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CONTACT: Kathleen Clark, Mayor’s Office of the CTO; E:, P: 646-927-9592


The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer is partnering with Access Cities alliance to find solutions for the City’s most present and acute environmental issues.

NEW YORK–– The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), in partnership with Access Cities, today launched the NYC Air Quality and Urban Heat Open Innovation Call for new and innovative ideas, technologies, and approaches to help reduce the negative impacts of urban air pollution and the urban heat island effect. With this Open Innovation Call (OIC), the City intends to pilot a winning solution with the hope that it can scale citywide, particularly in neighborhoods that disproportionately bear the brunt of these environmental issues.

In New York City alone, air pollution is estimated to contribute to more than 2,000 deaths and just under 6,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations each year. At the same time, New York City annually experiences an average of 450 heat-related emergency department visits, 150 heat-related hospital admissions, and 13 heat-stroke deaths. The City also averages about 115 excess deaths from natural causes exacerbated by extreme heat annually.

To properly assess the proposed solutions, MOCTO has brought together agency partners whose work is deeply involved in addressing environmental and public health issues. Members of the agency evaluation panel include the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Economic Development Corporation, the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

“The Open Innovation Call is a great opportunity for New York City to work with international partners to solve our urban environmental challenges,” said John Paul Farmer, Chief Technology Officer, City of New York. “The City has been working hard to tackle these pressing environmental issues. We are now aiming to attract new technologies and innovative solutions from our own urban tech ecosystem and abroad. These approaches will enable us to more quickly deliver on the City’s ambitious targets for better health and a higher quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

“Investing in new technologies and fostering partnerships with other cities helps us tackle urban air pollution systemically so we can guarantee clean air for all,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

“Extreme heat is deadly—and its impacts fall hardest on the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency. “Sourcing innovating new approaches from around the world will complement New York City’s existing efforts to address rising temperatures and the urban heat island effect.”

“Our climate crisis demands bold action and collaboration as we seek to secure a livable future for coming generations,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor and OneNYC Director. “This Open Innovation Call is exactly the type of effort that is crucial to achieving OneNYC, the city’s Green New Deal.  We look forward to identifying and deploying new technologies as we continue building a strong a fair city and confront our climate crisis.”

“In order to address local sustainability challenges, it is imperative to seek solutions globally,” said Sander Dolder, Vice President at New York City Economic Development Corporation and Director of Urbantech NYC. “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and Access Cities on the NYC Air Quality and Urban Heat Open Innovation Call. Together, we are building a stronger innovation ecosystem to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

“We are excited to be a part of the City’s initiative to explore innovative proposals and potential solutions to environmental challenges that burden our communities such as poor air quality and urban heat island effect- especially within frontline, environmental justice communities like the South Bronx,” said Fernando Ortiz, Climate Preparedness and Resiliency Organizer at THE POINT.

“Air quality can affect everything from New Yorkers’ quality of life to asthma-related illnesses,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the City Council Committee on Technology.” This Urban Heat Open Innovation Call seeks to tap into the expertise of our local and international partners to find new and unique solutions to the age-old challenge of improving urban air pollution. Many thanks to the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and Access Cities for committing to making a zero-carbon economy a reality.”

“The negative effects of air pollution are greatly exacerbated in dense urban settings like New York City where concrete infrastructure attracts heat and thousands of people live on one block alone,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “It is great news that New York City is teaming up with Access Cities to look for creative ways to combat air pollution in our City. Thank you to The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and to Access Cities for taking this immense challenge head-on.” 

“As a champion of progressive, bold action, New York City is well positioned to be a leader in the fight against climate change,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “The NYC Air Quality and Urban Heat Open Innovation Call will tap into New York City’s creative talent to come up with ways to improve air quality and quell urban heat. This initiative is especially welcomed in districts like mine that are deemed as having a high heat vulnerability index. Thank you to the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and Access Cities for their partnership to beat global warming and deliver environmental justice to our city and frontline communities like mine.”

