Business Matchmaking in Panama, Kathmandu and Beyond

“I have met with a large number of European businesses whose solutions are relevant to the issues we face,” said Alfred Mentore, Mayor of Georgetown, Guyana, at a Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) Business Matchmaking event in Panama. Mayor Mentore’s endorsement gets to the heart of the ambition of Business Matchmaking: Connecting cities with businesses that can offer solutions to their climate goals, whether reducing their carbon emissions, adapting to climate hazards, or empowering local people facing energy poverty.

In order to meet their climate goals, cities use their position on the ground to engage other actors and create ecosystems that share a climate vision. Innovative and collaborative solutions are necessary in all the world’s cities, and working with businesses big and small is a key part of this approach.

A Dynamic Platform

GCoM Business Matchmaking events offer dynamic platforms for cities from around the world to meet European businesses offering cutting-edge solutions. Such meetings are an opportunity for discussion, but also for building up alliances that result in real climate action. Participating businesses are selected on the basis of cities’ needs, from renewable energy to waste management, urban mobility to nature-based solutions and beyond.

For example, a city that has a problem with heat urban islands and green spaces may hear from entrepreneurs with new technologies for green roofing. Cities needing to protect marine biodiversity in the face of warming seas can be paired with companies offering innovative methods of coastal defense, from artificial reefs to complex floating barrier systems.

One of the hallmarks of GCoM’s Business Matchmaking is the diversity and caliber of participants it attracts. It gathers leaders, academia, civil society, and the private sector in substantive dialogues sharing a common aim: effective, sustainable climate resilience. The format also serves to ensure that the events drive participants to eventual collaborative projects and initiatives.

A Path to Partnership

In the vein of Mentore’s comments, feedback from participants has consistently underscored the value of these matchmaking sessions. Nicolas Cuesta, Mayor of San Justo, Santa Fe, Argentina, for example, has expressed his delight at “the introduction to businesses from Europe, especially in the sectors of circular economy and reforestation as these are directly relevant to our challenges.”

This works both ways, with business leaders also enthusing about the opportunities that Business Matchmaking provides. The CEO of a Frech waste management services company, for example, shared the sentiment that a Business Matchmaking session in Panama “was really an excellent event, I was very impressed by the quality of contact with the cities and engaging exchanges we had.” The access provided to local policymakers gives businesses the insights necessary to tailor their product to local needs.

Follow-up mechanism and access to financing options that GCoM helps to create post-event are also vital in the transformation of discussions into reality. Instruments such as GCoM’s Bankable Cities programme and City Climate Finance Gap Fund are crucial, opening up pathways to the financial backing required. Indeed, three projects from the Business Matchmaking held in Panama have already been selected for Bankable Cities’ support to develop to a finance-ready stage. Early-stage Technical Assistance and capacity building also assist cities in ensuring that their projects are finance-ready.

From Panama City to Kathmandu

Two recent large-scale Business Matchmaking events, one in Panama City and one in Kathmandu, are emblematic of the potential that this format holds.

At the end of October, GCoM hosted a Business Matchmaking event within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Climate Week. The goal was to forge cross-sectoral alliances to enable the long-term priorities of Latin American and Caribbean cities. 20 European companies were invited to participate based on their cutting-edge solutions to previously defined urban problems.

In Kathmandu, at the GCoM South Asia Regional Workshop in December, 21 GCoM signatory cities from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Japan, each brought their own set of environmental challenges related to their Climate Action Plans. Cities began by identifying key themes of concern: Renewable / Energy Efficient Solutions, Transport and Mobility, Urban Infrastructure and Urban Greening, Waste Management, and Water Management.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Mobility

The companies at both events offered a vast range of solutions, tailored to the priorities identified by participating cities, from Italian companies offering approaches to high-rise reforesting, to Dutch companies creating floating barriers that can help cities tackle river-borne plastic waste and convert it into high-value materials for new revenue streams.

In the field of renewable energy and carbon cutting, companies from across Europe touted their solutions. A company that specialises in renewable energy communities demonstrated how cities can popularize sustainability while democratizing energy access. A specialist in solar power promised end-to-end system development that would allow even cities without in-house expertise to rapidly reduce their carbon footprints. Another company demonstrated how new technology and digitalization could improve cities’ operational efficiencies and speed the sustainable transition.

In the domain of urban mobility, a French company offered to harness AI to improve parking management in large cities, a system which could cut emissions by up to 10% and cut the time vehicles spend trying to find parking by a third. The efficiencies created by such a system would have the added advantage of allowing cities to dedicate less space to parking overall, dedicating more public space to greening or place-making.

Urban Infrastructure and Managing Wase and Water

Digital approaches were also pitched to cities interested in urban infrastructure and greening, with one Rome-based company offering software for intelligent monitoring of large infrastructure, enabling real-time control and predictive maintenance. Other striking approaches to greening included vertical urban forests, promoted by a Milanese architectural firm.

Another critical area for cities that companies came equipped to assist in is waste management. Ideas here ranged from plundering landfills for recyclable material and transforming them into open areas for local communities to converting the debris from demolition sites into new construction materials, embracing the circular economy.

Regarding water management, a field of increasing concern for cities as climate change exacerbates both flooding and drought, one Dutch firm promised to make cities more resilient against sea-level rise by developing floating urban areas. At the other extreme, an Italian company sought to sell their expertise in developing nature-based solutions that could strengthen existing urban ecosystems to become more flood-resistant.

GCoM’s Business Matchmaking will also be active in this year’s Smart City Expo and World Congress in Barcelona from November 5th to 7th. Approximately 20 city representatives will be invited from regional covenants to the Barcelona event with the objective of supporting these cities in defining and presenting their priority challenges and facilitating direct connections with businesses that offer viable solutions. By organizing a comprehensive participation framework in Barcelona, including matchmaking sessions in collaboration with Fira Barcelona and Acció, the Catalan Regional Promotion Agency, GCoM will provide a platform for meaningful exchanges that lead to actionable outcomes.

Cities across the globe have made it clear that they are ready to tackle climate change, but to succeed in their ambition, they need everyone on board. Businesses of all sizes are brimming with great ideas and are ready to put those ideas in place. Through these Business Matchmaking sessions, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy serves as a bridge not only for dialogue but for actionable and lasting partnerships between these two critical factions in climate action.

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