The European Week of Regions and Cities, the annual event organised by Committee of the Regions and DG Regional and Urban Policy for cities and regions, took place in Brussels from 09 to 12 October 2017, so this is a good time to present the two “100% specific” EU programmes for cities: URBACT and the URBAN INNOVATIVE ACTIONS (UIA).
The URBAN INNOVATIVE ACTIONS provides support to the most innovative urban projects, and allows to convert the city ideas into concrete practices that can be shared in other European regions, and URBACT promotes the exchange of knowledge between cities by creating networks of local authorities who want to share and/or to learn on common topics and interests.
The Pact of Amsterdam (30 May 2016) and the Council Conclusions (24 June 2016) formed the Urban Agenda for the EU and established its fundamental principles. In line with the thematic priorities of the Urban Agenda, the UIA initiative provides resources for EU cities to finance innovative projects, with a total allocation of € 372 million from the ERDF for the period 2014-2020. 
In the first call, eighteen projects were selected from 378 applications. The city of Bilbao, with the proposal called AS FABRIK, elaborated by ZABALA was one of the winners. 
Now, in the European Week of Regions and Cities, the second call have announced the projects selected from the second call, in which ZABALA Innovation Consulting has supported the successful proposal of Lahti (Finland), by providing advice and review services. City of Lahti will experiment with a Personal Carbon Trading Scheme to promote sustainable and low-carbon urban mobility by promoting and rewarding behavioural changes.
Further details have been already provided on topics for the 3rd call (expected deadline: end of March) to award the most innovative projects presented by the cities themselves. Each winning city may receive up 5 M€ per project from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), corresponding to 80% of the project budget.
The new call for proposals will reward the most innovative projects in four categories - in line with the priorities of the EU Urban Agenda. Building on the feedback received from applicants, the European Commission has decided to focus on: air quality, climate adaptation, housing, and jobs & skills in the local economy. 
UIA will offer cities the means to convert their ideas into concrete practices that can be shared in other European regions. As indicated by the European Commissioner for Regional Policy - Corina Creţu, the Urban Agenda "is precisely conceived to empower cities and make their voices heard".
URBACT focuses on learning based on the experience shared between cities. Due to that, the URBACT Secretariat selected 97 Good Practices with good transfer potential, and now has launched the call for URBACT TRANSFER NETWORKS, with the aim of achieving and effective transfer across Europe’s cities. URBACT’s end goal is not the gathering of good practices, but their effective transfer across Europe’s cities.
The call for URBACT TRANSFER NETWORKS will close the 10th January 2018 (15:00 CET) and counts with near 20 M€ to fund the creation of 25 networks. Each TRANSFER NETWORK will allow cities to share their experiences, problems and solutions, with the objective of learning from one another and to identify good practices to design & implement integrated urban policies. 
In the TRANSFER NETWORKS, a Good Practice City’ will act as project leader and will share the experience, acting as a ‘mentor’. By applying the URBACT methodology, the ‘Transfer cities’ will understand, adapt and reuse the good practice. A TRANSFER NETWORK may have a budget of up to 680.000 € plus 146 days of paid URBACT expertise. There are clear benefits from this process:
For the Good Practice City:
  • Refining and improving its own methodology.
  • Wider recognition of the potential for re-use and greater visibility.
For the Transfer Cities:
  • Producing a ‘Diary of Transfer experience’ > experimentation.
  • Building the capacity to deal with urban issues.
Each selected network will be built in two phases: a brief Phase 1 (6 months), where 3 city partners including the Good Practice City (Lead Partner) will work on enlarging the network and setting-up the transfer process that will be developed in the Phase 2; and finally, the Phase 2 (24 months), with the network already completing and reaching up to 5-8 city members who will work on sharing the knowledge with the aim of adapting it to the specific characteristics of each city. Each network will be composed of cities from developed and less-developed cities. Cities from the more developed regions will receive a 70% of funding from ERDF, while those from less developed and transition regions will receive a 85% ERDF, Swiss partners will receive a 50% of national funding and Norway partners will participate at own cost.
As conclusion, URBACT and URBAN INNOVATIVE ACTIONS directly target cities. Across Europe, cities share similar environmental, economic and social challenges: mobility, housing, social inclusion, good air quality, migrants and refugees integration, greening the city, unemployment, etc. These issues affect cities of all sizes, but public budgets and time for urban innovation is limited in most of the cases. URBACT and UIA are the best destinations for cities wanting to innovate, and according to the ZABALA experience, most of the cities may develop competitive winning proposals. We can help you to reach your destination. 

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