• EU City Labs take on agriculture and food systems

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    Urban garden in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) - Photo by François Jégou

    How can we put the transition issues related to food back on the table and in the minds of policy-makers and citizens?

    Urban garden in Mouans-Sartoux (FR).
    From urbact

    The global food systems cause roughly 1/3 of the greenhouse gas emissions, and the climate impact of major industries (e.g. meat, dairy) brings into question the sustainability of our eating habits. New solutions are being considered to facilitate the transition away from food waste to more sustainable agri-food systems. Unlocking the potential of urban agriculture and building communities around solutions for organic farming, urban greening and biodiversity can accelerate the transformation of food practices, as the URBACT Network Sustainable Food in Urban Communities has clearly shown. 

    In March 2024, URBACT and the European Urban Initiative will kick off a series of EU City Labs on Local Food Systems. On 21-22 March, the first of three in the series puts the spotlight on Mouans-Sartoux. Here’s how this small French town has taken on organic, locally sourced food and emerged as a major player in the urban food transition and the leader of two URBACT Transfer Networks. 


    When in Mouans-Sartoux


    To better understand Mouans-Sartoux's food policy achievements, why not take a closer look at the local way of life? Between 2016 and 2022, a study financed from ADEME (French Agency for Ecological Transition) evaluated carbon impact in Mouans-Sartoux. According to the evaluation, while food represents a yearly average of 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person in France, it is only about 1,17 tonnes in the city. In addition, the number of inhabitants reducing their consumption of meat has increased to 85% in less than 10 years. Of course, Mouans-Sartoux doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Other European cities, including Haarlem (NL), are pushing forth legislation to ban meat advertisements. 

    A Table ! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum - Photo by François Jégou

    Group discussion during the A Table ! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum. Source: François Jégou.


    Visual transcription 


    In France, Mouans-Sartoux is one of four towns offering 100% organic meals in public school canteens, where 1 000 primary school children eat every day. Half of the meals are strictly vegetarian, and almost exclusively locally sourced. Also, the municipal farm, located 700 metres away from the town centre, supplies the school kitchens, and the three municipal  farmers harvest 25 tonnes of vegetables per year. The municipality's support for the installation of young organic producers on communal land represents another successful measure, accompanying a general embrace of “zero food waste”. 

    The municipality also succeeded in creating the MEAD – Center for Sustainable Food Education: the true city public food service. The centre is politically committed to fair trade and it supports the Positive Food Families Challenge. As Valery Bousiges, a parent of a primary school student, put it: "The question is not when is something happening about food in Mouans-Sartoux, but what is happening today." 

    Finally, the city's "permanent public activism" is proving its effectiveness with the Citizen feeds the city urban gardens. "These collective gardens grow vegetables and fruit, but above all they produce socialisation between the inhabitants of the neighbourhood", says Rob Hopkins during a visit to one of the association’s six gardens, a project that was conceptualised by the MEAD - Sustainable Food Education Centre and set up by the local residents. 



    Two URBACT Networks standing up against bio sceptics


    The "Mouans-Sartoux approach" is a bearing fruit, as it builds on long-term awareness and education for a sustainable transition. Yet, this transition is rooted in changing behaviour which, even when anticipated, is not always speedy or easy. In his book L'Homnivore, Claude Fischler explains that, through the mechanism of “food embodiment”, we become what we eat. This applies both physically and symbolically, hence an increased resistance to any diet changes. Unless our lives depend on it, like they once did for the first humans, dietary changes can threaten one’s identity altogether. 

    As Andrea Lulovicovà, from Greniers d'Abondance, and Chantal Clément, from IPES FOOD, remind us, the food transition rests on three critical pillars: the agricultural transition, the relocation of food and the transformation of food practices. It is not enough to produce organic and local food if we do not change the way we eat.  

    The example of Mouans-Sartoux and all the other towns in food transition tick all three boxes. This is also why the pioneering town was primed to lead two URBACT Transfer Networks advancing good practices, transfer modules and stories on sustainable local food models. BioCanteens (2018-2021) and BioCanteens#2 (2021-2022) involved the following partner cities and organisations: Gavà (ES), LAG Pays des Condruses (BE), Liège (BE), Rosignano Marittimo (IT), Torres Vedras (PT), Trikala (EL), Troyan (BG), Vaslui (RO) and Wroclaw (PL). 

    True to name, the BioCanteens URBACT Transfer Networks aimed at reducing food waste by 80%, specifically in the field of collective school catering. Through these networks, Mouans-Sartoux devised and shared good practices for an integrated local agri-food approach, protecting both citizens’ health and the environment. These practices, and more, can be found in the BioCanteens toolbox, which includes a projective exercise on the food sovereignty of each city and the future of its food-producing land by 2040, in addition to a simulation game to create a municipal food platform, a poster outlining a multi-level food governance plan and the Bio Sceptics card game. The card game is intended to debunk clichés associated with organic food heard from farmers, traders, consumers, municipal services and others. 

