UN Climate Change Global Innovation Hub

The Global Innovation Hub, launched in November 2021, aims to promote transformative innovations for a low-emission and climate-resilient future. The Hub expands the global innovation space by facilitating solutions that support the climate-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that address core human needs for food, shelter, mobility, and access via alternative value chains aligned with those SDGs. The Innovation Hub complements the current approach to innovation for climate solutions —an approach that has tended to be incremental, sector-based and problem-oriented—with a transformative, need-based and solution-oriented one.

Hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Innovation Hub leverages the convening power and climate leadership of the United Nations with the dynamism of the private sector. The Hub will provide a global cross-disciplinary community of practice with a space— physical and virtual—to share ideas and design climate solutions in a spirit of radical collaboration.

Key participating actors will include:

  • Governments (multilateral, national, regional, and local)
  • Urban planners
  • Digital businesses
  • Corporates
  • Enablers
  • Incubators
  • Accelerators
  • Scientists & researchers
Innovation approaches figure

All participants in the Innovation Hub commit to developing solutions aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets of the Paris Agreements.

Although the technology innovation is expected to play a major role, the Innovation Hub will also focus on solutions related to policy and regulation, business models, financing instruments, and cooperation.

About UGIH

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges ever faced by human social, political, and economic systems. Its impacts are visible now, with the rising sea levels, extreme weather events and biodiversity losses we have experienced these last years. Their severity could increase exponentially in the absence of bold responses. At stake is the survival the survival of humankind.

Innovation has been used by humans through ages to cope with changes and discover new opportunities. Under the current paradigm, innovation is primarily used as a tool to foster competitive advantage and sustained growth. Applied to address climate change, however, it is expected to deliver transformative climate solutions.

The Challenge

Ambitions are low because they are based on what is currently perceived as possible and not what is needed. This cannot drive the required transformative and systemic changes required to achieve the 1.5C climate goal.

The value proposition of the global innovation hub is as follows:

  • There is still an important gap between the ambition required for meeting the Paris Agreement climate goals and the current level of climate actions under way or pledged. We need “moonshot thinking” to bring about the necessary move from incremental to transformational climate ambition and action.
  • We need to expand the innovation space and complement the incremental, sector-focused and problem-oriented approach to innovation with a transformative, need-focused and solution-oriented approach to innovation.
  • Technology innovation alone cannot address the climate change challenge. Cluster of solutions including technology but also policy, financial instrument, business model, leadership solutions are required.
  • Innovation needs to be driven by demands for climate solutions linked to human needs and engineered collaboratively.
  • The Innovation Hub will provide a collaborative platform where policymakers, financiers, corporates, civil society, technology providers across the different regions of the world can co-innovate to address holistically the different dimensions of an unmet demand for climate solutions.
  • The Hub facilitates both, solution pull and push policies, that can be used to incentivize the end-consumer, the corporate using a solution as well as the developer of the innovative climate solution.
  • It gives to climate solutions developers, including from the global South, access to incentive instruments, which combined with the adjustment of risk perception using blended finance, will increase their chances to navigate the valley of death and move their business to the early then late growth stage. It will also give international visibility to the climate solutions from the global South.

The UN Climate Change Global Innovation Hub consists of two parts:

  • The physical hub is in the form of a pavilion at COP with space for conference, meeting, exhibition and matchmaking.
  • The virtual hub will have the following functionalities:
    • Capability to build a database of demand for climate solutions from challenges, LT-LEDS, pledges, net-zero targets, green post COVID-19 recovery.
    • Automated specification of the climate solutions that could be effective in addressing a specific demand for climate solutions.
    • Deep search in the climate solution databases of the UGIH other innovation hub connected via API.

The UGIH expands the innovation space to cover the transformative solutions leading to deep change in the way the world satisfies its current and future needs. It complements the incremental and manufacturer-focused innovation which is sector-based and problem-oriented with a need-based and solution-oriented approach to innovation, that is disruptive, end-user focused and with a much broader and impactful domain of application. For example, innovation in the design of compact, complete and connected cities to reduce the need for mobility will be encouraged on the UGIH to complement innovation to decrease the cost and increase the performance of EV cars.

