Innovations for Sustainability and Climate Neutrality: Towards a European Model

The European Union (EU) has set a highly ambitious objective to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, following its broader commitment to combat climate change and address environmental sustainability. This objective is embedded in the European Green Deal, which was proposed by the European Commission in 2019, and has since become a cornerstone of EU policy, aligned with innovations for greenhouse gas emissions reduction; sectoral transformation of energy, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings; energy transition to a low-carbon system using renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, as well as enhancing energy efficiency; Just Transition to mitigate the social and economic impacts on regions and communities that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels or energy-intensive industries; support to 100+ smart climate-neutral cities; strengthening of sustainability in the innovation agenda and Smart Specialisation Strategies; and many other policies and initiatives including monitoring and reporting.

While this objective to become climate-neutral by 2050 represents a bold and comprehensive commitment to climate adaptation, this Collection of Discover Sustainability focuses on strategies, pathways, and smart systems for achieving this objective. It seeks to assess whether the EU initiatives constitute a coherent model towards climate neutrality and to discuss the data, challenges, and methods that demonstrate the EU's leadership in the global fight against climate change.

We are particularly inviting papers that shed light on the two vital aspects of the European model of innovation for addressing climate change. First, we encourage submissions that assess and analyse novel pathways, policies, and initiatives for climate neutrality in cities and regions within the European Union. Secondly, we invite contributions that delve into a (pan) European model of innovation for climate neutrality, connecting local and regional innovation ecosystems to EU innovation institutions and policy instruments.

Keywords: European Union; sustainability; climate adaptation; smart climate-neutral cities; net zero cities; smart systems; innovation model; innovation system; innovation for sustainability; smart specialisation strategies


  • Nicos Komninos

    Prof. Nicos Komninos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece Nicos Komninos is a professor emeritus at the School of Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Director of URENIO Research. He has coordinated numerous research projects on 'intelligent cities,' 'connected intelligence,' and 'innovation systems’. Beyond research, he has contributed as an expert to the design of smart cities, technology parks, innovation strategies, and climate-neutral cities.

  • Anastasia Panori

    Prof. Anastasia Panori, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece Anastasia Panori is an Assistant Professor of Regional Analysis and Policy at the School of Spatial Planning and Development of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She holds a master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, a master's degree in Economics, and a PhD in Economic and Regional Development.

  • Christina Kakderi

    Prof. Christina Kakderi, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece Christina Kakderi is an Assistant Professor of Spatial Development and RTDI Policies in the EU at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Spatial Planning and Development. She is an economist (University of Macedonia, Greece), holds a master’s degree on Urban Planning from Cardiff University in Wales, and a PhD on Innovation Systems from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Her research interests focus on two main areas: a) intelligent ecosystems and innovation environments and b) policies and strategies for regional and urban development including RTD.


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