    Participants of the A table ! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) playing the Bio Sceptics card game - Photo: François Jégou

    Participants of the A table ! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) playing the Bio Sceptics card game. Source: François Jégou.


    A key output of the BioCanteens Networks was the “A Table !" Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum”. Between 26-28 September 2022, the Forum brought together more than 150 stakeholders from 10 countries – including 50 local authorities, more than 20 NGOs and official structures involved in the food transition. 

    The central question of the event was: How can we support cities in food transition at national and European level? It is worth re-listening to some voices from the Forum, which divulge more ‘food for thought’: 

    - According to Gilles Pérole, Deputy Mayor of Mouans-Sartoux, “The free circulation of goods guaranteed by the European Market Code goes against the re-territorialisation of food and support for local agricultural transition. We need an exception to this European Code for food markets". 

    - Food sovereignty – the central theme of the Forum – means reclaiming the ability to choose what we put on our plates. Fabrice Riem, lawyer and Coordinator of the Lascaux Centre on Transitions, presented an interesting take on how to operationalise exceptions, without breaking the rules. 

    - Riem and Davide Arcadipane, from the city of Liège (BE) discussed the process of dividing public tenders into multiple lots – in order to facilitate the access of school canteens to supplies coming from small local producers. Riem pointed out how this process, which is now commonplace, represents a way to bend the Public Procurement Code without undermining it. That being said, splitting tenders into 300 to 400 lots, as practiced by the city of Dijon (FR), require human resources capacity that small cities do not have at their disposal and, therefore, a first distinction has to be made in terms of the size of the different cities. 

    - Kevin Morgan, of Cardiff University, noted that if cities want to “express their purchasing power to bring about a local food system”, it would be possible to do so using current rural laws and seizing existing competencies from municipalities. At least in France, this is the way to ensure territorial anchoring, to design a call for tenders for food supply that requires a contribution to the construction of the local food system and that, ultimately, are in line with a Territorial Food Plan. 

    - At the European level, the suggestions that were collected point to the same direction: it is fundamental to create a direct link between Europe and the cities that are capable of rebuilding a high-quality local agricultural fabric. Especially in terms of direct funding for public agricultural production, as for example the potential creation of "urban leader" or "inter-rural urban leader" projects. 

    - All these ideas represented, in a practical and operational way, the principles outlined by Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement: consuming food is much more than just eating, it is an agricultural act. Likewise, producing and buying food is not simply supplying the city's canteens, it means building a coherent local territorial food system. 



    Going back to the Lab

    EU City Lab Mouans-Sartoux

    Now, Mouans-Sartoux will host the EU City Lab on Local Food Systems #1 on 21-22 March 2024. The agenda is already available online and registration is open until 7 March! This will be a unique opportunity to learn more about good practices in the field of collective school catering, look closer at the URBACT BioCanteens and Biocanteens#2 Transfer Networks and discuss how local projects can boost more healthy, sustainable food habits among citizens across different countries and regions. 

    Do you wish to learn more about URBACT cities' past work on building sustainable local food systems? For a deep dive into Moans-Sartoux’s and other urban agri-food practices, there are plenty of materials on the URBACT Knowledge Hub – Food and sustainable local systems.  



    Disclaimer: This article is an update to a publication by François Jégou from 08/11/2022 

  • Streets to summits: exploring the urban agendas of the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies

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    European Union flags at the European Commission Berlaymont building.

    Find out what’s in store for cities during the next EU policy cycle.


    European Union flags at the European Commission Berlaymont building.

    From urbact

    The last few years have been defined by transition, planned or not, and 2024 will be no different. Voting in June and November will welcome a new European Parliament and European Commission, which, in turn, will influence proceedings for the EU’s Cohesion Policy post 2027. 

    Looking ahead to a new EU policy cycle, it is worth zooming in on the Council Presidency of the European Union. Every six months, a Member State oversees the Council of the EU, the co-legislating body alongside the European Parliament. In December 2023, the Spanish Presidency concluded its term, passing on the torch to the Belgian Presidency, which will run until 30 June 2024.  

    What are the achievements of the Spanish Presidency in furthering sustainable urban development policy under the Urban Agenda for the EU (UAEU)? What roles will cities and local actors play in building on these achievements under the Belgian Presidency? And how do URBACT cities fit into all this?  

    Read on for some answers as well as next steps. 


    State of play: cities & EU urban policy 


    Before looking at the Spanish and Belgian agendas, let’s orient the discussion around cities in the EU policy landscape. According to the latest statistics a substantial percentage of Europeans live in urban areas, and cities account for around 75% of global emissions. Belgian Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal Zakia Khattabi attests to the essential role of cities in developing solutions to cross-cutting, interconnected challenges. ‘By implementing policies to improve air quality, support a local economy and sustainable food supply, and strengthen the resilience of their territory in the face of the increasingly violent effects of climate change, cities have the power to inspire change on a larger scale, to ensure a just and sustainable transition for our societies.’ 

