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Cities, drivers of innovation

Juan Cristóbal García

Juan Cristóbal García

Senior Innovation Strategy Consultant

Cities and development have always been directly connected but urbanization presents challenges to environmental, social and economic sustainability if we are to have affluent and inclusive societies.

The main challenges (climate change, population ageing, migration, housing, energy transition, security, sustainable mobility, globalisation, water and waste) are included in the Sustainable Development Objectives (SDO) and especially in the Urban Agenda of the European Union. They are not only the challenges of cities, but they are the challenges for the planet: cities are the centres of social and technological development, and they are the key actors in providing solutions.

What’s our role? Cities

At ZABALA Innovation Consulting we have long been committed to the challenges of cities: we help to adopt technological innovations and apply them in the growth of cities towards a “smart” model providing a how and for what to the use of these technologies, and we act as connectors between city, research, business and society and we link with other European cities and networks. The role we play in connecting technology with the social factor is very important in driving the creation of truly intelligent cities based on citizen participation.

How do we do it?

We do this by first helping to fund city proposals in programmes such as HORIZON 2020, LIFE, URBAN INNOVATIVE ACTIONS or URBACT, and above all by helping to ensure the success of the project during its execution. For example, in projects such as SINFONÍA (Seville), REPLICATE (San Sebastian), or STARTDUST (Pamplona), we support the consortium in the management of each project, with more than 30 partners each one and 5 years of duration. We also help as experts in the exploitation of results and contribute as legal experts for innovative public procurement processes.

In addition, we have a specific social innovation team, which facilitates citizen participation, which is key to the success of the projects, and which does so for example in the REZBUILD project, on energy rehabilitation of buildings and which has pilots in Madrid, Oslo or Rome.


We are now preparing for the latest HORIZON 2020 calls, with topics for cities in the Sustainable Transport, Environment, Energy, Health, Safety or Food programmes, and also developing proposals for the calls for cities published in another major European programme, EuropeAid. In particular, the call for local authorities called “Partnerships for Sustainable Cities 2020” aims to promote integrated urban development through partnerships between local authorities of the EU Member States and those of partner countries included in the list of Official Development Assistance (ODA) beneficiaries. 115 million, these partnerships aim to support local authorities in ODA countries through capacity building and service delivery. The deadline for submitting proposals is 27 March 2020, and they include topics such as urban governance, social inclusion, resilience or making cities greener.

And for the next programming period, 2021-2027, we already know the main lines of HORIZON EUROPE, LIFE and the new EUROPEAN URBAN INITIATIVE, and they follow the trend of giving more and more emphasis and budget to urban issues.

From ZABALA we want to help you identify opportunities to get European funding for your project, so we have identified 65 topics, within H2020, focused on issues related to cities and urban areas. These calls represent an investment of 941 million euros. Download the down mentioned document and get in touch with us! At ZABALA Innovation we love city projects! 

Expert person

Juan Cristóbal García
Juan Cristóbal García

Pamplona Office

Senior Innovation Strategy Consultant

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