Become a Pilot City and test and implement innovative approaches to rapid decarbonisation over a two-year programme.

Pilot Cities Programme

The Pilot Cities Programme will identify and support European cities to test and implement innovative approaches to rapid decarbonisation over a two-year pilot programme, working across thematic areas and functional silos in support of systemic transformation.

The selection of pilots will seek to address all urban systems contributing to climate-neutrality, including mobility, energy systems and the built environment, material and resource flows, natural areas, cultural/social/financial/institutional systems, and accessible public spaces.

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A wide range of support and guidance is available to help you prepare and submit a proposal to the Call for Pilots:

Pilot Cities Guidebook

This document includes a detailed overview of the programme, its approach, expected outcomes, and key concepts and terminology

Download Pilot Cities Guidebook

Information sessions

The NZC consortium has scheduled a series of information sessions to support and guide cities:

Register for the Information Sessions

Pilot Call Guidelines

This document provides information on the aim, scope and approach of the call and clarifies how to submit a proposal, budget requirements and the review mechanism and decision making process.

Download NZC Pilot Cities Call Guidelines

Pilot Call Budget Template

Prepare your budget using the following template.

Download NZC Pilot Cities Call Budget Template

Pilot Call Financial Guidelines for Applicants

This document provides a summary to help preparing the application budget and contains the main legal and financial rules for the NZC Call for Pilot Cities.

Download Financial Guidelines for Applicants

Pilot Call Form Template

Applications to the Call for Pilot Cities will be submitted through the Mission Portal via the link below. You can download the form template to collaborate offline before applying.

Download NZC Pilot Cities Call Form Template

Access the submission system via the Mission Portal

The NetZeroCities Call for Pilot Cities is now open!

Once on the Mission Portal you will see a message in the upper right-hand corner with a direct link to the call registration and application module.

Access the Mission Portal >>



Pilot Cities Programme

We anticipate the entirety of scope to fall within what is considered research and innovation under Horizon 2020. In general, this is as much about ‘how cities work to overcome barriers to climate neutrality’ as specific innovations in policy, finance, or deployment. 

Eligible activities, as well as what we are calling for in the “call to action”, are included in the Call Guidelines, and further, illustrative information is available in the Pilot Cities Programme Guidebook.

There are 112 Mission Cities that have been selected through an Expression of Interest (EoI) process. Pilot Cities will be identified by a separate (this)call for proposals. The Pilot Cities Programme is a two-year, grant funded programme supporting piloting activities to implement systems-innovation led approaches to decarbonising and transforming specified city emissions domains. It runs alongside, and will inform, the Mission programme (i.e. development of Climate City Contracts). In this regard, the Pilot Cities, whether or not they are Mission Cities, will contribute to the overall aims and objectives of the Mission, where learning from systems innovation approaches and the deployment of R&I solutions in practice will accelerate learning and adoption across the EU and H2020 Associated Countries. As noted, non-Mission Cities may be included in the selection; and there will be a direct overlap with some Pilot Cities being Mission Cities.

No – there are no technology readiness level (TRL) requirements for this call or the (innovative) solutions deployed through the pilot activities.

Yes, focussing on the issues that you find most challenging and connecting such complex issues (like engagement of citizens) to other levers of change (governance & decision making, for example) will be very relevant as a starting point for your application.

The call specifies 2 years for the scope and budget. However, we anticipate the work of the pilot activities to continue, in the context of cities’ wider transformation and decarbonisation efforts.

Application Process

General Queries

The call will be launched on September 5 and will be open for two months. The Call Guidelines have been published in draft form and will be finalised by this same date.

This call is under Horizon 2020 and not Horizon Europe. The call form is being designed and will be bespoke to the parameters of the call, and the eligibility, assessment, and selection criteria as outlined in the Call Guidelines.

There is no obligation for Mission Cities to participate in this call.

No. Neither Climate Neutral City Advisors nor any other employee of organisations that are NZC Consortium partners can provide support for the proposal, though they will help selected Pilot Cities with the implementation of their pilot activities and capacity building.

