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Detroit Shortlisted in $9 Million Global Challenge to Drive Innovation in City Mobility

2023
  • Detroit named one of the 10 shortlisted cities for the $9-million Toyota Mobility Foundation Sustainable Cities Challenge.
  • The Challenge aims to help cities improve access to opportunities, apply data-driven approaches for more resilient transport systems, and reduce carbon.
  • Over 150 cities from 46 countries around the world entered the Sustainable Cities Challenge.
  • Among shortlist includes cities in Brazil, Colombia, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

 

Detroit has been announced as one of 10 cities in the shortlist for the $9 million Sustainable Cities Challenge. The Toyota Mobility Foundation, in partnership with Challenge Works and World Resources Institute, launched the Challenge in June 2023. The global mobility challenge helps cities prepare for the future and will support innovation with the potential to transform the lives of millions of people around the world. 

Being the most populous city in the state of Michigan, Detroit is also renowned for its historic role in the automotive industry - ‘Motor City’. The city is also known for its historic Eastern Market - home to vibrant culture, restaurants, shops, galleries, nightlife, and entertainment. Over the next 5 years, the market is slated for residential growth and expansion of food processing and manufacturing.

With this planned expansion and development, the City is looking for new and creative ways to create technologies and plans that can decrease pollution in the Eastern Market area. The goal is to find innovative methods for vendors to keep working during the long cold weather season while keeping the environment and the community safe.

The expansion of the Eastern Market is expected to attract more visitors which could significantly disproportionately impact the local population. While this provides an opportunity for the development of the space, the City aims to ensure appropriate health measures are in place to offset the potential impact of such activities.

Tim Slusser, Chief of the City of Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation said, “The Sustainable Cities Challenge allows the city of Detroit to explore innovative ideas on how we could ensure the expansion of the Eastern Market is appropriately managed. Embracing progress is important, but we must tread carefully and not jeopardize the environment in the pursuit of economic growth. Balancing progress with sustainability ensures a future where we thrive without compromising the air we breathe and the water we depend on.”

While the current focus for Detroit’s entry is the Eastern Market, the City team will work to explore this issue and other mobility issues with local stakeholders to identify how they can best support mobility systems. Open innovation Challenges often develop and evolve throughout the process as the city’s specific needs are understood more closely.

Cities were invited to enter the Challenge by identifying areas in which open innovation would help them expand access to safe, affordable, and inclusive modes of transportation; harness the power of data to create connected and resilient mobility ecosystems; and reduce environmental impact through low-carbon and renewable solutions. 

Over 200 entries were received during this entry period from over 150 cities in 46 countries globally. They were assessed on the impact the Challenge would have, the receptiveness of the issue to open innovation approaches, capacity within the city, and the focus of the entry. The shortlist includes cities in Brazil, Colombia, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Detroit will be invited to attend a capacity building academy along with the other shortlisted cities. The City of Detroit will receive support developing their challenge design, becoming part of a wider network of other innovative city teams. 

Three cities from the shortlist will be selected to launch their own City Challenges and in mid-2024, the call will be launched to global innovators to work with the winning cities. Innovators could be homegrown - living in the city or country chosen - or may be from anywhere across the globe, but with solutions applicable and tailored to the winning cities. 

City Challenges will identify and support selected innovators through a 2-year challenge with up to $9 million available to innovators and cities to support the growth and scaling of solutions.

Ryan Klem, Director of Programs at the Toyota Mobility Foundation, said, “This shortlist shows how cities of all sizes around the world face a wide variety of mobility challenges. We can see how these cities are already making efforts to improve their transportation systems and we are very excited to begin supporting them directly in the next stage of the Sustainable Cities Challenge.”                           

 Kathy Nothstine, Head of Future Cities at Challenge Works, said: “These cities have highlighted different areas where innovation has the potential to make mobility systems more sustainable, resilient, and accessible. The Sustainable Cities Challenge will bring cities and innovators together with city residents to tailor solutions to real world challenges through open innovation.”

Ben Welle, Director of Integrated Transport and Innovation at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, said, “By making transport systems safer, more sustainable and affordable, cities can improve access to jobs and education, and improve people’s health. The Sustainable Cities Challenge will help to improve the quality of life for people living in cities all over the world.”

The Sustainable Cities Challenge is funded by the Toyota Mobility Foundation and has been designed in partnership with Challenge Works and World Resources Institute. Challenge Works is an international leader in developing challenge programs to drive new thinking and find creative solutions to problems facing society. World Resources Institute is a global research organization which works with partners to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure that nature can thrive.

