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What types of project does URBACT finance?

URBACT is a European Territorial Cooperation programme (ETC) aiming to foster sustainable integrated urban development in cities across Europe. It is an instrument of the Cohesion Policy, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and by Member and Partner States.

URBACT is not an investment programme. 

URBACT finances transnational exchange and learning networks. 

The main aim is to enable cities to work together and develop integrated solutions to common urban challenges, by networking, learning from one another’s experiences, drawing lessons and identifying good practices to improve urban policies.

What types of transnational exchange and learning networks does URBACT finance?

For the programming period 2014-2020, the URBACT Programme will finance 3 different types of transnational networks:

  • Action Planning Networks: to improve the capacities of cities to design integrated strategies/action plans for sustainable urban development
  • Implementation Networks: to improve the capacities of cities to implement integrated strategies/action plans for sustainable urban development
  • Transfer Networks: to improve the capacities of cities to implement integrated strategies/action plans by adapting, transferring and re-using, at local level, good practices identified in the field of integrated sustainable urban development

The 3 types of transnational networks will be selected through different Call for Proposals, with different calendars over the programming period.

Who are the beneficiaries of transnational exchange and learning activities?

The URBACT III Operational Programme defines two categories of beneficiaries: main beneficiaries (city-partners) and other beneficiaries (non city partners).

The category of city-partners includes the following institutions:

  • Cities, municipalities, towns;
  • Infra-municipal tiers of government such as city districts and boroughs in cases where they are represented by a politico-administrative institution having competences for policy-making and implementation in the policy area covered by the URBACT network concerned in which they are willing to get involved;
  • Metropolitan authorities and organized agglomerations in cases where they are represented by a politico-administrative institution having delegated competences for policy-making and implementation in the policy area covered by the URBACT network concerned.

There is no limit of size (population) for cities wishing to participate in URBACT transnational activities.

The category of non-city partners includes the following institutions:

  • Local agencies defined as public or semi-public organisations set up by a city, partially or fully owned by the city authority, responsible for the design and implementation of specific policies (economic development, energy supply, health services, transport, etc.)
  • Provincial, regional and national authorities, as far as urban issues are concerned;
  • Universities and research centres, as far as urban issues are concerned

In order to be eligible, other beneficiaries (non-city partners) must be public authorities or Equivalent Public Bodies. They can only be part of Action-Planning Networks.

Main and other beneficiaries shall be from:

  • The  28 EU Member States
  • Partner States Norway and Switzerland. Partners from Norway and Switzerland cannot make use of ERDF allocations, but as official partner states in the URBACT III programme cities are co-financed at 50% by national funds.

Institutions from IPA countries (Instrument Pre Accession) and from other countries anywhere in the world, can participate with their own funding.

How can other beneficiaries (non-city partners) verify if they are eligible in the framework of the URBACT Programme?

In order to be eligible, other beneficiaries (non-city partners) must be public authorities or Equivalent Public Bodies.

In case of doubt, other beneficiaries (non-city partners) are invited to contact the URBACT Secretariat and provide the legal status of the institution in national language. The Secretariat will request legal advice from the relevant National Authority in order to verify that the interested institution is a Public Authority or if it fulfills the criteria for Equivalent Public Bodies.

Equivalent Public Body (EPB) refers to any legal body governed by public or private law :

  1. established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character (which does not exclude bodies partly having an industrial or commercial character), and
  2. having legal personality, and
  3.   a) either financed, for the most part, by the State, or regional or local authorities, or other bodies governed by public law
      b) or subject to management supervision by those bodies
      c) or having an administrative, managerial or supervisory board, more than half of whose members   are appointed by the State, regional or local authorities or by other bodies governed by public law.”


