Are you familiar with the role of research in helping cities to become climate neutral? The event “Unleashing a Research Agenda for the EU Mission Climate Neutral and Smart Cities”, organised by NetZeroCities in Valencia on 25 June, was a first of its kind gathering of researchers from across Europe, complementing the 2024 edition of the Cities Mission Conference.

Approximately 50 researchers participated, coming from both the NetZeroCities consortium and from an additional 28 universities and research institutions across Europe.

The primary goals of this research event were to outline the research aspects of Mission cities’ pilot activities, to reconnect research with local practitioners in Mission Cities, and to identify current research challenges and gaps in the journey towards climate neutrality. The event emphasised the importance of adopting a systemic approach to sustainable transitions, in a way that can be scaled and shared at EU level.

The ultimate objective was to inform a research agenda focused on systems transformation in the context of the EU Cities Mission implementation. This Research Agenda will serve as a cornerstone for researchers and scholars leading the way towards climate-neutral cities and communities. With this event, the aim was also to establish a network of universities and research institutions eager to fuse critical scientific insights with pioneering policy and practice recommendations.

The first part of the day was dedicated to research insights from the Pilot Cities Programme managed by NetZeroCities. Researchers supporting cities as they experiment with new decarbonisation pathways in their pilot projects presented their research, as well as research challenges they identified.

Later in this session, the floor was opened to other Mission-related projects, for a truly cross-disciplinary overview of research on urban climate neutrality.

Researchers actively discussed “Mission Cities systemic approach: research challenges” and later collaboratively developed a set of “Pathways toward a Research agenda for the Mission cities”. Many research topics were tackled during the event, exploring what a systemic approach means when it comes to governance, citizen engagement, energy futures, behavioural change, funding for climate action, transformative capacities development, making the sustainability transition desirable, upscaling sustainability projects, and more.

To conclude the day, the roundtables’ results were presented to Rosalinde van der Vlies, Clean Planet Director in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and Deputy Mission Manager of the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission, demonstrating their significance in shaping the future of climate-neutral and smart cities.

Results and further updates from the event will be available soon! Check out the NetZeroCities Portal section dedicated to scientific research to keep up to date:

Pilot Cities Activities involved in the event:

Related projects involved:


Facilitators and collaborators:

Participating institutions:

AustriaTech | BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change | Slovenská akadémia vied / Slovak Academy of Sciences | Erasmus University Rotterdam | ifeu – Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg gGmbH | Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) | KTH Royal Institute of Technology | KU Leuven | LAB University of Applied Sciences | LUT University | National University of Water and Environmental Engineering | Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) | Politecnico di Torino | SEI — Stockholm Environment Institute | Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) | Technical University Of Civil Engineering Bucharest | The Cyprus Institute | The Lisbon Council | U!REKA European University | Universitat Internacional de Catalunya | UNIR | Universidad Internacional de La Rioja | University of Bologna (Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna) | Università degli Studi di Parma | University of South-Eastern Norway | Vilniaus universitetas / Vilnius University | Warsaw University of Technology

EC Participant: Rosalinde van der Vlies, Clean Planet Director in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and Deputy Mission Manager of the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission