On Monday, we hosted our latest all-digital iKEN live event: ‘A Green Recovery: Accelerating innovation towards a sustainable future’.

Chaired by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Director Alison McRae, the event brought together experts from two of Europe’s most innovative cities in relation to sustainability – Milan and Vienna – to discuss the power of innovation as a tool to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and forge a positive path to a sustainable future.

First, Lucia Scopelliti – Head of Unit, Economic development, Municipality of Milan Expert at UIA, provided a detailed insight into how Milan have quickly bounced back from the crisis, despite being one of the first large European cities to be affected badly. Milan’s status as a city at the forefront of data driven decision making, sustainability, and creativity allowed them to utilise assets developed before the pandemic in order to effectively stimulate a restart.

“We quickly moved from shock to action”, stated Lucia, as she went on to talk about the genesis of a new strategy called Milano 2020, which involved input from citizens. A rethink of the street system encouraged new space for bike lanes and effective social distancing, with the hope that the reduction in cars within the city can be maintained long term. Lucia suggested that the pandemic has brought certain plans forward, as well as showcasing that “people are the real engine of innovation“, and will be central in the reconstruction of new foundations which will help Milan build to a more sustainable future going forward.

Next, we had Michaela Kauer, who represents Vienna in the Executive Committee of EUROCITIES and works closely with the Committee of the Regions. Michaela discussed the Vienna 2030 Strategy – which is a long term development plan until 2050, and is implementing the UN sustainable development goals. Interestingly, Michaela detailed how Vienna’s previous investment in green space was providing its citizens with a much needed sense of well-being amid the crisis and that there was a focus on ensuring people from more built-up, urban areas were provided with respite from feelings of isolation. She noted that Vienna’s focus on being a SMART city has allowed them to identify areas to stimulate both the economy and the labour market in a sustainable way.

Following Michaela’s talk, a number of insightful questions were posed by our audience to our panel, such as “whether the sharing economy might be affected by people’s lack of willingness to be in contact with others” and “which methods we can utilise to ensure positive behavioural changes last long after the current crisis”. Our panel considered some of the innovation which could help tackle these issues, such as rapid sanitation, whilst there was a discussion around ways to effectively minimise the negative effects of the ‘fast fashion’ industry to achieve net zero emissions.

Finally, Alison McRae summed up the key points from the discussion, noting the new possibilities which have presented themselves in terms of how we run our cities more sustainably, but also suggested there is much discussion to be had on how can we influence our citizens behaviour long-term. Finally, Alison returned to a key point raised by Lucia, which effectively summed up the key theme of the discussion: people are ‘the engine of innovation‘ and will be key in allowing us to effectively respond and recover from the virus, and to build a brighter, more sustainable future.

To sign up for our iKEN network:

  1. Got to https://iken.global/ and click the ‘Register’ button in the ‘Collaborate Now’ block
  2. After populating the fields, you will receive an email asking you to ‘activate your account’
  3. You will then receive another email asking you to join Slack
  4. After joining slack, you will be able to access the iKEN Slack channel through the top navigation menu on the iKEN website
  5. On the left, you will see a list of channels you can join including ‘Innovating in a Crisis’