In times of rapid urbanisation, Europe is increasingly facing dire urban challenges ranging from the global health crisis and the rise of digitalisation to societal inequalities, demographic changes, climate change and environmental degradation. While these complex, multi-faceted challenges fall under different policy levels and sectors, cities serve as the main drivers of delivering innovative solutions for sustainable development in Europe. In this aim, the Urban Innovative Actions was the initiative set up to provide direct support for cities to experiment and test new solutions addressing pressing urban challenges.


For the ongoing period 2021-2027, the five policy objectives of the Cohesion Policy focus on a smarter, greener, more connected and more social Europe, as well as Europe closer to citizens, the latter having been introduced as an enhanced commitment to integrated territorial development and includes a specific objective to foster sustainable urban development . Moreover, a minimum 8% of the ERDF resources in each Member State must be invested in priorities and projects selected by cities themselves and based on their own sustainable urban development strategies. Within this framework, the European Commission will launch in the Q3/2022 a new European Urban Initiative (EUI) financed by the European Regional Development Fund to support cities with innovative actions, capacity and knowledge building, policy development and communication on sustainable urban development.

EUI main objectives

The overall objectives of the EUI are to strengthen integrated and participatory approaches to sustainable urban development, and to provide a stronger link to EU policies, and in particular to Cohesion policy and investments in urban areas as part of the funding earmarked for these areas under Article 11 of the ERDF/CF Regulation and beyond. The initiative aims to offer coherent support to cities to overcome the current landscape of manifold initiatives, programmes and instruments in support of cities under Cohesion policy, and in particular, by maximising synergy and complementarity with the interregional cooperation programme URBACT IV.  The EUI will also support the multi-level working of the Urban Agenda for the EU and intergovernmental cooperation on urban matters.

Components of EUI

The EUI includes two strands: (a) support of innovative actions, and (b1) support of capacity building and (b2) support of knowledge building, territorial impact assessments, policy development and communication.

The support of innovative actions builds on the UIA Initiative in identifying and testing transferable and scalable innovative solutions to address issues relating to sustainable urban development. A new feature however will be embedded to support the transfer of solutions to other urban areas across the EU including UIA tested solutions through Urbact Transfer Networks.

The capacity building component of the EUI is another critical building block of the initiative that seeks to improve the capacities of cities in the design of sustainable urban development policies, strategies and practices in an integrated and participative way. In complementarity, it will also contribute to the design and implementation of these policies and action plans in cities on a local, regional and national level. This element encompasses the cooperation with the networks of cities supported by Urbact IV, as well as Peer learning activities and Urban Development Network-type capacity building.

This strand is a key element to achieving the main objectives of the EUI in successfully sharing and capitalising on knowledge on sustainable urban development and importantly, in providing accessible know-how and information on urban matters. Accordingly, this strand aims to develop a knowledge base in support of improving sustainable urban development policy, strategy design, implementation and mainstreaming. It will support the Urban Agenda for the EU and intergovernmental cooperation on urban matters in order to effectively share and help develop evidence-based policy on sustainable urban development. A network of Urban Contact Points will be set up in Member States to facilitate the work at local, regional and national levels.

Overview of the European Urban Initiative
Overview of the European Urban Initiative

State of Play

On May 5th, 2021, the European Commission published a call for expression of interest for the selection of an entrusted entity for the indirect management of the EUI. Subsequently, the Region Hauts-de-France (UIA Entrusted Entity) was selected to become the new Entrusted Entity for the EUI. Currently, the Region Hauts-de-France and the European Commission are working on the contracting and roll out of the EUI. 

It is envisaged that the signature of the Contribution Agreement is completed in the third quarter of 2022 with the first Innovative Actions (IA) call for proposals launched in Autumn 2022 and the gradual roll-out of other strands in early 2023. In this context, the aim is to ensure a smooth transition from the UIA to the EUI, including a continued high-level support, knowledge capture and dissemination for projects supported by the UIA Initiative.

Indicative timeline