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European Commission publishes call for innovative urban actions

Urban Innovative Actions 2022

The European Commission published on Monday the call for Innovative Actions, formerly known as Urban Innovative Actions (UIA). With a budget of €50 million, open from 10 October 2022 to 19 January 2023, the call promotes innovative initiatives in urban areas of more than 50,000 inhabitants that contribute to improving the quality of life of citizens. Each project can receive an allocation of up to 5 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

“This call for proposals can be an important incentive for the development of pilot projects in European cities,” said Javier Lahuerta, head of the Regions knowledge area at Zabala Innovation.

Although the call is open to projects that belong to any theme, the Innovative Actions organisation suggests focusing on one of the following four, due to their great innovative potential: circular economy and carbon neutrality, preservation of cultural heritage, adaptation of buildings for affordable housing solutions and regeneration of urban spaces. Thus, “cities should look for the best solutions in these domains”, advises Lahuerta, “and they can also do so by seeking the support of other agents such as universities, knowledge centres and private entities”.

Innovative, bold and creative projects

The Innovative Actions call supports pilot projects that have never been evaluated anywhere else in Europe. They must be new, bold, creative, and experimental. The proposed project must go beyond the present state-of-the-art and business-as-usual. They must also meet key quality standards, such as a clear and logical interrelation of goals, activities, and outputs. They must produce evidence of preparatory work, and present realistic ambitions, effective management structures and procedures and excellent value for money.

The call organisers also insist that participation and co-creation with partners, relevant stakeholders and target groups are key for the development and implementation of truly innovative and experimental projects. They also stress the importance of measurability of project results, sustainability, and scalability, as well as replicability.

The European Urban Initiative and the New Bauhaus

Together with Urbact, the sub-programme focused on the transfer of best practices and success stories from one city to another, which will open in 2023, the Innovative Actions makes up the European Urban Initiative (EUI), a programme with a budget of € 450 million for the period 2021-2027.

Innovative Actions 2022 builds on the core principles of another initiative, the New European Bauhaus (NEB). Launched in early 2021 by European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, the NEB is a creative and interdisciplinary initiative in the making, connecting the European Green Deal to citizens’ living spaces and experiences, in aims of making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. Its funding comes from different EU programmes, including Horizon Europe, the main European research and innovation programme, LIFE, the only European programme exclusively dedicated to environment and climate action issues, and Feder.

Zabala Innovation’s support for Urban Innovative Actions 2022 and previously

The Innovative Actions 2022 call will therefore fund projects that offer tangible and real examples of interventions that fully integrate values that have already become fundamental, such as sustainability, inclusion, and aesthetics, up to a maximum level of ambition. It will evaluate the ability to turn current urban challenges into opportunities, to address them through integrated solutions, translating the European Green Deal into innovative pilots that empower citizens through participatory processes to lead the change towards green and inclusive cities, towns, and local communities.

Zabala Innovation has successfully supported several Spanish cities in the preparation of their proposals for this call in the previous period,” says Lahuerta. “Some of the most relevant projects, such as Cartuja Qanat in Seville, have obtained such good results that even the World Economic Forum echoed the project,” he adds.

“Our multidisciplinary team of experts not only in engineering, but also in economic and social sciences, can help cities develop innovative initiatives to build projects that integrate both the technical and social innovation aspects required by the call,” concludes Lahuerta.