Sustainable Nation Ireland Climathon.           
Picture by Shane O'Neill Photography.

Climathon 2017, solving real urban challenges for Cork and Galway

On Friday 27th October 2017, innovators in Galway and Cork participated in Climathon, an annual global hackathon focused on finding creative solutions to real urban problems by bringing together people with the ability and the passion to do so.

Climathon is an initiative of Climate-KIC, EU’s largest public-private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero-carbon economy. Sustainable Nation manages Climate-KIC in Ireland, and has integrated initiatives such as Climathon in to its 2°Platform – an end-to-end Platform that offers structured programmes and supports to businesses that are developing low-carbon and resource efficient solutions. “Sustainable Nation is delighted to support Climathon 2017 in Ireland. Climathon is a vital part of our 2°Platform, as it introduces new climate innovation ideas, which we can support through our suite of programmes. Climathon 2017 builds on 2016, and I look forward to working with Cork and Galway in 2018, while introducing new locations!” explains Aideen O’Hora, Director Sustainable Innovation.

Climate KIC’s Climathon initiative brings together students, entrepreneurs, experts and innovators for a hackathon where each host city chooses a climate change challenge to be solved, and where many cities spend 24-hours “hacking”. Building on last year’s success where it was held in 59 cities including Dublin and reached 16.8 million people worldwide, this year, Climathon was held simultaneously in 104 cities (including Cork and Galway), in 45 countries, and across 6 continents.

Each of Climathon’s climate change challenges reflects the issues faced by the host city, however the event aims to find sustainable solutions and businesses which can address urban climate challenges globally. Cities are key to driving climate action, as Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, explains, “Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. With 90% of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from some of the devastating impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms”.

Galway Climathon, hosted by the NUI Galway Ryan Institute and NUI Galway TechInnovate, aimed to build on Galway’s record of international leadership in driving and amplifying positive climate change and impact. The event acknowledged the complex nature of cities by inviting teams to create and pitch a solution to 1 of 10 challenges, with the overall aim of de-carbonising cities in order to mitigate climate change.

In Cork, the local climate challenge used in this year’s Climathon was focused on Climate 2030 – low carbon transport and mobility solutions for an Irish university. The event was hosted by University College Cork, which is one of the largest employers in the region, and aimed to find ‘smart’ solutions, such as the use of mobile apps, to create sustainable commuting options for its staff and students.

The choice of climate challenge is significant as University College Cork is core to Cork City, so it is likely that solutions would be relevant to other large employers in the area. Therefore, emerging ideas from this event should make it possible for the city’s overall mobility strategy to become more sustainable.

“Transport represents one for the most difficult decarbonisation challenges for Ireland as we have a low-density population and a heavy reliance on private transport”, explains Dr. Paul Bolger, manager of the Environmental Research Institute and UCC Green Campus who hosted the 2017 Cork Climathon along with UCC Blackstone Launchpad. “We were delighted with the quality of the diverse and innovative solutions which our multi-disciplinary produced as part of the hackathon such as car sharing apps, water taxis, and solution for working from home”.

The winning team, TIDE, who developed a transport app for carbon savings and store discounts, received €1000 from Blackstone LaunchPad at UCC to further develop their idea. They are now taking their idea to the United States where they will participate in a global entrepreneurship programme. Other winning ideas included a circular economy approach to waste transport collections and a new approach for car-pooling using IT.

Now in its 3rd year, Climathon has grown considerably. Sustainable Nation and Climate-KIC are constantly looking to expand upon the success of their Climathon initiative and, in 2018 as part of the Year of Sustainable Business, hope to welcome more Irish cities to participate in Climathon.

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