Innovation Program Climate Neutral Cities (ICNC)

Recognizing problem areas - understanding challenges - structuring approaches to solutions

Project Status


Annual average temperature 1850 (left) to 2018 (right). Each strip represents one year, thicker strips represent annual sequences with the same average temperature. Red stripes illustrate years with higher temperatures than average. By Ed Hawkins.

Global warming and climate emergency have led to a multitude of proclaimed goals at global, European and national level. The EU's climate targets for 2030, for example, include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%-55% (compared to 1990), an increase in the share of energy from renewable sources by 32%, and an increase in energy efficiency by 32.5%. Within the 9th European Framework Research Program HORIZON EUROPE, numerous projects for the CO2-effective transformation of cities will be funded from 2021 onwards.


Socio-technical systems in the context of cities. Radecki 2019, p. 24

As a cross-cutting issue affecting all areas of an urban system, the goal of climate neutrality is highly complex and currently difficult to manage:

  • As the main producers of climate-relevant emissions, it is up to municipalities to achieve greater climate neutrality effectively and cost-efficiently. At the same time, it is often difficult to identify actual potential for savings and, based on this, to take local transformation paths. In addition, there are often other, less abstract and therefore (seemingly) more urgent demands of economic or social nature that seem to conflict with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Although companies have technical-infrastructural solutions that can make a direct or indirect contribution to reducing climate-relevant emissions, but the increasingly complex interdependencies within an urban system mean that they have to take a more holistic approach to their solutions and think more strongly about intra-communal processes and the concrete needs of and challenges for citizens, municipal politicians and administrations.

The Fraunhofer Morgenstadt Initiative considers these two problem areas as two sides of the same coin, and would like to support municipalities on the way to climate neutrality, as well as enable companies to structure and develop their solutions and approaches holistically and demand-oriented. With this, Morgenstadt aims to increase the speed of transformation towards climate neutral cities, but also to identify and work on still unsolved challenges and innovation potentials in the process.


With the »Innovation Program Climate Neutral Cities« (ICNC), the Morgenstadt Initiative pursues four overall objectives:

  1. Quantitative understanding: We want to enable cities and companies with the help of an indicator-based instrument, the "climate index", to measure climate-relevant emissions in sectors such as mobility & transport, energy, industry, etc. in order to identify saving potentials.
  2. Qualitative understanding: Together with city representatives, we want to explore typical questions and challenges municipalities face when implementing possible climate-effective solutions. The aim is to develop "problem typologies" in areas such as infrastructure, governance, citizenship acceptance, financing, etc., based on the experiences of city representatives and companies.
  3. Systemic matrix of questions & requirements: On the basis of the identified problem typologies as well as proven tools such as the Morgenstadt Framework, we want to develop a systemic matrix of questions and requirement, which can be used to analyze, structure and depict company solutions in a holistic way. This will help to overcome a possible narrow focus on technology or infrastructure, and will make positive contributions of a solution visible, e.g. regarding the quality of life or resilience of a city. By orienting the matrix towards the perspective of municipalities, typical challenges, needs and questions of city representatives can be addressed on a general level.
  4. Solution Portfolio Climate Neutral City: On this basis, we want to use qualitative and quantitative methods to systematically analyse, structure and depict types of climate neutral solutions contributed by companies. This is done by means of example cities in which a possible solution has already been implemented. On the basis of the experiences made there, a solution type is presented in a neutral, product-independent and holistic way. Roadmap sketches describe the implementation of each solution in an archetypal city on a general level and identify typical challenges and best practices for each stage of implementation. The solution portfolio should contain solution types for all climate-relevant sectors, namely energy and heat supply, mobility and logistics, private households and industry.


By Joshua Sortino

In summary, the ICNC enables participating municipalities,

  • to classify their climate performance,
  • identify problem areas and potential savings,
  • to define in collaboration with other city representatives typical challenges on the way to greater climate neutrality per sector/type of solution,
  • and to derive a local path to climate neutrality on the basis of a clearly structured and demand-oriented collection of viable solution types.

The ICNC enables participating companies to

  • to better understand the challenges and needs of municipalities with regard to climate-neutral solutions,
  • using the catalogue of questions and requirements to structure and present their solutions as components of complex urban systems, including typical challenges for city representatives and intra-communal processes,
  • and thus, to make potentials for (further) development and adaptation visible.

In addition, needs and potentials for Innovation are identified in the course of the process and addressed in follow-up projects.

Follow-up Projects

Based on the results of the ICNC, the Morgenstadt Initiative is developing demand-oriented follow-up activities together with interested municipalities and/or companies in the context of the funding and innovation programs of the European Mission 2030:

  • Innovation: There are no suitable solutions yet, or certain approaches need to be further developed? Fraunhofer Institutes, together with city representatives and companies, design new approaches to solving the problem areas identified. These may be product innovations, but also process innovations.  
  • Financing: There are solutions, but they are (still) too expensive? Together we will look for suitable funding programs, or explore the possibility of scaling effects in the case of multiple or collective orders.
  • Knowledge transfer: There are solutions, but it is the implementation that causes problems? Knowledge transfer and best-practice workshops will be organised in which city representatives from pioneering cities and representatives from research and industry will show different approaches and transformation paths.