Climate change amplifies social, political, economic, infrastructural and environmental challenges in many Global South cities, and perhaps no city is more vulnerable than Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka. Climate-induced rural–urban migration is a profound concern, and Dhaka’s political leaders have embraced technology-based innovation as one solution pathway. This article explores the societal impact of Dhaka’s innovation environment strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Employing a case study qualitative methodology, our three findings expand knowledge about innovation for urban climate adaptation and mitigation as understood by Dhaka-based entrepreneurs. First, the most effective innovations were not the most technologically advanced, but those with the highest degree of participant ownership. Second, gaps between recipient, corporate and governmental understandings of effective mitigation and adaptation harmed projects were driven by different definitions of risk and competing understandings of vulnerability. Third, even the most technical climate adaptation measures were inherently political in their application. We discuss how to better position urban climate innovation infrastructures in Bangladesh and beyond, including developing a better recognition of innovation lifecycles for urban climate adaptation and widening our definitions of “innovation” to better incorporate more effective and inclusive climate adaptation solutions.
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