Call for tech-driven proposals for resilient cities

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge over river Po, in Turin, looking towards church of Gran Madre di Dio, with pedestrians, cars and tram tracks.
Historic Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge over river Po, looking towards church of Gran Madre di Dio, in Turin

Responding to the challenges of both urbanisation and climate change, a global technology giant is inviting innovators in public- and third-sector communities to submit their ideas for resilient cities.

IBM has issued this new request for proposals (RFP) from government and non-profit organisations for the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, with a focus on technology-driven projects to advance city resiliency.

Offering both significant funding and extensive support, IBM will be selecting five participating organisations to make up the fourth annual cohort of the Accelerator.

Interested parties can apply now and the submission window will remain open until 30 April, 2024.

Investment in social impact up to $45M

The IBM Sustainability Accelerator applies IBM technology, including IBM watsonx — an AI and data platform and AI assistants — to support populations vulnerable to environmental threats around the world.

Each year, a new RFP and sustainability topic is announced, opening up more, and different, opportunities.

The Resilient Cities RFP is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11, which looks to Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

IBM has also declared it will increase investment in the pro-bono social impact programme by 50%, committing up to $45M in cash and in-kind donations of technology and services over the next five years.

Challenges of urbanisation and climate change

Aerial view of multi-lane traffic roundabout, with vehicles on main road running across left to right, surrounded by trees and buildings.

The Resilient Cities RFP is responding to the challenges of both urbanisation and climate change.

Crunching the numbers, UN Habitat forecasts that the world will continue to urbanise over the next three decades, with the share of people living in urban areas increasing from 56% in 2021 to 68% by 2050.

The disproportionate impacts of climate change can challenge capacity for sustainable urban development and planning, as cities around the world work to tackle the issues and address their priorities

Pursuing strategies for both mitigation and adaptation, cities and policymakers together face a broad mix of impacts and risks, ranging from emissions levels, through to environmental justice.

Investment in solutions is vital, says Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Vice President and Chief Impact Officer:

“After three years working to improve lives and uplift vulnerable communities around the world, we’re proud to recognise the success of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator by strengthening both our impact and our investment.

“We look forward to working with a new cohort of partners to transform the cities we live in, and to deploy solutions that harness the potential of artificial intelligence to build a more resilient future.”

Coaching and capacity-building workshops

YouTube video

This year, the programme introduces a new strategic collaboration with professional services provider EY to strengthen the participant experience and amplify the impact of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator.

EY will support the Resilient Cities cohort during the RFP selection process, providing organisational development coaching from EY teams, and capacity-building workshops that will build upon the leadership development and professional mentoring opportunities available to programme participants.

The evaluation and selection criteria for consideration of applicants to the global RFP will include:

  • The level of support to communities especially vulnerable to urban environmental threats;
  • Feasibility and sustainability of proposed technology solutions for climate-change mitigation; and
  • Transparency demonstrated around measurement and reporting.

Launched in 2022, the IBM Sustainability Accelerator is a social impact programme that addresses environmental threats impacting vulnerable communities around the world. Each year, the programme selects about five projects to scale technology and AI solutions within a new sustainability topic area.

Prior to the latest Resilient Cities RFP, the IBM Sustainability Accelerator has already supported 15 global projects across three active cohort topics: sustainable agriculture; clean energy; and water management.

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