AI4Cities brings together the leading European cities in the intersection of smart cities and GHG emissions reduction, in order to speed up and steer the creation of new breakthrough solutions in how AI will support cities’ climate action commitments.

Partners, budget and duration

  • Forum Virium Helsinki coordinates the project.
  • Procurer members of the buyers’ group are City of Amsterdam in Netherlands, Cap Digital in Paris Region, France, City of Copenhagen, Denmark, City of Tallinn, Estonia and City of Stavanger, Norway.
  • Dissemination and communication partner is ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability from Germany.
  • Preferred Partners’ for future solutions uptake and promotion are: Municipality of Barcelona, and BIT Habitat in Spain, Municipality of Budapest in Hungary, Municipality of Egaleo in Greece, Municipality of Istanbul in Turkey, Municipality of Lamia in Greece, Municipality of Milan in Italy, Municipality of Porto in Portugal, Eurocities (European network of Cities) and Open & Agile Smart Cities (International network of Smart Cities).
  • Project duration: 36 months, starting date 1st of February 2020.
  • Budget: 6 666 666 euros, from which PCP procurement budget for companies 4 666 622 euros and 2 000 044 euros for project partners costs for related additional coordination and networking activities.
  • Funding instrument: Horizon 2020: Pre-Commercial Procurement, ICT-34-2019. Read more about pre-commercial procurement (PCP) from our blog here.

Background and objective of the project

Cities consume 75% of the world’s natural resources, produce half the planet’s waste, consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. All cities are confronted with the challenges of climate change and must take steps to become carbon-neutral. And, cities – not government nor industries – have been said to be the crux, where solutions for the biggest problems are to be developed and implemented .

Better digitalisation of the European public sector has been high on the agenda of national governments and the EU for a long time. In the coming years, the EU will invest 20 billion euros per year on innovative Artificial Intelligence based systems such as robotics, big data, machine learning, autonomous systems and conversational agents.

AI4Cities brings together the leading European cities in the intersection of smart cities and GHG emissions reduction, in order to speed up and steer the creation of new breakthrough solutions in how AI can support cities’ climate action commitments. 

Right now it is the time to direct AI research/innovation towards societal needs – to task AI developers with detailed, pragmatic, solvable missions from the cities’ climate action plans. 

Through these missions, this project will create breakthrough, scalable, European solutions for these specific needs, and thus lead to immediate, concrete and measurable emissions savings. More importantly, it will give examples of how to create, impact and deliver a better future for the whole of the AI community as well as for all European cities and citizens. 

While all cities are different, the largest opportunities for emission reduction in European cities are very similar. The highest common reduction targets in most cities’ climate action plans are in transport and in buildings’ energy use. As an example, in Helsinki, the production of electricity and heating accounts for 71 percent of GHG emissions; urban transportation and traffic account for 24 percent. Combined, these two sectors total 95 percent of Helsinki’s total carbon footprint .

This is a reality shared by fellow members of the Buyers Group, all who are facing similar harsh winter conditions. But heat management of buildings is of key importance in Southern Europe as well; for example, it is the main emission reduction action area for the City of Rome. Additionally, cities with less harsh winter conditions have the opposite challenge of intense heat, which represents a high source of GHG emissions for cooling purposes. The same heating optimising AI solutions would work here too.

The Buyers Group members are all committed to becoming Carbon neutral. Copenhagen is a world leader with the ambition of becoming Carbon neutral by 2025. Helsinki also has one of the most ambitious targets, being committed to become Carbon neutral by 2035. The strategies of both the region of Paris and the City of Tallinn have the goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and Amsterdam wants to cut its carbon emissions by 95 percent by 2050. The City of Stavanger aims to reduce its GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2030, and to be fossil free by 2040. 

The purpose of this Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) is to support Cities’ transition to carbon neutrality, by applying the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related enabling digital technologies to tackle the challenge of reducing the Cities’ GHG emissions.

In this proposal, the concept of AI is also seen as an umbrella, collecting best practises of platforms in order to work efficiently. An urban platform which supports cities with their smart city services is a somewhat abstract concept that is hardly ever a single server or even a platform. The urban platform is a collection of smart city-related data and services that interconnect with harmonised API’s, data models and controlled vocabularies. A solid data platform is thus the basis of any AI service. All the partner cities in the project have years of experience on sharing data and improving data interoperability.

