make the most of them we must focus on how we support innovation and development. Whether it is through new business models, aggressive business policy, modern regulations or joint efforts. The focus should be the same.

The possibilities are there, if we promote the technology that makes the world a better place. 

Author: Jennie Cato is Head of Strategy at Teknikföretagen , and also the project manager for the Climate Smart Cities Challenge from Teknikföretagen’s side. She has 20 years experience of technology and sustainability in different capacities within both the industry and governmental sector. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter

Teknikföretagen (the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries) is the primary representative for Swedish industry. Our mission is to strengthen the competitiveness of member companies. In collaboration with our member companies, the Association builds upon Sweden’s historical roots as a powerful innovative and engineering nation. New technology, new business models will give us the tools with which to tackle the greatest challenges of our time.

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