    If most citizens live in characteristically urban environments, logically, EU policies cannot overlook the diverse needs and challenges of its cities and towns. Furthermore, these policies need to engage and empower cities to address these challenges locally. Over the years, there has been an accumulated focus on urban issues in Europe and internationally. In 2020, we welcomed the New Leipzig Charter, introduced under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU, and urban issues have appeared prominently in the 2021-2027 EU Cohesion Policy. It is generally accepted that urban policy solutions are interconnected and transversal – just look at the Urban Agenda for the EU, the European Green Deal, the Paris Agreement, UN Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda and New Urban Agenda, Habitat III principles.  

    In this context, let’s turn to the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU and its contribution to a common EU legislative framework for sustainable urban development. 


    The Spanish Presidency: defining next steps of the Urban Agenda for the EU 


    Running from 1 July to 31 December 2023, the Spanish Presidency set out a programme and priorities for a greener, healthier, more inclusive and competitive Europe. There were many achievements, but this article will focus on the accomplishments in the realm of urban affairs

    Through its meetings, events and initiatives, the Presidency singled out cities and local municipalities as critical actors in furthering the objectives of the Urban Agenda of the EU and the European Green Deal. A milestone came in the form of the Gijón Declaration, which advocates for a collaborative, multi-level governance approach by involving local municipalities, national and EU actors.  

    The declaration was adopted on 14 November 2023 during an informal ministerial meeting on housing and urban development hosted by the Presidency.

    Informal Ministerial Meeting on Housing and Urban Development

    Informal Ministerial Meeting on Housing and Urban Development. Source: EU2023ES.


    Ministers pointed out that 8.7% of the EU population pays over 40% of their income on housing. If all households living in market-rate rented accommodation are taken into account, this percentage rises to 20.8%. In response to this, the declaration makes explicit reference to the right to decent, affordable housing as an aspect of sustainable, healthy and inclusive ‘built environments’.  

    While in Gijon, ministers took part in a specific session on the Urban Agenda of the EU, agreeing on two new topics for UAEU partnerships:  

    - Water-sensitive city 

    - Housing decarbonisation, heating and cooling local plans 

    The call for these new partnerships has not been launched yet, but both topics were identified because they represent hefty challenges to urban development (namely, water scarcity, flood risks, decarbonisation of buildings, etc.). For further insights on the second topic, our article on the last EU City Lab elaborates on energy sharing and energy communities. Ministers proposed other new topics to be considered in the future, including urban sprawl, skills for urban transitions, and more.  

    It is understandable that the Spanish Presidency would push sustainable urban development during its mandate, given that Spain has its own strategic document on urban planning. Under the Spanish Urban Agenda, local municipalities are encouraged to develop action plans in line with the Urban Agenda for the EU, UN 2030 Agenda and cross-cutting EU initiatives, priorities and themes.  



    URBACT at the Spanish Urban Forum 


    The second Spanish Urban Forum was held in Granada from 16-17 October 2023. During the Forum, the National URBACT Point in Spain organised a special workshop for Spanish beneficiaries of the latest call for Action Planning Networks to connect and exchange best practices on the Action Planning process. The session was attended by representatives of 15 municipalities from across the country. The same day as the workshop, the Spanish National URBACT Point also chaired a roundtable session on the URBACT IV programme: a success for Spanish municipalities, which involved contributions from Luis Pedro Arechederra Calderón (Spanish Ministry of Finance) and five municipalities. Participants recognised the potential of focus groups and URBACT tools to support local municipalities developing action plans under Spain’s urban agenda. 

    Round table during the II Urban Forum in Granada.

    Roundtable during the II Urban Forum in Granada. Source: URBACT Spain.



    The Belgian Presidency: a place for cities at the (negotiating) table 


    One month into the Belgian Presidency, we can see a couple throughlines emerging from the EU urban development policy framework set out by the Spanish Presidency. Following in Spain’s footsteps, the Belgian Presidency intends to put cities and local municipalities at the centre of European urban policy for this programming period and beyond 2027. During the Presidency, the Brussels-Capital Region will chair the ‘Environment’ and ‘Urban Policy’ Councils. Antoine de Borman, CEO of perspective.brussels (the regional administration on urban development), weighs in on the anticipated role of cities: ‘From the very beginning, we have developed our Presidency programme with cities and important urban European networks. The result is a programme dedicated to European cities.’  

    Both Presidencies share thematic priorities for the EU 2024-2029 strategic agenda (e.g. housing, territorial cohesion). It is also worth noting that Belgium plans to advance negotiations on new legislation related to the green transition, including items pushed forward by Spain (i.e. general guidance on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive). 

