Pioneer Cities (PC)

Challenge Platform: Making Transitions Happen

Project Start Date: 01/2012

Lead partner: Sandy Taylor, Birmingham City Council, UK

Project type: Pathfinder – Exploring future demands, assessing potential for innovations to meet those demands and identifying barriers to their deployment

Project lead: Sandy Taylor < uk>


This project involves 5 partners in 5 European countries:

  • Bologna Municipality, Italy
  • Budapest Municipality, Hungary
  • Frankfurt City Council, Germany
  • Castellon Municipality, Spain
  • Wroclaw, Poland


The aim of Pioneer Cities was to identify challenges and solutions to a range of urban climate change mitigation strategies from across Europe. The project was led by six cities with range of current projects and experiences that could be drawn upon. Through bringing together cities from different regions, similar challenges could be identified and solutions could be shared.

The climate change urban challenge

Europe is an urban continent, with a large percentage of its population living and working within its cities. Urban areas account for a significant proportion of the Continent’s economic activity and around 70% of its carbon emissions. What happens in cities is therefore crucial for Europe to reach its low carbon 20-20-20 targets.

To meet the challenges and requirements of a shift to a low carbon society, urban areas will have to undergo wholesale change, reducing energy consumption from buildings; adapting energy networks for renewables and energy storage; and promoting low carbon and sustainable transport.

The Project Solution

Pioneer Cities has identified low carbon projects that are currently taking place in six major European cities. Pioneer Cities assessed more than one hundred projects with an estimated combined value of over € 2 billion. From this bottom-up assessment these projects were defined into six key categories, grouping them on the topics of energy, buildings and mobility.

These clusters are:

•Enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings through design or retrofit

•Allowing the users of buildings to actively manage their demand for energy

•Ensuring the combination of heating or cooling with power

•Promoting renewable de-centralised energy networks

•Developing low emission vehicle systems

•Integrating multiple modes of mobility to reduce car dependence

Some of these clusters have a technical focus; others have a stronger emphasis, but all are challenge-led rather than determined by one technology. So they do not focus on external cladding, or wind power or electric vehicles but rather the broad challenge in that arena.

By bringing together cities from different regions, similar challenges were identified and solutions shared.

Pioneer Cities has been led by the city authorities themselves, as they are responsible for the overall planning, transport and development issues. City authorities are also the pivotal player with the democratic legitimacy to bring together a range of other stakeholders. This was done in a series of stakeholder workshops which began to identify challenges that are similar across the partner cities. Through engaging with stakeholders and identifying solutions on the ground, the project developed an understanding of best practice in addressing these challenges. Through the identification of key trends, Pioneer Cities has begun to identify business opportunities and new markets. The Pathfinder intends to take this work forward within a new Climate KIC Innovation project.