SPARCS presents at the seminar Horizon Europe: Innovation & Development for Cities
SPARCS Leipzig Maia Espoo
26 march 2024 | Location: Maia, Leipzig, Espoo
Urban transformation

The SPARCS fellow city of Maia, Portugal, hosted the SPARCS City Forum on 20 March 2024, putting urban innovation and sustainability in the spotlight. Spearheaded jointly by SPARCS, Posityf, and Atelier, the Forum was an excellent opportunity for the participating cities to explore the possibilities available within the Horizon Europe framework.

Kicking off with a warm welcome from Hernâni Ribeiro, Maia’s City Councillor for Governance and Digital Transition, and Mari Hukkalainen from VTT Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus Research Centre, the forum set the stage for a day of insightful discourse and shared visions.

The morning session got off to an enthusiastic start as speakers Paulo Ferrão from IN+ Instituto Superior Técnico and Margarida Oliveira e Flávio Soares from the Portuguese National Innovation Agency unveiled Portugal’s commitment to climate neutrality and spoke about how Portuguese cities are engaging with the Horizon Europe initiative.

The forum then took a deep dive into the experience of individual cities at the Cities Testimonies session. Moderated by Fernando Gomes of Maia City Council, representatives from the SPARCS lighthouse cities Espoo and Leipzig, the Pocityf lighthouse city Évora, and the Atelier fellow city Matosinhos spoke about resilience, adaptation, and triumph in the face of urban challenges.

Striding towards climate neutrality

Espoo, Finland, presented by Jani Tartia, showcased its ambitious strides towards climate neutrality, weaving together the threads of governance, sustainability, and community engagement. Through initiatives like the Sustainable Espoo programme, participation in Covenant of Mayors and EU’s 100 Climate neutral and smart cities mission, Espoo illustrates its commitment to advancing towards a more sustainable future. The emissions coming from heating houses represent the biggest part of the emissions. This is why the city is working to address this and developing Positive Energy districts within SPARCS is part of the effort to become climate neutral by 2030. Close collaboration with private organizations is very important for the success of demo sites and the achieving of climate neutrality.

Then Évora, Portugal, took the spotlight, presenting its approach to decarbonisation in heritage-protected areas. Nuno Bilo of Évora’s Environment and Mobility Division narrated a story of revitalisation, where energy communities breathe new life into historic precincts, marrying tradition with innovation.

Tiago Lopes from Matosinhos Environment Division showcased the city’s remarkable journey towards carbon neutrality. From energy-efficient social housing in Bairro de Custio to the transformative Corredor Verde do Leça, Matosinhos exemplifies the power of holistic urban planning rooted in sustainability.

Leipzig, Germany, presented by Nadja Riedel, added its voice to the chorus of urban transformation, outlining its evolution to a smart city powerhouse. Leipzig is currently the fasters growing city in Germany in the past few years and with the growth there come the challenges – impact on the transformation and the life of the citizens. Through initiatives like the Smart City Unit and transformative demo sites like Baumwollspinnerei and Duncker neighbourhood, Leipzig stands as a testament to the potential unleashed by collaborative innovation.

Key takeaways

As the day drew to a close, Fernando Gomes from the Maia City Council highlighted three key takeaways. First, he underscored the need for collective action in navigating the energy and digital transition, with cities serving as laboratories of experimentation. Second, he championed a proactive approach to funding, urging cities to seek diverse avenues for support. Lastly, he advocated for a paradigm shift in city governance, emphasising the need for cities to evolve into proactive producers rather than passive consumers of change.

The SPARCS City Forum 2024 transcended geographical boundaries, weaving a tapestry of inspiration, innovation, and solidarity. As cities chart their course towards a sustainable future, they do so not in isolation but as part of a global ecosystem, where knowledge sharing and collaboration illuminate the path forward. Through platforms like SPARCS, the journey towards urban transformation becomes a tangible reality, one city at a time.