In the global pursuit of a sustainable future, small and medium-sized cities (SMCs) are stepping into the spotlight as key players in achieving net-zero emissions. The Horizon Europe funded SMCNetZero project aims to use innovation, collaboration, and empowerment to harness the potential of these cities to lead the charge towards a greener future. This article sheds light on our project's vision, its completed actions, and breaks down each crucial activity that supports these cities on their journey towards carbon neutrality. 

The SMCNetZero project is a visionary 18-month endeavor assisting small and medium-sized cities on their road to net zero emissions. We aim to establish a network of innovation actors, uniting representatives from small and medium sized cities (SMCs), small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, NGOs, and investors across Europe. By pooling resources, knowledge, and expertise, we seek to amplify the capacity for planning, deploying, and scaling-up decarbonization solutions. 

Partnership for Progress 

Our project is made possible through collaborative partnerships with organizations committed to empower small and medium-sized cities on their net-zero journey, including BABLE, BLOXHUB, ODRAZ, SMART CITY CLUSTER, SOUTHERN REGIONAL ASSEMBLY, URBAN DNA and WE BUILD DENMARK. These partnerships bring together expertise from various sectors, enriching the project's impact. 

How we plan to empower SMCs? 

Small and medium-sized cities often remain overlooked when discussing decarbonization, yet they harbor immense potential for driving meaningful change. With this in mind, this project converges to address the following objectives: 

  1. Access and acceleration to relevant knowledge: Encouraging the spread of knowledge about decarbonization solutions, funding opportunities, and market players to facilitate the adoption of innovative zero-emission solutions. 
  2. Collaboration and Connections: Create a digital space and toolkit that fosters collaboration between zero-emission solution providers, investors and public authorities from SMCs, enabling knowledge sharing and networking opportunities. 
  3. Thought Leadership: Identifying and engaging innovation leaders from public and private sectors across different regions to ensure high-value participation in the project's activities. 
  4. Inclusivity: Ensuring widespread participation and maximum impact by engaging underrepresented groups and organizations through knowledge-building activities. 
  5. Facilitating Implementation: Develop core common solutions and promote demand aggregation to facilitate the implementation and scaling up of innovation projects in SMCs, enhancing market attractiveness for SMEs. 

Helping you to pave your way to Net Zero 

The first activity we completed was to lay the groundwork for the next steps of the project. In order for SMCNetZero activities to bring participants added value in their innovation journeys, a clear picture of the existing gaps facing both SMCs and SMEs was required. To understand the needs and challenges that many European small and medium sized cities are dealing with in their Net Zero journey, the project partners identified and mapped relevant innovation actors, initiatives, tools etc. But most importantly we interviewed 50+ SMCs and SMEs to understand how we can support them best. 

This first stage is now complete and has unveiled barriers faced by SMCs and SMEs, while also identifying opportunities, key innovation actors and thematic areas for focus as the project continues. Now that these challenges have been identified, the following activities will focus on connecting SMCs to experts and relevant SMEs to find solutions to help reach their net zero goals. Through collaboration, matchmaking and workshops, knowledge will be shared, and solutions scaled, creating cross-regional partnerships. SMCs will also be supported with contacts to regional and national funding and opportunities for testbeds. 

To wrap up our first activity, we held online Webinars where SMCs and SMEs had the opportunity to share best practices and experiences with their peers, ask questions and take part in interactive exercises, all established to share knowledge and enhance engagement. 

Another milestone of our project is the launch of the SMCNetZero Digital Platform. Housed within the BABLE Smart Cities platform, this virtual ‘one stop shop’ simplifies the sharing of knowledge and best practices, enables networking amongst cities and improves accessibility to innovation for all stakeholders. A catalogue of use cases and a buyer's guide of solutions can be found on the digital platform, which can inspire, support and create opportunities for cities to adopt similar solutions.  

To simplify access to relevant tools from other EU projects supporting cities on their decarbonization journey, these tools will also be made available within the Digital Forum to further support SMCs and their efforts toward reaching net zero.  

STAY TUNED: Project Partner BABLE is currently in the process of creating a Funding Finder tool to further support SMCs in finding the right financial support for their net zero initiatives. 

The next achievement of the project so far is the release of our first podcast episode: Smart in the City, The Bable Podcast – SMCNetZero Project. Hosted by Tamlyn Shimizu, this episode hears from our very own Nikita Shetty, Graham Colclough and Rebecca Walsh. As well as diving into the project's motivations and intentions, the podcast gives further insights into the burning challenges faced by our SMCs and how the project can help tackle these. Through these podcasts and articles, successful initiatives will be promoted to transfer key knowledge to SMCs and SMEs. 

Engage in our upcoming activities 

The workshop series promises to unite experts and enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds, fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations and actions to address crucial challenges in our pursuit to achieve Net Zero.

Why should you Attend?

  • Co-create innovative, cross-disciplinary solutions with leading experts.
  • Gain insights from inspirational talks that ignite new perspectives.
  • Network with like-minded professionals, all dedicated to a sustainable future.
  • Make a tangible impact on pressing urban challenges.

You can participate in one, two, or all three workshops.

This workshop series welcomes professionals, academics, policymakers, and all passionate contributors to a Net Zero future. Participation is free, but spots are limited. Secure your spot by signing up now!

Stay motivated!

Coming up next, the project plans to motivate SMCs with real life experiences of urban innovation through site visits conducted in DOLL Living Lab, a leading facility of its kind in Europe. SMEs will also take part in these visits in order to facilitate matchmaking amongst the project's stakeholders. In line with these site visits, a series of innovation training will be conducted to offer in-depth and targeted key learnings to SMCs. These focus areas have been selected directly from collaboration with SMCs and SMEs and these trainings will be customized to their requirements.  

The last stage of the project is action! Through collaboration with the Smart Cities Marketplace and the "Small Giants” network, actions will be launched in order to target specific solution areas. SMCs, SMEs, and investors will be supported in exploring business models and procurement processes that speed progress to scale implementation. Stay with us while we provide your Roadmap to Impact, designed specifically by and for smaller cities. 

The SMCNetZero project is not just a vision, but a tangible journey toward net-zero emissions, rooted in collaboration, innovation, and empowerment. By harnessing the potential of small and medium-sized cities and creating a network of innovation actors, the project is paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future. As SMCNetZero continues to unfold, it hopes to illustrate how collective efforts can drive meaningful change and accelerate progress towards our net zero goals.  

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