As part of the due diligence for the call, MOCTO conducted interviews with a variety of City agencies, who provided feedback on which challenges are the most pressing for them in order to deliver on OneNYC, the City’s long-term strategic plan and Green New Deal. Air quality and heat vulnerability emerged as connecting points to many of the top concerns.

“We see the challenge-based approach that lies at the heart of the Access Cities Program as a path for accelerating knowledge exchange between cities, and for companies it offers test beds outside of traditional city procurement processes”, said Klaus Lehn Christensen, Director of Danish Cleantech Hub, which is the New York lead of Access Cities.

The OIC is developed together with another Access Cities partner, EIT Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest knowledge and innovation community, working towards a prosperous, inclusive, climate-resilient society founded on a circular, zero-carbon economy.

“The aim of joint Open Innovation Calls is to pool knowledge, experiences, and innovation in a way that similar challenges are solved through collaboration, instead of wasting time and resources on individual solutions, as climate challenges in big cities often are of comparable nature,” said Jakob Stolt, Senior Project Manager at Climate-KIC.

True to the nature of an Open Innovation Call, both companies and individuals can apply through two different tracks: 1) products, service offerings, and operational practices that can improve air quality and/or reduce the intensity or harmful effects of Urban Heat Island effect, or 2) design solutions that redesign and reimagine aspects of city life that will improve air quality and/or reduce the intensity or harmful effects of Urban Heat Island effect. By appealing to manufacturers, designers, and architects/urban planners with this competition, the aim is to attract resilient holistic solutions that can inspire the New York City to marry impactful technology with aesthetic design fitting for its urban landscape.

Proposals can approach the challenge from a mitigation perspective (reduce ambient air pollution or temperatures) or from an adaptation perspective (help New Yorkers cope with the negative effects of air pollution or heat). Where possible, the aim is to address the geographical areas of the City which have the highest rates of heat-related illness and mortality and known air quality vulnerability issues.

In addition to the NYC agency evaluators, a panel of external evaluators from the Environmental Defense Fund, The New School’s Urban Systems Lab, THE POINT, Perl Street, and Urban X will be providing their perspective and opinions on the merits of submitted solutions.

Up to 5 finalists in each track will be selected to present their solutions at a public event on September 24, 2019 during NYC Climate Week. The winners will be announced at the end of the pitch presentations. The winning team from Track 1 will have the opportunity to discuss implementing a pilot of the solution with the City. The winning team from Track 2 will have the opportunity to present their concept at an Archtober event in NYC and have a one-on-one meeting with the NYC Department of City Planning’s Chief Urban Designer to discuss their concept. Selected finalists will have the opportunity to receive financial vetting and potential investment opportunity from Perl Street and a selected finalist will receive an interview for the Urban X Cohort 07.

Underlining that the Access Cities program is about finding and sharing solutions to similar challenges that cities face, this competition is designed as a parallel Open Innovation Call between New York City and Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen (CPH). “Copenhagen has benefitted a lot from collaborating with other progressive cities, sharing our solutions and concerns as we are faced with similar challenges. Although we are a relatively green city, air quality is also a huge challenge for us, and if we look at future temperature rise predictions caused by climate change, we have to start future proofing our city now against increasing urban heat island impacts”, said Lykke Leonardsen, Program Director, Resilient and Sustainable City Solutions, City of Copenhagen.

The competition’s application portal will be opening June 5, 2019 and stay open for submissions until July 15, 2019. Participants can submit proposals online here.


About the City of New York Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer

The Mayor’s Office of the CTO is led by the New York City Chief Technology Officer. We’re making broadband, smart city technologies, digital services, and the tech industry work for all New Yorkers. Learn more at

About Access Cities

Access Cities is an international, public-private program, which aims to strengthen sustainable urban development in five progressive cities – New York, Singapore, Munich and the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus. The project connects stakeholders working with sustainable urban development in the pursuit of game-changing solutions to common issues confronting cities. Access Cities is funded by the Danish Industry Foundation and co-financed by State of Green (program lead), the Confederation of Danish Industry, Quercus Group, Climate-KIC, the City of Copenhagen and the City of Aarhus. Learn more at