Around 100 participants joined the event in order to find out further about the Initiative and the topics that have been selected for Call 2: the circular economy, the integration of migrants and refugees and urban mobility. The three topics were presented by representatives of DG Transport and Mobility, DG Environment and DG Migration and Home Affairs. You can find their presentations attached to this article and the detailed descriptions on our website.
Following the presentations, participants had the possibility to discuss in small groups three questions: Why do urban authorities need the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative to address their challenge? How can they ensure proposed solutions are innovative? And how can urban authorities co-design their solution? Here is the feedback we received.
An initiative for cities to take risks
From the feedback provided, the UIA is seen as one of the few European funding schemes that facilitates experimentation of untested ideas for integrated and sustainable urban development.
First of all participants stressed that UIA provides urban authorities with the resources and the freedom to test new solutions that have the potential to address key local challenges but are too risky for traditional sponsors (National and regional authorities as well as for mainstream ERDF). With UIA the most innovative solutions can be prototyped, tested in a real urban setting, evaluated and eventually scaled up.
Participants appreciate that the initiative is aimed at urban authorities specifically and not at other levels of governance. By not being a transnational initiative, the UIA is perceived as the right tool to allow urban authorities to design and test solutions that are place-based and using a bottom-up approach.
Several cities having participated in the first call highlighted how the definition of the project idea triggered a new dynamic of cooperation, exchange and co-design among different services and departments within the urban authority.
Finally, it was stressed that in some cases UIA can allow urban authorities to tackle challenges and test solutions in policy areas that are not normally covered by mainstream funding such as for the inclusion of refugees.
Demonstrating innovation is not a simple task
UIA supports solutions that are innovative, bold and untested in Europe. Given the huge Europe wide competition for each Call for Proposals, urban authorities not only need to propose their ideas but also to demonstrate why these are innovative and have not been tested before in the EU.
The aim of the benchmark is not only to demonstrate the differences with similar approaches and solutions already tested in Europe but also to prove that these have been taken into account and that the proposed solution goes beyond.
Participants agreed that this is one of the most difficult steps when submitting a UIA proposal. Several stressed that this could be often considered as a difficult and costly exercise - as urban authorities do not always have the required staff and time to be able to complete this.
Several suggestions were given by participants who had submitted a proposal in the first Call for Proposals. First of all they recommend to look at the capitalisation activities and databases of good practices of organisations such as URBACT, Covenant of Mayors, CIVITAS but also Eurocities, OECD or UN-Habitat for example.
Some urban authorities made use of their membership in transnational networks to peer review their ideas and make the case about the innovativeness of their project proposal.
Finally it was advised to share as much as possible the task of benchmarking the project idea with Delivery Partners, especially when these are knowledge-driven actors, such as universities, think tanks, etc.
Co-designing innovation with the un-usual suspects
Several participants underlined how a strong cooperation with local key stakeholders is an essential factor to generate innovative but effective answers to urban challenges. Urban authorities need to tap in to the expertise and knowledge that exist outside the public administration to co-design and co-implement disruptive new projects. If this is already the case for several urban authorities in Europe, the main challenge stressed during the workshop is to go beyond the cohort of “usual suspects” (e.g. universities, chambers of commerce) and involve those actors (e.g. local start-ups, social enterprises, NGOs, residents associations, etc) that have a huge potential for innovation but are less accustomed to working with the public administration.
This requires time as well as a clear vision and leadership within the urban authority but also new mechanisms and tools for cooperation and co-implementation of complex urban projects.
The second UIA Call for Proposals will open in November and will close at the end of March 2017. Further information on the call will be made available on the UIA website. Four applicant seminars will take place between December and January in Lille, Porto, Thessaloniki and Budapest in order to help applicants put together their proposals. For further information and how to register, please see here.