    A series of high-level and stakeholder meetings have been planned around urban development policy, starting on 24 January with ‘A European urban policy fit for the future’ in Brussels (read on for more on this). Between March and April, there will be the Urban Agenda Thematic Partnerships Group meetings, followed by the Urban Agenda for the EU Lab (24 April), to name a few upcoming meetings. 


    City mayors sign on with the Belgian Presidency 


    A key outcome of the the 24 January meeting, mentioned above, was the Brussels Declaration of European Mayors, signed by 41 mayors from 19 European countries. The declaration can still be signed here. Margit Tünnemann, Senior Policy Officer, URBACT Secretariat, present at the meeting, states that: ‘This comes at the right time, at the beginning of the Belgian Presidency, when the debate on the future European policies is gaining momentum’, adding, ‘It sends a strong signal for an ambitious European urban policy that is not only designed for cities, but clearly made together with cities.’ 


    Hitting closer to home 


    The Belgian Presidency programme has announced that it will foster urban transitions and combat specific challenges – e.g. urban sprawl and density. Two aspects of territorial cohesion will be emphasised: (1) tackling land artificialisation, urban sprawl and soil sealing and (2) review of the 2030 territorial agenda.  

    The right to affordable, quality and sustainable housing is a critical element of the Brussels Declaration of European Mayors which, according to de Borman, reflects ‘a strong demand from cities to tackle the issues of housing, social inequalities and also cooperation between urban and rural communities.’ 

    Much like the Spanish Urban Agenda and contributions to the Urban Agenda for the EU, the declaration also endorses a coordinated, multi-level approach as essential for a sustainable urban model. 



    URBACT on the frontlines 


    There might be an extensive legacy of contributors to European urban policy, some mentioned above. The achievements of the Spanish Presidency, and the priority actions of the Belgian Presidency, serve to push the urban agenda to the next level.  

    The URBACT programme is on track and will continue to offer cities support to tackle pressing issues through cooperation with each other and European partners. According to Tünnemann, ‘It is good to see that many of the URBACT cities are addressing precisely these burning issues and are working together to develop solutions for better and affordable housing, for a sustainable energy system or for healthy and regional food.’ Starting in March, URBACT, together with the European Urban Initiative, will continue to support current partnerships on different thematic areas with the three EU City Labs on ‘Local Food Systems’


    EU City Lab Mouans-Sartoux


    Over the next months, URBACT will support the Belgian Presidency, bringing URBACT cities’ knowledge and perspectives to the table at the Urban Agenda steering meetings. In June, URBACT will participate in the Urban Development Group (Namur) and the Director-Generals for Urban Matters (Brussels) meetings. The URBACT programme will continue to share knowledge and develop local actions through networks on related topics as well as offer opportunities for cities to join urban agenda partnerships.  

    What’s next on the agenda? You can visit the URBACT website to stay updated on insights from our thematic experts, networking and partnering opportunities, events and more. 



  • Innovation Transfer Networks: the search is on for project ideas

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    Partner Search Tool - Innovation Transfer Networks

    URBACT’s call for Innovation Transfer Networks is open, and with it, the Partner Search Tool is ready to help cities develop European partnerships.  

    An image of a a magnifying glass on a notebook, and above this the logo of the URBACT Innovation Transfer Networks.
    From urbact

    URBACT’s call for Innovation Transfer Networks is open, and with it, the Partner Search Tool is updated and ready to help cities develop European partnerships. 

    Running until 20 March 2024, this call for networks is slightly different from other URBACT calls: the pool of available project ideas is based on Urban Innovative Actions projects carried out between 2016 and  2023 and only those cities can lead the transfer network. This is a unique opportunity to adapt a newly tested innovation to your city. 

    There are currently over 20 topics to choose from, covering urban poverty, migration, housing, security, renewable energy, land and air quality, culture and heritage, demographic change and digital transition. 

    We’ve taken a closer look at the pool of ideas, to help you identify the ones that could interest your city the most.




    Energy poverty is a priority topic in many European cities, particularly as energy prices spiked following Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine. Getafe (ES) has developed a new, data-driven model to identify and prevent energy poverty, collaborating across departments to identify hidden poverty. Targeted actions can then be carried out at the level of the individual, building or neighbourhood. Getafe showed that the approach was effective in reducing energy vulnerability. Does this sound like a tool your city could use? 

    Building on the participatory approach to energy transition, Leidel (BE) has put a local energy community in place, to provide affordable, renewable, locally-produced and autonomously managed electricity for citizens. RE/SOURCED builds on the momentum for clean energy across Europe, in line with the Clean Energy for all Europeans package. Its results are highly relevant for other cities putting circularity and citizens and the centre of the energy transition.