AI accelerating Cities transition to carbon neutrality

Merging physical city public assets like infrastructure or public transportation networks with a digital layer through the use of AI with other enabling digital technologies, including HPC, IoT, Big Data and the Cloud, 5G and Next Generation Internet, and big data applications, opens vast possibilities in terms of the development of new transport services, healthcare and wellbeing, business/operating models, social innovations, security, clean and efficient energy. These can revolutionise Cities as we know it. To quote from the H2020 LEIT-ICT Work Programme 2018-2020: “Digital technologies underpin innovation and competitiveness across private and public sector and enable progress in all disciplines.”

Helsinki, Amsterdam and Copenhagen have been world leading pioneers in the opening up of data as a means for new and improved services of public interest. This can be exemplified by Helsinki Region Infoshare , a large data repository available to all, and by the rapid development of services such as multimodal travel planners, transportation network companies like Mobility as a Service  or Blind square . Others cities follow suit. Tallinn is a powerhouse in digitalisation of public services and Paris region has in its Cap Digital the biggest cluster in Europe and one of the largest innovators’ collectives in the digital ecosystem. 

Digitally-based services and applications provide citizens with an increasing level of tailored and real-time information and greater choice. They allow informed decisions which lead to a sustainable future, better quality of life, cost savings and economic growth. 

The members of the Buyers Group and like-minded cities with a strong record in the uptake of smart cities solutions, open data and IoT based solutions, are in an ideal position to capitalise on the increasingly popular AI and other emerging digital technologies as a means to help solve societal challenges. They can address issues such as cities’ sustainability, urban mobility and pollution, and more importantly bring about true change by accelerating cities’ transition into a zero- or carbon-positive economy. 

Cities, as the engines of the European economy and true representatives of EU citizens, must take a driving seat, capitalising on the potential of these disruptive technologies and at the same time ensuring that they do not create unnecessary risks for citizens, business and general society.

AI4Cities will combine the City partners’ unique knowledge, tools and vibrant ecosystems, with a challenge-based PCP competition on developing unique innovative Digital solutions able to help Cities reduce their GHG emissions.

Implementation plan

The project is divided into 5 stages.

  1. Challenge preparation and open market consultation
  2. Solutions design competition (PCP Phase 1)
  3. Prototypes creation competition (PCP Phase 2)
  4. Best prototypes pilot testing (PCP Phase 3)
  5. Future actions planning (building on project results the large network of city public buyers will plan what to do next in collaboration)

Local focus partner by partner

  • Forum Virium Helsinki: Responsible for project coordination, Buyers group leader – responsible for the Cities challenge on GHG emissions mitigation in the energy sector.
  • City of Tallinn – Buyers group member and responsible for the Cities challenge on GHG emissions mitigation in the mobility sector.
  • Forum Virium Helsinki, City of Tallinn, City of Amsterdam, Cap Digital (Paris Region), City of Copenhagen, City of Stavanger: members of the Buyers group, cofunding the PCP process and future testers of the end solutions via city pilots.
  • ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – large network tackling the development of sustainable solutions for local governments who is responsibnle for the project awareness, stakeholders activation, and the project results Dissemination and communication.

How to participate

  • For fellow cities and public sector organisations or representative networks you are welcome to become a preferred partner and take part in setting the challenge and analyse the potential of the proposed solutions, get the opportunity to follow the project progress and together set future actions.
  • For companies, researchers, designers, entrepreneurs and  everyone concerned about climate change and an interest in the development of solutions capable of helping cities transitioning to become CO2 neutral, you can take part in our challenge based competition, starting with the project stage 1, the challenge preparation where a series of open workshops bringing together all the involved parties will be organised in all of the participant cities.
  • All enquieries: Kaisa Sibelius, project manager, kaisa.sibelius@forumvirium.fi, +358 40 570 1317

Further information:

Kaisa Sibelius

Project manager


#AI4Cities
Mobile: +358 40 570 1317
kaisa.sibelius(at)forumvirium.fi

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