Unlocking Europe’s innovative potential by going local!

Anna Lisa Boni

By Anna Lisa Boni, on September 26th, 2019

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EUROCITIES member cities are well represented in the new Action Planning networks recently launched by URBACT, which group cities together to work on actions as diverse as climate adaptation, circular economy, gender equality, mobility systems, inclusive cultural policies and sustainable tourism.

Giving cities and other partners a chance to exchange knowledge, provide inspiration and find new solutions helps build the case for evidence-based policy-making  using best case examples of integrated urban development.

Cities are the ideal environments for innovation to flourish. Strengthening capacity building activities like the Action Planning Networks to ensure transferability and the scale-up of solutions in cities across Europe will help maximise their potential to meet strategic European challenges.

With this in mind, it’s important to ensure that such actions compliment, and do not duplicate the work of existing networks and programmes. The Action Planning networks all refer to links with Horizon 2020 projects and the work coordinated through the partnerships of the Urban Agenda for the EU – a critical tool for raising the voice of cities in EU circles.

The topics of circular economy and cultural heritage, which feature most heavily across the 23 actions, are well embedded into EUROCITIES own work. As partners in the Horizon 2020 funded ROCK project, we focus on how cultural heritage can be a unique and powerful engine for regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth of entire cities. Moreover, through the work of our circular economy task force, and our input into the urban agenda partnership on circular economy we have helped create a set of city circular economy indicators to monitor transition and strengthen implementation of locally developed roadmaps.

More efforts need to be made at the European level, however, to facilitate integrated solutions locally, and to ensure local level priorities are taken on board in EU decision making, especially within its funding programmes.

Each year, the number of city applications to the Urban Innovative Action projects, which help cities test out new local solutions in practice, provides clear evidence not only of the genuine innovation potential in cities, but also of the urgent need to fund innovative solutions.

In this regard, the activities of URBACT are an essential tool giving cities more opportunities to share knowledge, garner inspiration from other cities, and spark new innovative ideas.

The new missions-based approach of Horizon Europe is another positive development. Each mission is designed to address specific challenges European citizens are facing. The missions, such as the one on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities for which I have recently been selected as board rapporteur, will boost the impact of EU-funded research and innovation by mobilising investment and EU wide efforts around measurable and time-bound goals on issues that affect citizens’ daily lives.

It is through efforts like these, ensuring the local level is represented as full partners in European decision making, that we can best support cities as drivers of innovation and work together to meet EU goals.

More on URBACT & EU funding on the URBACT website!

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