Toyota Mobility Foundation Sustainable Cities Challenge

Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit: Eastern Market

Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit: Transforming Freight

We are looking for innovators to demonstrate solutions that decrease fossil fuel use and reduce costs of freight operations in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Enter by 8:00pm on September 12, 2024. To learn more, visit

About the Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit

The Sustainable City Challenge is a two-stage, three-year $9 million global opportunity for cities and innovators.

In June 2023, the Toyota Mobility Foundation, in partnership with Challenge Works and World Resources Institute, launched a $9 million global challenge to help cities adapt to the future, with the potential to transform the lives of millions around the world. 

As cities grow and evolve, the challenges of moving people and goods in reliable, efficient, and inclusive ways have never been more essential. At the same time, opportunities to apply advances in transport modes, infrastructure design, operations, energy options, and connected data systems have never been more promising. 

The Sustainable Cities Challenge aims to improve the lives of people by increasing access to jobs, education and other essential services. It will bring cities and innovators together to implement mobility solutions that could reduce carbon, improve accessibility, and use data to build more resilient transport systems. 

Ryan Klem, Director of Programs at the Toyota Mobility Foundation, said, “Our experience over the past decade has underscored the importance of local cities’ buy-in and engagement with our activities. Throughout the Sustainable Cities Challenge, we are looking to work alongside cities to find innovative solutions in the areas they identify as critical to develop a scalable model for the cities of tomorrow.”

On May 29, the Toyota Mobility Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Challenge  announced the City of Detroit is among the top 3 cities chosen in the world. The City of Detroit's Office of Mobility Innovation will receive $3 million in funding available by mid-2024 in partnership with the Eastern Market Partnership on a clean freight project for the historic neighborhood. 

​​We are calling on innovators to:

Demonstrate solutions that reduce fossil fuel use and cut costs of freight operations in Eastern Market

Solutions should address one or more of the following:

  1. Reduce idling time
  2. Reduce partial loads and empty miles
  3. Reduce reliance on fossil fuel for cold chain logistics and freight management
  4. Reduce implementation costs and barriers to adopting clean freight technologies 

Innovator Funding

We will support innovators in developing their solutions by providing:

  • Up to ten $50,000 implementation grants in the semi-finalist stage
  • Up to five $130,000 implementation grants in the finalist stage
  • A $1.5 million final award for implementation, to be shared among up to 3 winners
  • Connections to businesses in Eastern Market to understand their operations
  • Facilitation to engage directly with city leaders
  • Capacity building support  
  • Access to a network of like-minded innovators

All funding must be used by teams to develop, test and demonstrate their solutions for Detroit’s Eastern Market, with the final funding to be used for implementation in Eastern Market.

Why Detroit’s Eastern Market?

Detroit’s Eastern Market is the largest open-air market and amongst the oldest historic markets in the U.S. and is at the heart of Detroit’s Challenge. It is the city’s hub for food distribution, selling over $360 million of wholesale food annually, and double that in exports. The district is poised to expand and is considering strategies to address environmental concerns, carbon emissions, and pollution, while adding residential units to this bustling community. It organizes farmers, wholesalers, distributors, and logistics operators into distribution activities designed to move food that feeds millions.

Eastern Market neighborhood is continuing to expand as a market and as a mixed-use district. A key challenge of its growth strategy is to harmonize food production and distribution increases with clean freight initiatives. This will safeguard the health of Eastern Market residents, workers, and visitors while reducing fossil fuel costs of freight operators.  

This will safeguard the health of Eastern Market residents, workers, and visitors while reducing fossil fuel costs of freight operators.

Detroit is seeking innovators who can demonstrate impact through solutions that achieve three key objectives:

  1. Innovators must show that their solutions add value to the freight ecosystem.
  2. Innovators must demonstrate that their solutions can be integrated without adding significant costs.
  3. Innovators must ensure that their solutions are easy to adopt and use by freight operators and Eastern Market.


Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit is now open for entries!

  • May 29, 2024: Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit Launches
  • September 12, 2024: Entries Close
  • November 2024: Semi-Finalist Announcement
  • May 2025: Finalist Announcement
  • Early 2026: Winner's Announcement

Participation requirements

Eligible entries that best meet the judging criteria will be invited to participate in the semi-finalist stage.


Entries that do not meet the following criteria are not eligible for the Challenge.

  • T​​he solution must be tailored specifically for Detroit and implemented within the city.  
  • Entrants can be single organizations or consortia.  
  • Teams that enter as a consortium must nominate one organization as the lead entrant. The lead entrant will enter into contracts and receive funding from the Toyota Mobility Foundation.  
  • Entrants must be established as a legally incorporated organization to enter.  
  • The challenge is open to innovators worldwide but entries must be in English.  
  • Successful entrants must be willing and able to travel to Detroit as there will be expectations for on-the-ground presence during the next stage of the Challenge.  

Entrants must own or be licensed to use relevant intellectual property included in their entries.

  • If your entry proposes a new idea, we expect that you will own all the resulting intellectual property, which may be registered on a local basis if you are selected for participation in the Challenge. The Challenge would not be able to give you specific legal advice on the protection or exploitation of intellectual property.

Judging Criteria

The judging criteria will be used to evaluate the suitability of an entry for the Challenge and its potential for impact.

  • Reduction of Fossil Fuel Use
    • Evaluates the potential impact of proposed solutions on decreasing fossil fuel use, thereby contributing to reducing emissions, air and noise pollution in Eastern Market.
  • Innovation in Eastern Market Freight
    • Assesses the degree of improvement and novelty offered by proposed technologies compared to current practices in Eastern Market. It also considers how these solutions stand out in the broader landscape of emerging and sustainable freight innovations. 
  • Adoption Potential by Businesses
    • Focuses on the ​entrant​​​s' understanding of user circumstances, needs, and expectations and how these were addressed to improve the adoption potential of the solution by businesses in ​​Eastern Market.
  • Technology Maturity
    • Evaluates the state of planning, development and testing at each stage of the technological roadmap, including co-design with users, off-site testing, and on-site demonstration in ​​Eastern Market.
  • Potential to Scale
    • Assesses the solution's potential for achieving long-term market viability after the conclusion of the Challenge. It may include expanding to new customers (or use cases) within ​Eastern Market and beyond.
  • Capability to Deliver
    • Evaluates the team's understanding of the skills and partnerships necessary to deliver the project and how well they fulfil these requirements.

How to Enter

Before completing your entry form, make sure that you:

  • Read the entrant handbook, our Terms and Conditions and the FAQs
  • Verify you meet the Eligibility Criteria
  • Familiarize yourself with the Challenge Statement and the Judging Criteria
  • Follow us on our social media channels for updates relating to the Challenge

The deadline for entries is 8:00pm EST on September 12, 2024. Late entries will not be accepted.

Enter the Sustainable Cities Challenge- Detroit

Entrant Support

We have designed a range of support to help provide you with all the information and context you need to put together an entry to the Challenge. 

Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit: Eastern Market HANDBOOK
Webinar TMF SCC



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