    Air/soil quality


    Cities looking to make advances in the quality of the air or the soil should look at three innovative actions in particular. Baia Mare (RO) proposes a revolutionary approach for reclaiming heavy metal-polluted land using plants and returning the land to the community. An adaptable dynamic platform and toolkit can help you determine the best use for the land. Two Italian cities have developed citizen-centric and data-led models to improve air quality. Ferrara (IT) has set up low-cost sensors and mobile air quality stations to map high emission zones and transform them into urban green forests. Portici (IT) also developed a widespread monitoring system based on citizen science, combined with educational activities and events to promote behavioural change.


    Digital tools


    Digital tools have been put to use in cities to support policy and decision-making in different domains. Vienna (AT) has developed ICT solutions to set new standards in building applications and planning permissions. The tool can be adapted to other permit processes in cities – making bureaucracy more efficient, more transparent and more cost effective. Heerlen (NL) has created an innovative digital platform to enhance public space, foster community engagement and revitalise local areas. It crowdsources public maintenance tasks, which citizens can carry out in return for credit that can be used in local shops and bars. A digital approach was also taken by Ravenna (IT) for an urban regeneration process in one neighbourhood, Darsena. Combining collaborative data collection, the digital infrastructure supports decision-making, storytelling and promotion. It has shown increased engagement in Darsena’s evolution from an abandoned dockland to an attractive urban ecosystem. The network could focus on adapting both the technological and methodological processes to other cities. 

    Rennes (FR) has taken on the issue of e-government solutions directly, designing a portal for the use and re-use of data while guaranteeing privacy and public service interests. The Reusable Urban Data Interface is 100% open source and ready to scale up to cities seeking to harness local data. 


    Jobs & skills


    The emphasis on green and digital transitions means that the skill profiles of the workforce in a city must adapt and evolve to these transitions. Eindhoven (NL) faces a paradox that, despite high economic growth, there is a significant shortage of qualified personnel, particularly in low-carbon technology development. The Platform4Work redesigns the employment journey, developing a ‘skills passport’, restructuring educational programmes and bringing employers and jobseekers closer together. Aveiro (PT) positions itself as a territory of digital innovation, but has faced severe shortages of digital skills. The city set up the first Tech City Living Lab to attract and retain talent through STEAM education, training, technology and addressing local challenges. Cuenca (ES) uses its specific location within a forest region to build an innovative bio-economy sector, combining training, research, and the incubation and acceleration of forest-related businesses. The award-winning model can be transferred to other EU cities with a forest or other niche bio-economy sector. 




    Cities must use all of the resources available to them to improve citizens’ quality of life, whether digital, physical or cultural. In Újbuda (HU), culture and digital platforms were combined to create a bottom-up creative cultural resource management tool to strengthen social cohesion. Alongside the digital sphere, a physical cultural institution was created, integrating local cultural and technological initiatives, bringing together the local community, public and private sectors. Cities can explore low-budget interventions as well as major investments. Chalandri (EL) focused on an ancient monument – in their case, the Hadrian Aqueduct – as a vehicle for urban regeneration and revitalising community life. Using a cross-sectoral approach, it co-creates local projects and cultural events with communities, valorising local history and improving care of water and natural resources. It can be adapted to other cities with different types of local heritage, to build trust and nurture communities. In Tilburg (NL), the city uses culture as an agent for social transformation. Developing a cultural ecosystem in an ethnically mixed and disadvantaged area helps bridge the gap between those in the margins, and the public services they interact with. More than 3 000 young people were reached through 150 projects, with positive effects on health, behaviour and public safety. 


    Social inclusion


    Many cities are taking innovative and participatory approaches to tackling long-standing issues of social exclusion. Seraing (BE) takes on isolation and community-building through an experimental project to revitalise public spaces in the town centre. An inclusive urban planning process and training of local residents reinvented the spaces, resulting in ongoing civic projects. A more tailored approach was tested in Landshut (DE) to overcome the vicious cycle of single parents unable to work due to lack of childcare. Focusing on healthcare professions, which require long and flexible work hours, the city developed a new form of flexible childcare. Single parents receive training in childcare to look after the children of healthcare workers, in an interconnected building. This represents a novel approach to tackling the shortage of skilled workers in some professions that disproportionately affect women. 

    Verona (IT) is tackling loneliness, brought about by changing demographics and an erosion of family networks. By developing a ‘loneliness index’ and activating community resources in a combined approach, they aim to identify and reduce symptoms of loneliness for increased wellbeing.  

    Brussels (BE) is taking on the affordable housing headache that many citizens face through a co-housing project, developed within the framework of a Community Land Trust. By separating the ownership of the land from the ownership of the housing built on it, speculation is removed, and focus is put on ensuring accessible housing for those often neglected: low-income families, older people, homeless people, and single mothers. 

    Utrecht (NL) is proposing to share its innovative approach to the reception and integration of newcomers in the city, particularly asylum seekers. By revising completely how newcomers are housed, integrated and trained, they create meaningful encounters beyond the labels of ‘refugee’ or ‘local’. The flexibility and focus on the local immediate surroundings of reception centres will enable any city that joins the network to develop their own version which connects their locals and newcomers.  