The application form will ask about your current orientation to solutions, in alignment with the specific emissions domains and levers of change you will be targeting. The NZC Consortium will then provide various types of support to identify relevant solutions and interventions, in the early stages of your pilot activities.

The application needs to be written in English. Supporting documents (uploaded as part of the application process) may be in a country’s native language, though an English summary of the document and its contents should be provided alongside.


Cities from the same country, or different countries, may apply together.

No. Cities may apply individually or with a multi-city application containing cities from the same country or different countries. There are no restrictions in this regard, except where city eligibility is concerned (i.e. from an EU Member State or Horizon 2020 Associated Country).

Not expressly as it relates to individual applications to the Pilot Cities Programme, . However, we will seek geographic diversity in the selection of Pilot Cities and the profile of their pilot activities, in order to foster accelerated learning through diverse approaches and contexts.

It can be either, depending on how you choose to apply: as a single city (with consortium partner(s)) or a group of cities (and any other, relevant, consortium partner(s)).

Yes, however they would participate as an individual legal entity, and the proposal would still require a city to lead it (and any other cities as relevant, if a multi-city application is being considered).

No. The Call is limited to cities in EU Member State and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries only.

Eligible cities/ districts must have a population size of over 50,000 inhabitants.

For cities in countries with less than 5 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants, this criterion may be met with a joint application of more cities, where each participating city has inhabitants of 10,000 or more, and the combination of cities must represent over 50,000 inhabitants.

Please note: this eligibility criterion is currently awaiting formal confirmation and requisite representation in the amended NZC Grant Agreement H2020-LC-GD-2020 / H2020-LC-GD-2020-2. This will be finalised and confirmed by 5 September 2022 at the very latest.

No. One of the eligibility criterion is that a city/district may only appear in one application. Furthermore, there shall be no territorial authority double-funding; therefore, a higher level of administration should not appear in a separate application to that of a constituent, lower-level administration (e.g. district). For example, a city should not appear in a different application to that of a constituent district of that city (or a greater city region/metropole should not appear in a separate application to a constituent city/district of that greater city region/metropole).

Yes. Please note that the partners have to be relevant for the pilot activities.

Yes. Consortium partners may include local partners (research institutions/universities, SMEs, NGOs/associations, citizen groups or other relevant stakeholders)

No – the eligibility criterion is for at least two separate legal entities. Beyond the eligibility criterion, please also ensure to refer to assessment criteria that relate to collaboration and stakeholder engagement.

Review Mechanism and Assessment Criteria

This is an open call to which all cities in EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries may apply. There is no formal advantage to being a selected Mission City in this call – this is on account of the need for the call to be open and transparent as per Horizon 2020 rules and regulations.

H2020 requires external reviewers, who will provide assessment of individual proposals (in Stage 2 of the process) which will determine if they move to Stage 3 on the basis of a score-threshold as outlined in the Call Guidelines. These assessments will also provide input to the selection committee in Stage 3.

No. Applications will be evaluated equally, independent of the number of cities involved.

Funding and Budget Requirements

More information on eligible costs will be published with the updated Call Guidelines by 5 September 2022. Eligible costs are covered at 100% by the grant, up to the maximum grant awarded.

Eligible direct costs include costs actually incurred, identifiable and verifiable, recorded in the accounts, etc. personnel, travel and subsistence, equipment, other goods and services (purchase costs); and subcontracting. Further information will be provided in published financial guidelines by 5 September 2022.

If funding claimed by one partner is 430.000 EUR or above, they will be required to carry out a financial audit by an external auditor and submit the certificate.

Cities can select the size of the requested grant (0.5, 1.0, 1.5 million EUR) in the application form. However, the granted funding may vary from the requested funding in the proposal.

No. Only three sizes of grants as outlined in the Call Guidelines are available to cities.

Twinning Programme (City Learning Programme)

The Twin cities will be selected in a separate call that will be launched in June 2023.

Yes, if it meets the eligibility criteria for the call for twin cities (City Learning Programme).

The criteria for selection and matching will be published with the call for the City Learning Programme – however, it is anticipated the content of successful proposals and the profile of their pilot activities will contribute to matching process.

If you have any additional questions you can reach out to us via email!

Contact us!