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Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit

Transforming Freight

We are looking for innovators to demonstrate solutions that decrease fossil fuel use and reduce costs of freight operations in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Enter by 16:00 UTC on 12 September 2024. 

About the Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit

Trucks infront of eastern market

​​We are calling on innovators to:

Demonstrate solutions that reduce fossil fuel use and cut costs of freight operations in Eastern Market

Solutions should address one or more of the following:

  1. Reduce idling time
  2. Reduce partial loads and empty miles
  3. Reduce reliance on fossil fuel for cold chain logistics and freight management
  4. Reduce implementation costs and barriers to adopting clean freight technologies 

Innovator Funding

We will support innovators in developing their solutions by providing:

  • Up to ten $50,000 implementation grants in the semi-finalist stage
  • Up to five $130,000 implementation grants in the finalist stage
  • $1.5 million final implementation funding, to be shared among up to 3 winners 
  • Connections to businesses in Eastern Market to understand their operations
  • Facilitation to engage directly with city leaders
  • Capacity building support  
  • Access to a network of like-minded innovators

All funding must be used by teams to develop, test and demonstrate their solutions for Detroit’s Eastern Market, with the final funding to be used for implementation in Eastern Market.

Freight train overlay-ed on Detroit street
Eastern market shopper overlayed on wide shot of the market

Why Detroit’s Eastern Market?

Detroit’s Eastern Market is the largest open-air market and amongst the oldest historic markets in the U.S. and is at the heart of Detroit’s Challenge. It is the city’s hub for food distribution, selling over $360 million of wholesale food annually, and double that in exports. The district is poised to expand and is considering strategies to address environmental concerns, carbon emissions, and pollution, while adding residential units to this bustling community. It organizes farmers, wholesalers, distributors, and logistics operators into distribution activities designed to move food that feeds millions.

Eastern Market neighborhood is continuing to expand as a market and as a mixed-use district. A key challenge of its growth strategy is to harmonize food production and distribution increases with clean freight initiatives. 

This will safeguard the health of Eastern Market residents, workers, and visitors while reducing fossil fuel costs of freight operators.

Detroit is seeking innovators who can demonstrate impact through solutions that achieve three key objectives:

  1. Innovators must show that their solutions add value to the freight ecosystem.
  2. Innovators must demonstrate that their solutions can be integrated without adding significant costs.
  3. Innovators must ensure that their solutions are easy to adopt and use by freight operators and Eastern Market.

About the City of Detroit's Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI):

The Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) exists to help the City of Detroit navigate the rapidly changing transportation and mobility industries in partnership with the automotive industry to support clean and equitable mobility solutions. Transportation and mobility are essential for both people and businesses and Detroit’s automotive heritage provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with industry to innovate and define their future.

Line of trucks overlayed on saturday market


 Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit is now open for entries! 

Green pin
Monday 29 May 2024

Sustainable Cities Challenge Detroit Launches

Thursday 12 September 2024

Entries close

November 2024

Semi-finalist announcement

May 2025

Finalist announcement

Early 2026

Winner's announcement

Participation requirements

Eligible entries that best meet the judging criteria will be invited to participate in the semi-finalist stage.


Entries that do not meet the following criteria are not eligible for the Challenge.

  • T​​he solution must be tailored specifically for Detroit and implemented within the city.  
  • Entrants can be single organizations or consortia.  
  • Teams that enter as a consortium must nominate one organization as the lead entrant. The lead entrant will enter into contracts and receive funding from the Toyota Mobility Foundation.  
  • Entrants must be established as a legally incorporated organization to enter.  
  • The challenge is open to innovators worldwide but entries must be in English.  
  • Successful entrants must be willing and able to travel to Detroit as there will be expectations for on-the-ground presence during the next stage of the Challenge.  
Entrants must own or be licensed to use relevant intellectual property included in their entries.

Entrants must own or be licensed to use relevant intellectual property included in their entries. If your entry proposes a new idea, we expect that you will own all the resulting intellectual property, which may be registered on a local basis if you become a successful participant in the Challenge. The Challenge would not be able to give you specific legal advice on the protection or exploitation of intellectual property.

Judging Criteria

The following judging criteria will be used to evaluate the suitability of an entry for the Challenge and its potential for impact.

Reduction of Fossil Fuel Use

Evaluates the potential impact of proposed solutions on decreasing fossil fuel use, thereby contributing to reducing emissions, air and noise pollution in Eastern Market.

Innovation in Eastern Market Freight

Assesses the degree of improvement and novelty offered by proposed technologies compared to current practices in Eastern Market. It also considers how these solutions stand out in the broader landscape of emerging and sustainable freight innovations. 

Adoption Potential by Businesses

Focuses on the ​entrant​​​s' understanding of user circumstances, needs, and expectations and how these were addressed to improve the adoption potential of the solution by businesses in ​​Eastern Market.

Technology Maturity

Evaluates the state of planning, development and testing at each stage of the technological roadmap, including co-design with users, off-site testing, and on-site demonstration in ​​Eastern Market.

Potential to Scale

Assesses the solution's potential for achieving long-term market viability after the conclusion of the Challenge. It may include expanding to new customers (or use cases) within ​Eastern Market and beyond.

Capability to Deliver

Evaluates the team's understanding of the skills and partnerships necessary to deliver the project and how well they fulfil these requirements.

How to Enter

Before completing your entry form, make sure that you:

  • Read the entrant handbook, our Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and the FAQs
  • Verify you meet the Eligibility Criteria
  • Familiarize yourself with the Challenge Statement and the Judging Criteria
  • Follow us on our social media channels for updates relating to the Challenge

The deadline for entries is 16:00 UTC on 12 September 2024. Late entries will not be accepted.  

Enter the Sustainable Cities Challenge - Detroit
Combined image of the city of detroit, the q line detroit tram and pedestrians.

Entrant Support

We have designed a range of support to help provide you with all the information and context you need to put together an entry to the Challenge. 

Join Us for a Webinar

We will be holding webinars to share more about the Challenge and answer your questions.

If you are interested, sign up below. We will let you know when webinar dates are confirmed.

Aerial view of highway

Book a One-to-One Session

Speak to a team member directly by booking a one-to-one call.  

There are a limited number of spaces available, so book early!


Email us at [email protected]

Wolverine Co. truck depot

Download the Detroit Entrant Handbook

We strongly encourage you to read the entrant handbook as you prepare your entry.  

The handbook provides a detailed explanation of what the Challenge is seeking and what you can expect from participating.  

Birds eye view of truck depot

News & Updates

About the Challenge
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