    Urban security


    Making urban spaces safer at night is an issue for many European cities. We want to look at two cities offering new approaches to community-based urban security. Piraeus (EL) has developed an holistic model, establishing local collaboration for crime prevention, an online platform to assess physical and cyber threats, and spatial interventions to secure and beautify vulnerable buildings. Turin (IT) focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach to manage public spaces and improve residents’ perception of safety at night. Actions to boost the territorial potential, involving local communities, made neighbourhoods more liveable in the evening. 



    Which one is for you?


    These cities are looking for partners to transfer these practices and concrete innovation outputs. You can use the partner search tool to get in touch with any of the cities to find out more and develop your network together. 

    The Get Involved page has all you need to apply for the URBACT Innovation Transfer Networks!





  • Get ready for the Innovation Transfer Networks!

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    The new URBACT call builds on almost a decade of experience supporting the transfer of effective urban solutions.

    Person writing with a permanent marker on a transparent blackboard.
    From urbact

    From 10 January to 20 March 2024, URBACT is running a call for the next generation of Innovation Transfer Networks (ITNs). These networks aim to transfer projects that were funded under Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) to other cities across the EU, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.  

    What’s in it for cities?


    Through the ITNs, it’s up to the cities who received UIA funding from 2016 to 2023 to act as Lead Partners and to transfer their experience, know-how and advice to cities interested in implementing a similar project. Using the URBACT transfer methodology – Understand, Adapt and Re-use – project partners will create a deeper, three-dimensional understanding of the UIA original practice. Ultimately, the cities in these networks will improve their capacity to design innovative solutions in an integrated and participatory way and identify funding for implementation.

    Listen to experts Eddy Adams and Matthew Baqueria-Jackson discuss the Understand, Adapt, Reuse method:

    Over a two-year period, through an organised process of exchange and learning among peers, the project partners will work together to develop a tailor-made investment plan for the implementation of the innovation project. This will be done with the support of URBACT experts and anchored by a group of local stakeholders in each city (URBACT Local Group) that gathers different profiles from within and outside the local administration. 

    In a nutshell, cities involved in this type of networks should expect… 

    ITN - what to expect


    Putting innovation transfer to the test


    Replicating innovation is never easy, but between 2021 and 2022, five pilot innovation transfer networks were tasked with testing the URBACT transfer method. Twenty cities in total were involved in these five networks, each one of them led by a city who had implemented an UIA project. 

    The pilot’s final evaluation proved the URBACT transfer method to be successful, shedding light on some important points to consider:

    •    Breaking down the UIA practice

    A transferable project is one that can be easily modularised. UIA projects are large, complex strategic interventions designed for a specific territory. While wholesale transfer is a rarity, it helps if you can break it down into its core parts. In most of the pilot networks, partners had a pre-defined list of components, which enabled them to select those that would work best in different local contexts. An analysis of the assets and barriers, produced by the network expert, helped guide these choices.

    For instance, Rotterdam (NL) was able to adapt an investment plan developed by Birmingham (UK) through the USE-IT! network. Rotterdam customised tools and methods in Birmingham’s investment plan to support the development of a procurement hub for neighbourhood work-cooperatives. Involvement in USE-IT! has also had a profound impact upon partnership working in Rotterdam with enhanced relationships between the Municipality, the Voor Goed Agency that promotes social entrepreneurship, and the Social Impact Fond Rotterdam.

    Nevertheless, there are risks that come with modularising. It may be challenging for partners to fully understand each component and reject one or more potentially impactful modules. To mitigate this, most networks offered the option of modules, but included amongst these one which all partners would agree to transfer. 

    ●    Building back up

    The point has already been made about the importance of chunking up large strategic innovation projects. Think of it like an engineer, dismantling a machine to better understand how all the component parts work – so long as you remember where everything goes when you reassemble it! 

    This approach is also helpful when transfer partners do not have the scale of funding available. They can pick those elements which they are confident of being able to finance. The risk to be aware of here is that partners may select elements which are easier, or cheaper, and potentially less innovative.


    Stepping stones on the transfer path


    The URBACT transfer method is composed of different milestones that pave the way to the transfer. The first important milestone is the transferability study. This is composed of information, data, and figures around the topic of the UIA project that are gathered following visits to each network city and with discussions with the city administration, elected officials but also other relevant stakeholders outside the city administration. All the data gathered and analysed constitute a baseline for each city, but they also indicate the transfer potential of each city, with strengths and weaknesses that need to be further worked on. This transferability study becomes the reference for the way forward in terms of network activities and learning points before the actual transfer. 

    Other milestones include capacity-building activities organised by the URBACT Secretariat, trainings with tools or thematic sessions and events like the URBACT City Festival which is a source of inspiration for cities. 

