Urban Living Challenge - Montréal

Urban Living Challenge 

Concrete, creative and regenerative projects to improve the lives of Montrealers.

The Urban Living Challenge is an interuniversity student competition, an initiative of a partnership between HEC Montréal, McGill’s CIRM and Desjardins Lab's Cooperathon. Its objectives are to bring together students from different universities and disciplines and give them the opportunity to collaborate to develop a project that will help improve the quality of life of Montrealers. This project mobilizes various actors and partners from the academic, community, municipal and business sectors around issues related to sustainable development.


Course of the contest

The Urban Living Challenge offers the option of creating multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students. The members of these teams enrolled in faculties of engineering, administration, arts and sciences will be able to develop a project under the specific theme of mobility in a perspective of sustainable development. This competition will take place in two phases and will take into account the academic calendar and the obligations of the participants.

Phase 1: Cooperathon

The first phase of the Urban Living Challenge is part of the Cooperathon produced by Desjardins Lab, a competitive platform that allows the co-creation of innovative projects with high social impact. This event corresponds to a 25-day course split into five stages allowing, in turn, the training of teams, the analysis and understanding of the prescribed theme, the definition of a problem and finally the development of a solution that should be the subject of an implementation plan. This five-week platform also offers about ten hours of specialized training in the field of entrepreneurship.

Phase 2: Validity of the concept

The second phase of the Urban Living Challenge will follow the presentation of the Cooperathon. Presented at the winter session, this phase is the final stage of the competition and will allow teams to demonstrate the validity and viability of the concept (development of proof) proposed in Phase 1.

Mentoring, evaluation and incubation of projects

To ensure the smooth running of each of these phases, each team will be sponsored by an MBA student who will primarily guide the thinking and design process. The Smart City Office of Montréal will also provide assistance to students by offering them with various open data packages available to the City of Montréal, for example.

In each phase of the Challenge, projects will be evaluated and a jury composed of research professors and partners from different backgrounds (for example municipal administration, organizations and associations, professional circles) will award them a mark. Only the teams with the highest score will be allowed to proceed to the next stage, with the exception of the last phase, which will crown the winning team(s).

Mobility in Montreal 

How to deal with Montréal’s mobility challenges caused by rapid urbanization, climate change and population growth?

The “Mobility in Montréal” theme for the academic year 2018-2019 aims at stimulating social innovation’s potential to provide solutionsto the critical challenges of an urban transport system. The reproducible solutions and ideas proposed by the students will tackle the specific angles of the urban mobility challenges and foster a sustainable and inclusive growth not only in Montréal, but on a global scale - thanks to the open source formation of the competition.

In recent years, Montréal has seen a tremendous growth in its economy, and as a result, the city has experienced rapid urbanization, population growth and change in its environment. These changes have also affected transport in Montréal, increasing commuting times, having a negative impact on health, increasing the probability of road accidents, and overcharging the public transportation system. On a human level, urban existence is becoming more and more stressful and overwhelming for Montrealers.

Known as a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) hub in the world, Montréal’s future economy looks bright with a high growth potential. Correspondingly, the urbanization, further growth in its population, and climate change call for an alternative transport system that enables the efficient mobility of residents, travellers, goods and services. As a matter of fact, cities are in part defined by their distinct urban transport systems. Efficient urban mobility provides a foundation for economic growth by connecting students, workers,industries and ideas. If cities aren’t mobile, education, commerce and productivity are disrupted, and city competitiveness is reduced. The contribution from the student communities towards an improved and sustainable urban transport system of Montréal will further enhance the city’s productivity, attractiveness and improve the overall quality of life of Montrealers.


The 2018-2019 Défi Urbain – Urban Living Challenge Student Competition calls for the most innovative products, services, business models and collaborations that aim to improve the critical components of the transport system of Montréal. Teams are encouraged to identify the different components of the broad Mobility topic, and re-define their problem statement that focus on specific angles of the urban transport system. Therefore, the solutions and ideas proposed should focus on the re-defined, simple problem topic. Such ideas proposed by the students should be based on providing a long-term sustainable impact at the different urban community levels.

All ideas focusing on different components of the mobility challenge are welcome; even if they are not mature yet. The exclusive partnership of Défi Urbain with the Smart City Office of Montréal aims to induce new solutions and help them reach the stage of prototyping and implementation. Teams qualifying past the second phase of the competition, are therefore, highly encouraged to take advantage of the vast data and other resources available through the Smart City Office.

Examples of ideas

  • Convenient, safe and inexpensive commute;
  • Initiatives that promote harmony between cyclists and motorists;
  • The use of technologies that aims to reduce congestion for road users;
  • Solutions that increase resilience during road works or constructions;
  • Initiatives that encourage more usage of city’s transportation system;
  • Ideas that focus on quick commute into the city;
  • Initiatives that promote dynamic carpooling.

Quick facts and statistics about Montréal’s mobility

  • 69%: Workers commute to work by car.
  • 7%: Workers use bicycle or walk to work.
  • 36%: Road networks with exclusive bike paths.
  • 1 million: Number of Montrealers who ride bikes at least once a week.
  • 87 minutes: Average amount of time people spend riding public transport.
  • 14 minutes: Average amount of time people wait at a station each day for public transport.
  • 4.8 million: Number of trips taken on a bike-sharing service in 2017.
  • 700: Average number of bike accidents annually.


To join the challenge, register in the "Energy-Environment" section of the Coopérathon before October 5th, 2018. Be quick! Until October 5th, students benefit from a preferential rate!

Key dates

Evaluation criteria


Problem definition (40%)

  • The problem shows a deep understanding of an urban mobility problem;
  • The problem highlights a challenge that is clearly defined and integrates the dimensions of diversity and inclusion;
  • The problem reflects an understanding of the target users’ needs (Montreal market communities);
  • The problem is understood as part of the ecosystem in which the proposed challenge fits.

Proposed solution (50%)

1) Innovation

  • The proposed solution is distinct or fundamentally different from existing approaches;
  • The proposed solution comes from an interdisciplinary approach;
  • The proposed solution presents a strong value proposition.
2) Social impact
  • The proposed solution demonstrates potential for large scale application;
  • The proposed solution improves the lives of the target users (Montréal tenant communities);
  • The proposed solution helps Montreal communities to be resilient, to develop their ability to adapt to current social and ecological conditions.
3) Viability
  • The proposed solution contains a detailed plan for the deployment and sustainability of the proposed solution, particularly in economic terms;
  • The proposed solution is technologically viable;
  • The proposed solution can be quickly and easily implemented with limited investments;
  • The proposed solution is viable within the regulation framework of Ville de Montréal.

Team dynamism (10%)

  • The team is composed of students from different disciplines (interdisciplinary team);
  • The team has identified or is engaged in some form of cooperation with potential partners;
  • The team has validated its assumptions with the target users.

For any questions, please contact: defiurbain [at] hec.ca 

Follow the Urban Living Challenge on LinkedIn and Faire Montréal!




Back to top