Smart Sustainable Districts

Smart Sustainable Districts (SSD) is a consortium of city districts working together to accelerate the expertise and best practice needed to transition cities to zero-carbon living. It is one of Climate-KIC’s flagship programmes.


A ‘smart sustainable district’ is characterised by low carbon mobility, smart grids, energy neutral buildings, efficient water management and accessible, public green space. All of this is underpinned by responsive technologies that optimise resources. A smart sustainable district also promotes well-being and sustainable lifestyles.

SSD at a Glance

  • Cities have ambitious climate goals but can struggle to bridge the gap between aspiration and the practical steps needed
  • Districts have the autonomy and optimum scale for testing and implementing innovation 
  • A lack of implementation frameworks and joined-up policy hinders district development
  • SSD starts dialogue and creates the tools and frameworks to accelerate implementation 
  • The programme now comprises nine districts across Europe and is expanding globally

Programme Drivers

Cities, with swelling populations, have a particularly complex climate challenge. They must reduce environmental impact and build resilience. Globally, many cities have committed to ambitious climate goals. But most are struggling to bridge the gap between their aspiration and the practical steps that lead to measurable impact. This is where districts come in. Districts have the autonomy, and are an effective unit of scale at which to test integrated systems that can help accelerate sustainability and meet climate goals. 

Integrating Systems – Systemic Innovation

Integrating systems such as building functions, energy or mobility can enhance environmental performance. Such technologies and approaches – district heating, smart grids, demand management and resource sharing – already exist but a lack of joined-up policy and implementation frameworks can be a barrier.

At the district level, however, it’s possible to test out the new models of financing and contracting, joint ventures, partnerships, community engagement or novel governance models that this integration demands.

Climate-KIC’s Smart Sustainable District developments are guided by the concept of ‘factor four’. This is the idea of leveraging twice the value with half the resources. As well as enhancing environmental performance, goals can include local job creation, boosting local business, improving community participation or inspiring new patterns of citizen behaviour.

The Smart Sustainable Districts Process

Conventional green development strategies tend to be led by master developers or agencies, but district developments require wider collaboration. SSD brings together consortiums of policymakers, local municipalities, utilities, private developers, innovation experts, sustainability specialists and citizen groups.

Districts undertake a multi-stage process:

  • First, they determine priorities, strategies and opportunities.8_moabit-west_citizen-engagement
  • They then identify tangible ‘factor four’ outcomes from cross-sector synergy, either through demonstrating unconsidered benefits, or through bringing in new data and modelling scenarios.
  • SSD makes the business case for sustainability, achieving environmental, social and economic outcomes.
  • The last phase of the process is about managing, evaluating and refining the proposition. Districts do this through sharing best practice, integrating and layering project data, by understanding interactions, and applying new techniques. 


SSD outcomes develop the incentives and policies needed to scale up district development beyond pilot phase. Typical outcomes include: frameworks, implementation strategies, tools and processes, methods of assessment or ways to raise capital.   


SSD was established in 2014 as a way of accelerating sustainable district development through district-led technologies and innovation. The programme has achieved proof of concept in districts including: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London; Moabit West, Berlin; Utrecht New Centre and Les Docks de Saint-Ouen, Paris. 

What’s Next?

Smart Sustainable Districts is funded and supported by Climate-KIC, but the long-term ambition is to offer its unique scoping, assessment, feasibility and framework implementation services on a basis that reflects the market value.

Join Smart Sustainable Districts

There are currently nine districts within the SSD network: Rotterdam’s Stadshaven Harbour, Utrecht The New Centre, London’s Queen Elizabeth Park, Paris’ Les Dock de Saint-Ouen, Gothenburg’s Johanneberg, Malmö southeast, Berlin Moabit West, Helsinki’s Kalasatama and Copenhagen Energy Block. Over the coming year, Smart Sustainable Districts is looking to expand globally and invites more districts to join the programme.

You can download case studies of Smart Sustainable Districts Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London and Moabit, West here.

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What is Smart Sustainable Districts?

Find out more about SSD’s work in London:

Find out more about SSD’s work in Utrecht:

The Smart Sustainable Districts Team

Tim Taylor

Programme Manager


Svea Heinemann

Programme Operations Manager

Brian Kilkelly

Urban Transitions Business Development Lead