    Finally, the main tangible result of each project partner is an investment plan that features all the necessary resources and steps to follow for the implementation of the UIA practice (partly or fully). 


    Show me the money


    Transferring innovative urban solutions is very rarely a copy-and-paste process. A degree of adaptation and reuse is still needed for genuine transformation. Reuse requires resources – people, plans and, most crucially, funding.

    A new feature for the upcoming networks, cities will also have the possibility of testing actions with a small budget before including them in the investment plan.

    At the end of the five pilot networks, more than three-quarters of partners said that they would transfer at least 50% of the original UIA innovation concept. The survey also showed that 15% of the partners already had secured funds for this, whilst almost half were confident that their transfer plans would be funded by the time the pilot concluded. 


    So, where do you sign up?


    If this article has whetted your appetite, then you might like to know how your city can get involved. 

    If you are a city interested in becoming a transfer partner, you can connect here from 10 January and find the necessary resources on how you can apply by 20 March 2024.  

    And don’t forget to sign up for the URBACT newsletter and follow us @URBACT to get updates. 

    We look forward to welcoming you to the URBACT community, 

    The URBACT team


    Special thanks to Eddy Adams for bringing together the findings of the evaluation of the previous pilot networks in this article.





  • Measuring the steps (even small ones) towards gender equality

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    A road next to a train that crosses the tracks.

    Discover how cities are at the forefront of the gender-climate nexus.

    A road next to a train that crosses the tracks.
    From urbact

    The United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP28 – is taking place from today (30 November 2023), in Dubai. Exactly 8 years ago, at COP21, the world agreed to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by 2050. To keep on track, carbon emissions need to be cut by half by 2030. The European Green Deal sets ambitious targets per sector to achieve this.

    When the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) published their Gender Equality Index in October 2023, they put a special focus on exploring the links between gender equality and the European Green Deal.

    According to the report, gender and intersecting inequalities shape the way in which individuals contribute to and are impacted by climate change.


    CO2 emissions and the transportation sector: Where does the gender dimension come in?


    Transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transport. It is the only sector where emissions have risen since 1990. Looking globally, cities generate around 70% of carbon emissions, making them key drivers in the race to net zero.

    Many cities have developed their own climate plans – sometimes more ambitious than the national targets. Given the dominance of road transportation in carbon emissions, a key pillar is shifting behaviour from personal car use to public transport. Here’s where the gender dimension becomes important: we know from URBACT’s Gender Equal Cities report that men and women use transport differently.

    - Women use more public transport than men.

    - Men drive more than women.

    - Women have multiple stops per trip to a greater extent than men, who generally travel from A to B.

    At the publication launch of the EIGE Gender Equality Index, URBACT’s Jenny Koutsomarkou shared how cities are at the forefront of the gender/climate nexus. She spoke at the EIGE webinar on ‘Moving towards a green and gender equal transport in the EU’ to share the practical ways cities can ensure their sustainable mobility plans are gender equal. “Cities need to take three aspects into account when it comes to urban mobility– safety, accessibility and affordability,” Jenny explained.


    A woman standing in front of a train at night.


    Imagine a world where men travelled like women...


    For an enlightening example of sustainable, gender equal mobility, we can look at Umeå, who led the URBACT GenderedLandscape network. In this Swedish city, all planning and transport decisions are taken after looking into gender-disaggregated data. Their mobility survey informs the municipality of who travels when, where and by which means. So they know that 60% of the trips in the city are taken by sustainable means (walking, cycling, public transport), and the target is 65%. Yet, looking at the gender breakdown, Umeå saw that 66% of women travel sustainably, compared to 55% of men. So, if men travelled like women, the city targets would already be met.

    This data has led Umeå to target their actions to male-dominated workplaces, to have the most impact. Through observational studies and interviews with businesses and workers, city staff explored infrastructure issues, like location of bus stops and regularity of services, but also wider issues around time-use, share of domestic responsibilities and family care, and how they are split between men and women. As a direct result of these findings, the city amended its bus timetable and created additional bus stops. Additional bike parking was created on business premises, and some companies give extra days holidays for those who travel sustainably. Ultimately, this improved cooperation between the public and private sector to shift norms with employees.

    Umeå is one example, and evidently the interventions would play out differently in cities across Europe. Nevertheless, the emphasis on collecting sex-disaggregated data allows each city to understand the different dynamics at play, so that they can assess and monitor the gender-related impacts of the green transition.


