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The Urban Innovative Actions Initiative: Which European strategy to face the challenges of urbanisation?

Launched in 2015 by the European Commission, the Urban Agenda for the European Union (EU) supports cities in each Member State in the face of urban development challenges. Inspired by the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities (2007), it has 3 objectives: improve regulation to better take into account the needs of cities in European policies, promote exchanges between urban authorities, Member States and the EC and facilitate cities’ access to European funds.

In order to meet these objectives, the agenda sets out 12 priorities, including urban mobility, energy, digital transition, and poverty. Since 2015, the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative has been one of the main contributors to the implementation of the Agenda’s priorities, financing innovative urban development solutions. Its fifth call for proposals will be published in September 2019.

Therefore, with the publication of this new call approaching at the beginning of this new call, what appraisal can we make of the action of this initiative?

Urban innovative actions: What are we talking about?

With a budget of 372 million euro through the ERDF for 2014-2020 period, the UIA initiative aims to support research and pilot projects forming innovative actions in the field of sustainable urban development. Inspired by the Urban pilot projects and the URBAN Community Initiatives, the UIA operates under two types of support: financial support for projects led by urban authorities – up to 5 million euro- and support to increase knowledge sharing in research. The initiative aims to encourage innovative and creative projects that address both economic and social issues, as well as environmental and climate challenges related to urbanisation. What conclusions can be drawn from the first 4 UIA calls for proposals?

The first four calls: what outcome?

                Four calls for proposals have already been launched between 2016 and 2019. Each call was allocated an envelope ranging from 50 million euro to 100 million euro. First, interestingly, as the amount of the annual budget increases from one year to the next, the number of applications drops from 378 in the first call to 175 applications in the fourth call.  However, thanks to the first three calls, 55 projects were launched. These calls focus on topics as varied as employment in the local economy (10 projects), housing (5) and urban poverty (6), urban mobility (5), energy transition (3) or the circular economy (8). Territorially, the projects are divided between three scales of cities and benefit cities of 50,000 inhabitants as well as those of more than one million inhabitants, reflecting the adaptability of the programme, which allow urban areas to think about urban innovation according to the reality of their different territories.

What are the expectations for the fifth call and after?

This fifth UIA call, expected in September 2019, is the last one for this programming period. Of the 4 themes selected, 2 are related to the “classic” challenges of urbanisation (environment and circular economy) and 2 new themes: demography and culture. Making these two topics funding priorities demonstrates the EU’s overall vision of sustainable urban development driven by inclusion and social cohesion through projects to bring cultural closeness and rapprochement of public services.

For the next 2021-2027 period, the European Commission aims to create the European Urban Initiative programme. This programme aims to strengthen networking and the capacity of urban authorities by integrating existing initiatives, such as the UIA or Urbact.



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