Innovating Cities

Making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable through innovative, coordinated and systemic solutions for the urban environment

We will support science, research, and innovation, including a focus on social, technological, digital and nature-based innovation, robust science-policy interfaces in urban and territorial planning and policy formulation, as well as institutionalized mechanisms for sharing and exchanging information, knowledge and expertise, including the collection, analysis, standardization and dissemination of geographically-based, community-collected, high-quality, timely and reliable data, disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability, geographic location, and other characteristics relevant in national, sub-national, and local contexts.

Art. 157 of the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All, Habitat III New Urban Agenda - United Nations, October 2016

Over the last two years cities have been recognised as key actors for achieving the targets set by major, international agreements such as the Paris Declaration on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Moreover, a dedicated agenda with priority actions for cities has been developed both at the European level with the Urban Agenda for the EU and at the international level with the Habitat III New Urban Agenda. A specific Sustainable Development Goal to be achieved by 2030 is also devoted to:

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

SDG n.11

The Habitat III New Urban Agenda acknowledges research and innovation as means of implementation for cities to meet the goals of the above mentioned international agreements. All the agreements above support integrated approaches, but to apply this in practice requires innovative thinking, methodologies and methods at various levels.

EU research and innovation can help create a sustainable city ecosystem by pushing a systemic approach and bridging between technological, digital, social, cultural and nature-based innovation.

The aim of the EU research and innovation agenda is to support cities and urban regions in becoming actors of open innovation and being open to the world as ambassadors of the European excellence in research and innovation. This will help them to accelerate the transition to sustainable, low-carbon societies.

An integrated research and innovation framework for smart and sustainable cities intends to:

  • Better co-ordinate, streamline and focus the existing and future research and innovation activities and initiatives on urban issues across Horizon 2020 and future framework programmes.
  • Enable a sustainable and systemic approach to innovation, by fostering co-creation, co-development and co-implementation with different actors and citizens in cities across the Union and worldwide.
  • Develop new business and governance models, mobilise new partnerships and investments, and facilitate market uptake of visionary solutions and approaches needed to enhance urban resilience.
  • Provide the knowledge and evidence base to inform decision on investments in key infrastructure for cities and urban regions as well as to inform policy-making, planning and land use management.

Europe can capitalise on over 30 years of investment in transnational EU research and innovation on sustainable urban development. The EU investment in urban related projects alone in the first four years of Horizon 2020 amounts to around 1.7 billion EUR for 612 projects across the three pillars of Horizon 2020, excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. The investment in FP7, FP6 and FP5 were respectively 1.9 billion EUR, 0.4 billion EUR and 0.5 billion EUR.

EU strategic research and innovation agenda on innovating cities

The EU wishes to build on this political momentum and establish a new, forward-looking and visionary Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) that will enhance the innovation capacity of the cities and foster a more systemic and cross-sectorial ‘urban ecosystem’ framework to address urban challenges. 

The EU SRIA on cities to be delivered in September 2019 and will:

  • Translate the political objectives and targets set out in the international urban policy frameworks and initiatives into challenge-based and solutions oriented research and innovation actions
  • Take account of other existing sectorial EU policies (e.g. transport, energy) and other international urban SRIAs (e.g. JPI Urban Europe, GCOM SRIA, etc.), providing scope for co-ordination, joint activities and synergies
  • Promote systemic, integrated and cross-sectorial approaches and innovative solutions to local societal challenges in urban/peri-urban areas (combining: technological, digital, social, cultural and nature-based innovation, and fostering circular and regenerative models and nexus approaches interlinking sectors such as mobility, energy, food, water and health)
  • Foster the experimentation of innovative concepts, processes, tools, and governance models proving the city's commitment to act as a test-bed for innovative practices and solutions which are co-designed and co-implemented with citizens, and ensuring mainstreaming of these practices into the urban development process and daily policies

A high level expert group was inaugurated on 12 June 2018, to advise the European Commission on how to formulate a strategic research and innovation agenda on innovating cities.