Figure illustrating the expanded innovation space.

The virtual hub will comprise of a digital platform, hosted on the UNFCCC website, with the following capabilities:

  • Databases of demand for solutions and climate solutions, allowing users to search, browse and save in their account the items of interest discovered from the database.
  • An API interface so that interested users can programmatically query the databases as well as update the databases
  • Processes and workflows, including support for meeting management, for the expert working groups that will curate the demands and solutions before these are published in the databases
  • Search algorithms that can crawl the web and look for solutions that are credible and worthy of being curated by the experts
  • Digitalized  tools and workflows that can apply approved methodologies for impact assessment and allow users to calculate the impact of deployment of climate solutions at a given scale or scale-neutral impact per unit.
  • A dashboard depicting the current status of the databases
  • Pages for news and events.
  • Other relevant content.

The physical Innovation Hub will be a pavilion at the annual COP events where seminars, roundtables and exhibitions on successful implementation of transformative climate solutions will be held. This would also be a platform for showcasing and match making activities, the physical meeting of the working group as well as award ceremonies. The pavilion will bring together corporate GHG emitters, financiers, policymakers, climate technology developers as well as cleantech companies and other relevant stakeholders, to identify, assess, promote and work on 1.5⁰C compatible solutions and supporting initiatives with the view to accelerating their uptake and scaled-up deployment. The most important products of the working groups will also be presented at the UGIH pavilion.

The first pavilion will be in place at COP 26. The theme of the conferences, roundtables, expositions and engagements will be the satisfaction of the Nutrition and Health core needs through value-chains aligned with the climate goal.

The hub aims to engage the interest of the following types of stakeholders :

  • Organizations seeking climate solutions to deploy to meet its climate objectives; 
  • Organizations that want to share mature climate solutions readily usable or looking for financier;
  • Organizations seeking support or partnership for the vertical transfer of immature climate solutions;
  • Organizations willing to facilitate the vertical or horizontal transfer of climate solutions.
Diagram illustrating who will be involved in the global innovation hub initiative.

The following is the timeline envisaged for the development and operationalization of the hub:

Expected outputs 2021

  • A digital platform with the databases of climate solutions and demand for climate solutions that are partly populated;
  • A pavilion at COP 26 where conferences, roundtables, exhibitions will be organized;
  • The working group is operational and delivering on demands-curation for climate solutions;
  • The challenge for climate solutions is launched.

Expected outcomes during 2021

  • A shift of focus from problems to solutions, from means to needs and from incremental to transformative is widely shared among climate actors;
  • Enhanced awareness of existing and potential 1.5 C compatible climate solutions to advance disruptive climate actions;
  • Committed stakeholders enabling and embracing innovative climate solutions (technology, business model, finance, policy, capacity building, behavioural change and leadership);
  • Disruptive leaders committed to the creation of global public goods and can act to achieve long-term benefits for future generations, putting in place the disruptive policy and regulatory framework targeting finance, education, trade, vertical & horizontal development of innovation.

The governance of the hub will comprise a steering committee, an advisory board, a project board and one or more thematic expert working groups.

  • The steering committee provides support, guidance and executive oversight to the initiative. It approves the budget, the scope and the work programme of the UGIH. It also ensures that the initiative meets the expectations of the stakeholders, including the sponsors.
  • The advisory group assists the project board and the steering committee. It consists of stakeholders with specific expertise and strategic skills relevant to the initiative. It provides strategic input and advice on content and evaluates the performance of the Innovation Hub, serve as an advocate for the initiative, gather input from users of the UGIH and provide feedback to the Project Board managing the operation of the Innovation Hub.
  • The Project Board composed of a project executive, a project manager and product owners will manage the development and operation of the UGIH. It is expected to include staff from UNFCCC secretariat and staff from external partners supporting this initiative.
  • Expert working groups will comprise volunteering experts in thematic areas of relevance to the hub's work. Working groups will be established on a per-need basis.