Mitigating the effects of climate change-Is it possible to reduce the rising heat in cities
An open call to innovative SME companies during action research has led to creative multinational collaborations to tackle the urban heat island challenge
Image: a thermal photograph illustrating the urban heat island at Giveon Square in Tel Aviv. Red color demonstrates very hot surfaces while blue color shows relatively cool surfaces. The image shows the striking difference between the hot pavement and the people, who despite the projection of body heat still appear as relatively cold bodies (Photo: Ofer Keren)
The SME4SMARTCITIES action research 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. The research 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 issued 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 centers of cities. 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 the open spaces that surround it. Accelerating growth couples with global warming to 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 action research 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 that will submit proposals were not expected to participate for only the prospect of financial gains. Indeed, it become 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. Of these, 18 companies were 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 developed, leeding 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.
Images: the round table meetings between SMEs, municipalities, civil organizations and government (photo: the research team)
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 of each other, 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.
Congratulations to the two winning proposals:
Keren Energy (from Israel) + ReLOG3P SRL (from Italy) - development and implementation of an Open Lab Game approach to strengthen the awareness of municipal employees and the general public for the conditions that contribute to the urban heat island, its characteristics, the inherent risks and the methods that can diminish the accumulating heat. It includes a kit of measurement apparatus for experimenting in the urban environment and a visualization of the data on a dynamic map of the city. Workshops and meetings with municipal employees and the public, while engaging in the open lab game, can help in developing awareness and assist in decision-making and initiatives of municipalities to reduce exposure to radiation and to reduce the accumulated heat and humidity in public spaces or affect the decision-making of residents in relation to the conduct in the public space. The pilot will be implemented in cooperation with several municipalities together.
Diagram: Simulation of the Open Lab Game application of Keren Energy and ReLOG3P SRL
BIPV (from Israel) + SIT Technologies (from Italy) - Urban Oasis: a solar powered pergola that is driving a water turbine, to create a pleasant, cool sitting area in the urban space. It can be placed in the street, in sun-perched city squares or even on building rooftops. The pergola provides shading, lighting and electricity to drive an innovative pump that will keep a water fountain running, by incorporating photovoltaic panels.
Image: a simulation of Urban Oasis by BIPV ISRAEL and SIT Technologies
Congratulations also to Magna BSP from Israel that co-won an Italian challenge, Adapting and improving city environments threatened by climate change in Genova, in a joint bid with CIG from Italy and Actisa from Spain.
These initiatives are just some of the wonderful ideas that emerged while creating new partnerships between companies from Israel, Italy and Spain, while working together with municipalities and Civic organizations. Not all proposals could receive a grant for implementation though they propose a variety of perspectives and diverse solutions, driven by creative collaborations. The journey towards urban sustainability and resilience to climate change has just started.