How and when other beneficiaries (non-city partners) can join URBACT transnational networks?
Other beneficiaries (non-city partners) can only be partners in Action-Planning Networks. They cannot be partners in Implementation Networks.
Furthermore, non-city partners cannot be Lead Partners. Only city-partners can be Lead Partners.
Other beneficiaries (non-city partners) cannot be included in the initial partnership to be proposed with the Phase 1 Applications. Only city-partners can be included in the initial partnership.
Other beneficiaries (non-city partners) can join a URBACT transnational network only during the Phase 1, after the first approval by the Monitoring Committee. All networks approved for phase 1 shall enlarge the initial partnership and they can involve a maximum of 3 non-city partners.
Other beneficiaries (non-city partners) involved in URBACT networks have the same rights and responsibilities as main beneficiaries (city-partners)
What is the co-financing rate for partners involved in transnational exchange and learning networks?
  • Partners from ‘more developed’ regions shall be co-financed at up to 70% by ERDF
  • Partners from ‘less developed’ and ‘transition’ regions shall be co-financed at up to 85% by ERDF
  • Partners from Norway shall be co-financed at up to 50% by Norwegian national funds
  • Partners from Switzerland shall be co-financed at up to 50% by Swiss national funds

For more information of Less Developed, More Developed and Transition regions, refer to the detailed map available in the DG Regional and Urban Policy website.

What is the thematic coverage for URBACT transnational networks?

The thematic coverage of the URBACT III Programme 2014/2020 is in line with the Thematic Objectives (TO) of the EU Cohesion Policy for 2014/2020 and thus strongly linked with the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth. 

The URBACT III thematic coverage includes the following Thematic Objectives: 

  • Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (TO1)
  • Enhancing access to and use and quality of ICT (TO2)
  • Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs (TO3)
  • Supporting the shift towards a low carbon economy in all sectors (TO4)
  • Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management (TO5)
  • Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency (TO6)
  • Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures (TO7)
  • Promoting employment and supporting labour mobility (TO8)
  • Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty (TO9)
  • Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning by developing education and training infrastructure (TO10)

A detailed description of the urban dimension of the 10 Thematic Objectives for EU Cohesion Policy 2014/2020 is available in the Fact Sheet 1 of the URBACT III Programme Manual.

How URBACT transnational networks are selected for funding?

URBACT transnational networks are selected by means of Calls for Proposals. Call for Proposals are published in the URBACT website and disseminated through different communication tools (dedicated webpage in the URBACT website, newsletters, news on partner websites, National Infodays, social media, etc.).

The URBACT Programme, in order to increase the quality of networks approved for funding, foresees a two phase process with a first 6-month phase for the consolidation of the project proposal and a second 24-month phase for the implementation of the exchange and transfer activities.

Cities willing to set up a URBACT network are requested to submit a 1st proposal to get funding for Phase 1. 

If the proposal is approved for Phase 1, networks will have 6 months to prepare and submit a complete project proposal for Phase 2.

Each phase is subject to eligibility check by the Secretariat, assessment by an external panel of experts (External Assessment Panel), and approval by the Monitoring Committee. The decision of the Monitoring Committee is final.

How cities can find other partners interested in joining a URBACT network?

The URBACT Secretariat will set up an online project idea database in the website

Cities willing to apply as Lead Partners can post their project idea and describe the profiles of partners needed to complete the initial partnerships.

Cities willing to apply as partners can browse the different project ideas posted and contact the candidate Lead Partners

How to apply to the URBACT Implementation Networks Call?

The Implementation Networks Call is open between 22 March and 22 June 2016. You can apply by filling in the forms requested on the online platform SYNERGIE CTE. A guide to completing the application form for Implementation Networks will be available shortly.

Who are the eligible beneficiaries for the Implementation Networks Call?

European cities from the 28 Member States, Norway and Switzerland are the eligible beneficiaries of the IN call. As Implementation Networks tackle the operational implementation of an integrated action plan or strategy, only city administrations in charge can be beneficiaries of this type of projects.

Can a city already involved in an Action Planning Network apply to be part of an Implementation Network?

Yes. A city can be part of two networks in each URBACT call. However, applicants must consider their human resources carefully in applying to several URBACT networks. Each of these projects requires significant time to be invested by the appropriate city staff (with relevant expertise and communication skills for a transnational project).

What are the specific features of Implementation networks?
  1. Cities partnering in an Implementation Network should all already have an action plan or strategy for the policy issue they will jointly decide to tackle. All partners’ action plans should tackle a similar policy issue and it is advised to build a partnership with cities that have a similar size.
  2. The policy issue that will be focused on should correspond to one of the ten Thematic Objectives of the EU Cohesion Policy.
  3. Cities partnering will have to identify common implementation. Three implementation challenges are compulsory. They relate to the integrated and participative approach central to all URBACT projects, and to the measurement of impact.  Six other implementation challenges are optional; one or more can be chosen by the partnership.
What is the budget available for an Implementation Network and how is it spread between phase 1 and phase 2?

