York shortlisted for $9 million Global Sustainable Cities Challenge

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

More than 200 entries were received from cities in 46 countries. They were assessed on the impact the challenge would have, how receptive local issues would be to open innovation approaches, capacity within the city and the focus of the entry. The shortlist includes cities in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Colombia, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, and the United States.

In this tough competition two European cities made it to the shortlist:

York, United Kingdom


York is a perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech. With its Viking past and Roman roots, it is seeking to use existing and future innovation to future-proof city mobility.

Transport is responsible for almost a third of York’s total emissions, negatively impacting health, wellbeing, and the city’s architectural heritage. A 2030 Net Zero target recognises that reducing the impact of each journey is critical. York’s challenge would seek to empower sustainable choices while increasing the affordability of passenger and goods movements.

The city wants to combine its fragmented modes of public, shared and private transportation into a single, cohesive fleet to improve accessibility and affordability, and reduce emissions and journey times.

Venice, Italy

Over the last few years, the City of Venice has been improving its sustainable mobility infrastructures and services. However, its investments have not resulted in a higher number of users making regular use of sustainable means of transportation. The challenge could help to reverse this trend using innovative solutions.

The city’s unique geography requires an integrated transportation system that works across both land and water.

Other shortlisted cities globally are:

Bengaluru, India

Detroit, United States

Fortaleza, Brazil

Medellín, Colombia

Mexico City, Mexico

New Orleans, United States

Seberang Perai, Malaysia

Varanasi, India

The shortlisted cities will be invited to attend an academy and will receive support developing their challenge design, becoming part of a wider network of innovative city teams. Open innovation challenges often develop and evolve throughout the process as the city’s specific needs are understood more closely.

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

The semi-finalist innovators for each city will be decided in late 2024; the winning cities and innovators will be announced in 2026 and will share $9 million in funding to test and roll out their solutions.

Monica Perez Lobo, Director Toyota Mobility Foundation Europe, said: “In Europe, our mobility landscape is marked by a multitude of challenges, from urban gridlock to ensuring equitable access for all. At the Toyota Mobility Foundation, our aspiration lies in catalysing innovative projects that reframe these challenges as opportunities. With the Sustainable Cities Challenge we’re committed to pioneering solutions, together with the cities, that cater to the ever-growing need for sustainable urban mobility. Our focus remains on delivering inclusive, efficient, and resilient mobility systems for people in both large and small European cities.”

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 programmes to drive new thinking and find creative solutions to problems facing society. World Resources Institute is a global research organisation which works with partners to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure that nature can thrive.