    Read more on gender equality in city planning and related topics:

    Why are we still talking about gender equality? FEMACT-Cities Action Planning Network

    Introducing gender-sensitive public procurement URBACT online training course

    URBACT Gender Equal Cities Report 2022

    WalknRoll URBACT’s resources on shifting the mobility paradigm in Europe






  • S.M.ALL

    LEAD PARTNER : Ferrara - Italy
    • Larissa - Greece
    • Komotini - Greece
    • Associação de Municípios de Fins Específicos Quadrilátero Urbano - Portugal
    • Sofia - Bulgaria
    • Druskininkai - Lithuania
    • Eurometropolis Strasbourg - France
    • Škofja Loka - Slovenia
    • Bucharest Metropolitan Area Intercommunity Development Association - Romania


    First transnational meeting on 6-7 December 2023 in Ferrara, Italy.


    Lead Expert



    The S.M.ALL network  addresses urban challenges, promoting and implementing sustainable mobility solutions for all, including safe home-to-school journeys, accessible routes and tailored Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, realizing targeted action plans for vulnerable groups. Using a transnational approach to reduce urban inequalities, harmonize sustainable mobility practices and enhance inclusivity, the S.M.ALL consortium brings together different experiences and expertise in sustainable urban mobility aiming to foster significant changes in the urban spaces, making them more inclusive and accessible for all.

    Sharing urban solutions towards Sustainable Mobility for ALL
  • PUMA

    LEAD PARTNER : Liepaja - Latvia
    • Dienvidkurzeme - Latvia
    • Taurage - Lithuania
    • Larissa - Greece
    • Pombal - Portugal
    • Gdańsk - Poland
    • Cento - Italy
    • Viladecans - Spain
    • Nova Gorica - Slovenia


    Lead expert visits each partner during September and October.

    First transnational meeting on 18-19 October 2023 in Liepaja, Latvia took place.

    During October, November and December project partners are working:

    • on baseline study, roadmap, network communication plan,
    • on establishing URBACT local groups.


    Lead Expert



    Through the development of integrated mobility action plans, PUMA aims to achieve climate-neutral and sustainable mobility in small and medium sized cities. This network wants to engage citizens and change their attitude towards sustainable mobility in a positive way by motivating everyone to get involved in improving the environment. PUMA promotes sufficient, safe, modern and convenient alternatives for private cars to all society members, despite their age, gender, nationality, health, level of income and other features.


    Planning Urban Mobility Actions

    LEAD PARTNER : Rethymno - Greece
    • Guía de Isora - Spain
    • Turku - Finland
    • Brasov Metropolitan Agency for Sustainable Development - Romania
    • Zadar - Croatia
    • Parma - Italy
    • Brno - Czech Republic
    • Skawina - Poland


    Ready for Action! Meeting 15-16 November 2023 in Rethymno, Greece.


    Lead Expert


    SCHOOLHOODS puts children’s health and safety on the menu of how to get to school. The cities of this URBACT network work with pupils, parents and teachers to co-create solutions allowing pupils to actively go to school on their own. Parents can then choose sustainable modes for their trips as they no longer need to take their kids to school. The school neighbourhood should allow pupils to walk or ride alone safely. Ultimately, school neighbourhoods made for pupils moving around are the starting point for enabling short trips for daily needs for everyone.

    Safe, green and happy ways to school
  • In4Green

    LEAD PARTNER : Avilés - Spain
    • Vila Nova de Famalicao - Portugal
    • Dabrowa Gornicza - Poland
    • Larissa - Greece
    • Salerno - Italy
    • Žďár nad Sázavou - Czech Republic
    • Promoció Econòmica de Sabadell - Spain
    • Neue Effizienz GmbH / City of Solingen - Germany
    • Bijelo Polje - Montenegro
    • Navan - Ireland


    First transnational meeting on 25-26 October 2023 in Avilés, Spain.

    Second transnational meeting on 28-29 February 2024 in Solingen, Germany


    Lead Expert



    In4Green is a collaborative network of industrial cities from across Europe with a shared commitment: to lead transformative change within European industry and drive the sector towards a greener, more sustainable future. Comprising cities from diverse backgrounds, In4Green aims to reshape and modernise industrial areas by improving local governance and policymaking while benefiting from the collective expertise and experience of the partner cities.

    From black to green: Driving industrial cities towards a sustainable horizon
  • FEMACT-Cities

    LEAD PARTNER : Clermont Auvergne Métropole - France
    • Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities - Hungary
    • Postojna - Slovenia
    • Comunidade Intermunicipal da Região de Coimbra
    • Torino - Italy
    • Länsstyrelsen Skane - Sweden
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Cluj Metropolitan Area - Intercommunity Development Association - Romania


    First transnational meeting on 5-6 December 2023 in Coimbra, Portugal.

    Transnational meeting on 22-23 Febuary in Vienna, Austria.


    Lead Expert



    The objective of FEMACT-Cities is to support the drafting of eight “Local Action Plans on Gender Equality” about main challenges regarding women's liberty and empowerment:


    - a society that adapts and protects,

    - a society that enables education and personal development,

    - a society that enables emancipation and economic autonomy.


    These challenges come together in a transversal fight against stereotypes.

    Transforming cities for women