SME4SMARTICITES in Israel: is it possible to reduce the rising heat in cities?

The SME4SMARTCITIES project studies the readiness of municipalities to adopt innovative solutions while bringing together local authorities and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the aim of promoting sustainability and innovation through environmental, social and technological development. At Tel Aviv University (TAU), the project is led by Prof. Colin Price and Dr. Orli Ronen from the Department of Environmental Studies, with Prof. Oded Potcher and Avigdor Sharon.

In collaboration with innovation centers and municipalities in the Mediterranean region, Tel Aviv University launched an open call for proposals by SMEs to submit joint proposals for solutions for the “urban heat island” phenomenon, which is an increasing concern due to the effects of climate change.

The urban heat island is the increase of temperatures in the cities´ centres. The urban layout and structure, the use of construction and pavement materials, the activities that take place in cities and generate heat as a by-product, they all contribute to notable temperature differences between neighbourhoods and public areas in the city and open spaces that surround it. Accelerating growth coupled with global warming make the phenomenon even more severe.

The creation of a network of collaborations between SMEs, entrepreneurs and municipalities throughout the Mediterranean region is a central goal of the project. Following a study of the challenges, barriers, processes and level of readiness in cities in Israel, Spain and Italy, an open call for proposals was initiated with the purpose of finding the possibility of developing innovative joint thinking (Co-creation) by different SMEs across nations. The call for proposals offered a small budget for the initial implementation of a few proposals. Hence, entrepreneurs and SMEs who would submit proposals were not expected to participate for only the prospect of financial gains. Indeed, it became apparent that the collaborations created during the action research and the variety of proposals submitted had laid the ground for further development of additional solutions and for creative co-research and development of integrated solutions to the challenge of the increasing heat in cities and to other challenges resulting from climate change.

In the first stage of the call, 49 innovative SME companies from Spain, Italy and Israel were selected. 18 companies out of them are from Israel. Several challenges were brought forward by the SME4SMARTCITIES partners. The Israeli challenge, led by the Innovation and Urban Sustainability Laboratory at the Department of Environmental Studies, Tel Aviv University, focused on the issue of the urban heat island phenomena that affect cities worldwide.

In May 2022, all the companies that applied to the TAU challenge participated in two intensive days of workshops and meetings with colleagues from Italy and Spain and with organizations and municipalities from Israel. The workshops and meetings were organized by the Department of Environmental Studies’ Innovation and Urban Sustainability Lab and the Municipality of Kfar Saba Department for Innovation and Sustainability.

In addition to the co-creation and innovation workshops, tours and round table meetings were held for open discussion between the SMEs and municipalities, civil organizations and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. In the meetings, the needs of cities and city residents and challenges of climate change were presented and discussed. Key considerations and ideas for innovative solutions started to emerge. The emphasis was on creating a dialogue towards joint development and implementation.

During those two fascinating days, new connections were made and partnerships were developed, leading to the submission of proposals. The two proposals that were eventually chosen for implementation were joint proposals of Israeli and Italian companies that developed after those meetings at the Porter Building on May 9, 2022.

Following these sessions, 8 proposals were submitted to the Israeli challenge. Evaluation criteria were defined to choose two proposals to receive a 40,000 euro grant for each proposal.

Assessments of all proposals were conducted using a strict process and evaluation criteria by external experts who worked independently, without any mutual influences. The experts submitted independent reports that were compiled and weighed. A central committee of all project partners and EU representatives reviewed all the evaluations of the challenges in all countries, to approve the process and the selected proposals.

As a result of this evaluation process, two proposals emerged to be implemented in practice in cities in Israel.

Stay tuned for an article on the winning solutions!