Aerial view of Turin city centre.

Blog #2: Towards a green city

Turin, an experimental approach to move towards a Green City

Turin, or Torino for the locals, is coming from far away after the crisis of the automotive sector. Obliged to find new solutions, it started in 2018 a disruptive strategy, making closer innovators to the City, with the launch of the Torino City Lab. This initiative creates simplified conditions for businesses and other interested parties to test solutions or ideas, related to specific challenges answering to concrete needs of the City and its citizens.

Turin is the capital city of the Piedmont region. It is located on the western bank of the Po River, below Susa Valley, and it is surrounded by the western Alpine arch and the Superga hill.

Located in northwestern Italy, at the foot of the Alps, Turin has a humid subtropical climate, similar to that of Grenoble, located not far away in the French Alps. In comparison though, Turin’s average annual rainfall is lower. The geographical position contributes to make Turin one of the cities in Europe with the most polluted air. In fact, the surrounding mountains make it very difficult for the city to get rid of air pollutants.

The golden age of Turin

The ancient center of the city of Turin. View of Piazza San Carlo with the equestrian monument of Emanuele Filiberto.

The city was historically a major European political centre and the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1865. Turin is sometimes called “the cradle of Italian liberty” for having been the political and intellectual centre of the Risorgimento, the movement that led to the unification of Italy. Although much of its political influence had been lost by World War II, Turin became a major European crossroad for industry, commerce and trade, with a particular strength in the automotive sector. In fact, Turin was the city in which the FIAT car factory was born and developed throughout the whole XX Century.

The city has seen its population rise from about 600.000 inhabitants in the early 50’s to about 1,1 million in the early 80’s, particularly in the suburbs, where factories were located. Shortly after, though, a  crisis of the automotive sector started, slowly reversing such a process. Migrant fluxes, particularly from Eastern Europe, reached a peak around the 90s/early 2000s and have been stable since 2013. Nowadays, the “intra-muros”population of the city counts approx. 847.287 residents (2022), with a high average age. However, the total  population of the metropolitan  area has been stable since the early 2000’s and it is estimated to be about 2.1 million inhabitants.

Mirafiori. The automotive industrial district located in the southern area of Turin.

The need of new solutions

The crisis of the automotive sector, the decrease/aging in population and the environmental challenges urge Turin to find new solutions and strategies to diversify its economic and social landscape, towards sustainable and inclusive drivers.. In this sense , Turin is finding an opportunity in its transition to a carbon neutral city and it is working with key stakeholders to build new models of private-public collaboration while ensuring participation. The first living lab in Torino was launched in 2016, thanks to the implementation of 29 projects in different areas in the fields of environment, mobility and tourism,  shaping the first urban space dedicated to innovation and smart city in the city.

The Torino City Lab and CTE Next

This process has led to the creation of Torino City Lab in 2018: an initiative aimed at creating more accessible conditions for companies and other interested parties in response to specific challenges of the City. Through open calls, local stakeholders can contribute to concrete needs of the territory, collaborating and supporting the public administration and its citizens. Torino City LabL enables the testing of innovative solutions or business ideas in real-world conditions in the territory. In fact, the concept of Torino City Lab is to transform the city into a permanent open living lab. In particular, it promotes innovative, smart-city approaches, with an eye on theSustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030.

In 2021,  building on the experience of Torino City Lab, a localHouse of Emerging Technologies (CTE NEXT) was opened, in close collaboration with  universities, strategic partners and other local stakeholders. CTE NEXT, the first spin-off of Torino City lab, is a project funded by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development with the aim of creating a widespread home of 5G technology transfer and testing of emerging technologies in key sectors for Turin: Smart Mobility, Urban Air Mobility, Industry 4.0 and Services for the Smart City.

One year later, Turin met one of its most important milestones: being officially recognised as one of the 100 European Mission cities committed to reach zero GHG emissions by 2030. The city is therefore acting as a hub for experimentation and innovation in the climate service field, setting an example to other European cities . In this context, Torino City Lab is promoting experimentation and testing of services related to the ecological and digital transition.

