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European Urban Initiative

A call for 90 million euros for sustainable urban innovation

European Urban Initiative 2024

With a budget of 90 million euros, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the third call of the European Urban Initiative for Innovative Actions (EUI-IA) will close on October 14th. This initiative aims to promote innovative and sustainable urban solutions under two themes: energy transition and technologies applied to cities.

“The European Urban Initiative 2024 call represents an essential catalyst for European urban authorities and their partners to drive innovation in urban sustainability,” highlights Antonio Barrios, consultant at the Regions and Cities Area of Zabala Innovation. “By focusing on energy transition and applied technology in cities, the European Commission reaffirms its commitment to continue smarter, more efficient, and sustainable urban development, addressing current challenges and laying the foundations for a prosperous and equitable future in Europe,” he adds.

European Urban Initiative 2024: objectives and topics

Under the energy transition topic, EUI-IA funds scalable and replicable projects for integrated and viable local energy networks, promoting zero-emission energy systems and empowering citizens. The European Commission aims to reduce energy demand in cities by renovating public and residential buildings, particularly in disadvantaged areas. It supports decarbonization of urban transport, electrification, smart fleets, diversification of local energy sources, maximization of renewable energies, and waste recovery. Additionally, it promotes integrated energy systems and citizen participation in energy communities through digital solutions.

In the topic of city technologies, projects will be funded to test innovative solutions based on new technologies (artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, among others). These solutions aim to improve urban services and strengthen the capacities of local authorities to offer more efficient and effective services, with potential for wider-scale replication supported by EU cohesion policy investments.

Both themes contribute to several EU policies and initiatives, such as the European Green Deal, the New European Bauhaus Initiative, and the Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, among others.

The European Commission aims to gather a balanced variety of projects that are highly innovative, participatory, excellent, and measurable, as well as easily scalable and replicable in other European cities. Projects that have never been implemented in Europe and cannot be realized with own funds or conventional sources of financing are expected.

“Innovation can involve both new products or services and new processes or governance models that improve existing practices. The key is to implement a solution for an urban challenge that represents a real issue for the city,” emphasizes Barrios.

Beneficiaries and requirements

The EUI-IA call targets urban authorities from cities, towns, or suburbs with over 50,000 inhabitants located in an EU Member State. Associations and groupings of urban authorities that meet specific population and geographical location criteria may also submit proposals.

Each project must be led by a lead urban authority responsible for overall management and implementation. Although not strictly necessary, associated urban authorities may participate in specific activities and produce related results, collaborating under a partnership agreement to be signed after project approval.

In addition to urban authorities, the consortium must include delivery partners, i.e., key public and private institutions and organizations (companies, research centers, universities, associations, NGOs, among others) necessary for the technical execution of the project, and transfer partners, i.e., cities willing to replicate such solutions. Both figures play a crucial role in project implementation and transfer, contributing financially and providing key technical and operational expertise for the successful execution of proposed activities and subsequent project replication.

“In this call, it is essential to adopt the quadruple helix approach, involving public authorities, industry, academia, and civil society. The urban authority will lead and coordinate the project; industry will contribute technology and expertise; academia will contribute research and knowledge; and civil society will represent local needs and social demands,” Barrios elaborates. “By collaborating comprehensively, innovation will be promoted, governance and citizen participation strengthened, and projects will be inclusive and effective in improving our cities sustainably and equitably,” he resumes.

Funding and eligibility

The grant funding, to be awarded in the form of subsidies, may have a maximum intensity of 80% and, in any case, may not exceed 5 million euros in ERDF co-financing. All partners must ensure at least 20% of public or private contribution to complete their budget.

Eligible costs include personnel, administrative, travel and accommodation expenses, external assistance and services, equipment, infrastructure, and construction work. Project duration will be a maximum of three and a half years, ensuring all activities are duly justified and aligned with the project’s purpose.