The total budget for phase 1 (6-month preparatory phase) and phase 2 (24-month project’s implementation phase) will range between 600.000€ and 750.000€.

Eligible cost for the Phase 1 of an Implementation Network is set at a maximum of 150.000€.

Each approved Implementation Network will have an additional allocation of 127.500€ to cover the costs of expertise over the lifetime of the project (Phase 1 and Phase 2).  This budget is managed outside of the network budget.

For phase 1, the expertise allocation available for each Network will be limited to 30.000€ (40 days of expertise).

What should be the final output of an Implementation Network?

The main output of an Implementation Network is an Operational Implementation Framework. This document is to be conceived as an instrument for partners to improve the delivery of strategies and actions. It takes into account the local context, local challenges and resources available. The objective is that such document would allow the timely delivery of an action plan, as well as a delivery that remains within the budget planned and sticks to the integrated and participatory approach advocated in the action plan.

The content, length, and format of the Operational Implementation Framework will differ according to the partner; the local situation and policies, or the problems and challenges identified by each URBACT Local Group.

What does it take to be the Lead partner of an Implementation Network?

The Lead Partner will manage a transnational project, which is a challenging and time-consuming task. A city willing to lead an URBACT Implementation Network should therefore allocate sufficient resources to the project to ensure suitable project management.  The project staff should have experience in the management of transnational projects, be able to handle the challenges of different languages and cultures and have skills to stir up the partnership. With overall administrative, co-ordination, management, implementation, financial and legal responsibility for the project, the Lead Partner acts as the link between the Managing Authority and the project partners.

For further explanation, please refer to the Programme Manual – factsheet 2E (Network Management).

What can be considered to be an ‘Integrated action plan’ for cities bidding for an Implementation Network?

There is no formal definition of an integrated strategy/ action plan; and there is no list that identify different types of such policy instruments across countries.

Building on the URBAN Acquis, Leipzig Charter, and other EU strategic urban document, URBACT has defined an integrated approach as a an approach to policy-making that requires policy-makers to consider the physical, economic, social and environmental dimensions of urban development; both in framing the problems, designing, and delivering the solutions.

Applicants to the Implementation Networks Call will not have to attach their existing strategies or  action plans to their application package. They will have to describe it and describe to what extent it can be considered as integrated.

An External Assessment Panel, gathering experts in the field, will assess the level of integration of the partner's strategy or action plan. They will also assess whether the funding secured for the implementation is reliable.

Can a city that has only secured funding for some of the actions proposed in the Integrated Action Plan participate in the call?

Yes. Partially or fully secured funding represent a guarantee that the strategy or action plan is about to be implemented. The quality of the funding scheme outlined in the bid will be one of the elements assessed by the External Assessment Panel.  Asking for secured funding should ensure the actual implementation of the action plan.  Cities taking part in an Implementation Network should not use the Network and project’s lifetime to look for funding.

Can cities from IPA (Pre-Accession) countries or non-URBACT countries take part in an Implementation Network?

Only cities from the 28 EU member states, Switzerland and Norway are eligible beneficiaries for the call. However, cities from IPA and other countries can be observer cities in the Network. This means they can be actively engaged but are not eligible to the ERDF budget to cover costs occurred by participating in the Network.

There are two options for travel and accommodation costs for observer cities:

- the observer city to pay for travel & accommodation costs at their own costs

- the Lead Partner to cover travel & accommodation costs through its LP budget, budget category "External Expertise and Services", budget line "Expert and other non-staff Travel". However, this should be agreed with the URBACT Secretariat beforehand.

What document(s) will be required to prove that partial or full financing of the Integrated Action Plan has been secured?

In the application package, each partner will have to provide a letter of commitment in which an elected official will have to certify that funding is secured. The letter will include reference to the types of funds secured. The Application Form also includes a section where each partner will have to describe the funding scheme (amounts, different sources  such as city budget, ERDF, private-public, and others). Applicants will have to provide a reference to official documents or procedures such as a decision of the city council, or a document from the Managing Authority mentioning that the city will benefit from ERDF Article 7 funding for ITI cities for instance. Checking the reliability of funding will be part of the quality assessment of the bid (not part of the eligibility check). Any additional documents that will be provided by a city as evidence that the funding has been secured will be helpful.