To find out more, visit the Sustainable Cities Challenge website

The 10 shortlisted cities are: 

Bengaluru, India

Bengaluru is predicted to be the fastest-growing city in the Asia-Pacific and is the second most congested city in the world where traffic accidents are common. The ever-expanding city is looking for innovative ways to enhance road safety by crowdsourcing the identification of road safety concerns such as faulty traffic signals and accident-prone areas. 

Detroit, United States

Detroit, known as the first motor city, has a heavy manufacturing and commercial freight industry. High vehicle traffic has led to severe health and environmental problems, particularly poor air quality. To combat these issues, Detroit aims to address growing freight emissions as global trade expands.

Fortaleza, Brazil

Brazil's fourth largest city, Fortaleza, has revolutionized its urban mobility systems in the last 10 years. However, there are still challenges to be overcome, such as access to public transport for low-income communities. Now, the city is seeking ways to make transportation more affordable and efficient.

Medellín, Colombia

Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín’s mountainous terrain and sloping streets create significant mobility challenges for people with disabilities and those who care for them - the majority of whom are women and low-income workers. The region is looking for integrated approaches to make mobility more inclusive and accessible. 

Mexico City, Mexico

The historic center of Mexico City is not only a World Heritage Site, but also the largest commercial hub in the city. Its heritage status means that it is difficult to carry out substantial modifications to the urban landscape or its infrastructure. The city needs to find innovative ways to improve its transport systems to meet the needs of its residents. 

New Orleans, United States

Known for its French and Spanish Creole architecture and rich culture, the “Big Easy” faces a huge challenge: evacuations ahead of rapidly intensifying hurricanes. As the increase of rapidly intensifying hurricanes threaten coastal communities, the City of New Orleans and stakeholder partners seek an innovative solution to the challenge of evacuating vulnerable residents as hurricanes become increasingly dangerous on a much shorter timeline.

Seberang Perai, Malaysia

Evidence points to a settlement in Seberang Perai since the Neolithic era. Today, industrial parks consume large amounts of energy and produce high levels of emissions, creating health risks for nearby communities. As the Batu Kawan Industrial Park in Seberang Perai expands, the city aims to work with local businesses and industry to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of freight.

Varanasi, India

One of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, Varanasi has seen the use of e-rickshaws grow exponentially in recent years. However, the sector is currently highly disorganized and poorly regulated. The city is looking for ways in which efficiency can be optimized, with routes more evenly distributed across the city.

Venice, Italy

Venice’s exceptional historical and cultural heritage is integrated into a unique environment made of dry land and water. In recent years, the City administration has invested resources to increase sustainable mobility options within the City.  The Challenge faced by the City of Venice is to overcome cultural, technological, and operational barriers to enhance sustainable transportation options and encourage behavior change towards more sustainable choices.

York, United Kingdom

York is a perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech, with a Viking past and Roman roots, the ancient city of York is seeking to use existing and future innovation to future-proof mobility in the city. It wants to combine its fragmented modes of public, shared and private transportation into a single, cohesive fleet to increase accessibility, affordability, reduce emissions and journey times.

About Toyota Mobility Foundation

The Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) was established in August 2014 by the Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) to support the development of a more mobile society in which everyone can move freely.  The Foundation underscores Toyota’s ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and respect for people. It utilizes Toyota’s expertise and technologies to support strong mobility systems while eliminating disparities in mobility. TMF works in partnership with universities, governments, non-profits, research institutions and other organizations, creating programs that are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address mobility issues around the world. 

In the past, TMF has led a range of Challenges, including the global Mobility Unlimited Challenge, CATCH in Malaysia, InoveMob Challenge in Brazil and STAMP Challenge in India. You can find out more about TMF and how it is governed at toyotamobilityfoundation.org.   

About Challenge Works

Challenge Works is a global leader in design and delivery of open innovation challenges that incentivizes diverse innovative thinkers to solve pressing problems and unlock change. The most promising solutions are rewarded with seed funding and expert support, and the innovation that is the best or quickest to solve the problem wins the grand prize. This approach levels the playing field for innovators from any background or experience to apply their ingenuity for societal impact. Founded by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation for social good, they are a social enterprise that has delivered 87 challenges to date and distributed more than £124 million to winning innovators. Visit them at challengeworks.org.

About World Resources Institute

World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization with offices in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, and regional offices for Africa and Europe. WRI’s 1,700 staff work with partners to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. Learn more: WRI.org and on X (formerly Twitter) @WorldResources.