The example of “Living Lab ToMove”

An example of how such strategies merge is the new project “Living Lab ToMove”. The concept is to shape a city-wide living lab where different scenarios and tools related to smart and sustainable urban mobility are tested for citizens and industries. It is an opportunity for local stakeholders, engaging with innovative mobility approaches, to interact and collaborate – with and within the city – to test the paradigm of “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS) in real settings. Public events and new collaborations are also taken forward to inform and involve citizens.

With a budget of 7 million euros for 2 years, the City will work to co-design, experiment and promote innovative scenarios and integrated tools enabled by CCAM technologies with MaaS services to enable simple, safe, accessible and sustainable mobility for both citizens and businesses.

In particular, Turin will work to develop 3 large-scale demonstrators on “Digital Twin” tools for smart and sustainable mobility planning, the integration of autonomous and collective “demand responsive” public-transport solutions in the Maas system, and autonomous mobility solutions for last mile logistics.

In other words, autonomous mobility solutions, shared systems and predictive tools are being tested to support local businesses while reducing the ecological impact of logistics and mobility. Simultaneously, MaaS tools will enhance citizen mobility through the offer of punctual public and shared transport services (including autonomous systems, whenever possible) with the ultimate goal of sensibly reducing the use of private cars. For example, incentives in forms of discounts and vouchers will be offered to citizens and companies willing to test the new MaaS App of the City, in collaboration with private companies and GTT, the public transport service. From April 2024, involved citizens and employees will receive customised route suggestions combining and selecting public transportation and other forms of shared services (e.g. mopeds, scooters, bicycles) to reach their destination in a smart and sustainable way.

This new project, which integrates and expands the purposes and facilities of the ongoing initiatives “Turin City Lab” and “House of Emerging Technologies of Turin – CTE NEXT”, pursues the objectives of the European Mission “100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities” – to which the City of Turin has committed. In this sense, being a Mission City is a great opportunity to test and establish new social and economic drivers that are based on  circular economy, environmental and social sustainability. In fact, turning the city into an open living lab and experimenting together with local enterprises and stakeholders is a crucial aspect of the cross-sectoral, interdepartmental and demand-led approach that the City is adopting to reach climate neutrality and pursue sustainable innovation. Last but not least, living labs and participatory experimentation are valuable ways to educate and raise awareness in citizens while testing different forms of public-private partnerships, being able to intercept territorial needs, adapt and streamline strategies and resources along the way.

The example of CLIMABOROUGH, improving the waste collection with the city stakeholders

But mobility is just one side of climate transition, Torino works on a strategic vision driven by the principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability. There are many ongoing projects focusing on smart innovation, circular economy and inclusivity – for example, for GHG emission monitoring and the preparation of the Climate City Contract, Turin will adopt a platform that is being developed by the Energy Center of Politecnico di Torino.

It then worked closely working with CLIMABOROUGH to receive the due support of the Net Zero Cities city contract and on waste management. This is a key domain for the City Hall to work on, together with its waste management utility (Amiat/Iren). According to recent evidence, there are bottlenecks in both the quantity and quality of WEEE and textiles correctly sorted. As a consequence, the percentage of such items to be recycled, or reused before turning into waste, is still low. The City also wishes to limit as much WEEE and textiles in generic waste as possible. For example, air pods or electronic cigarettes, as they have pollutant and highly-flammable batteries and fabrics that may contain potentially-recyclable materials.

CLIMABOROUGH, via its dedicated public procurement, supports Torino to identify socio-technical systems to allow it to better engage with both citizens and industry in one or more of the three improvement areas outlined above, triggering collaborative and innovative approaches.

The solutions will be available in July 2024 and they will be deployed over about 1 year.


Matteo Satta (ANCI Toscana)

Mariangela Pastorello (City of Turin)