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ERA-NET on Smart Urban Futures

Specific challenge: European cities are very important in policies aiming to create growth, jobs and a sustainable future. More than 70% of the EU’s citizens live in urban areas. Cities are centres of economic development, services, knowledge and creativity. But they are also the places of social polarisation, intercultural confrontations, poverty concentration, unemployment and environmental problems. Within a forward-looking perspective, the challenge is to identify the means and ways to make a European city an emblematic place for attracting jobs and economic activities, transforming it into a ""hub of innovation"" and ensuring social cohesion and cultural dialogue while preserving natural resources and limiting environmental damage for the next generations.

European research and innovation should provide tools and methods for more sustainable, open, innovative and inclusive urban areas; a better understanding of the dynamics of urban societies and social changes and of the nexus of energy, environment, transport and land-use including the interplay with surrounding rural areas; an improved understanding of design and use of public space within cities also in the context of migration to improve social inclusion and development and reduce urban risks and crime; new ways to reduce pressures on natural resources and stimulate sustainable economic growth while improving the quality of life of European urban citizens; a forward-looking vision on the socio-ecological transition towards a new model of urban development reinforcing EU cities as hubs of innovation and centres of job creation.

Scope: Based on concrete urban cases, research and innovation will:

-               Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of urban development as a way to shape the economic, social and environmental needs (cf. work, education, housing, mobility, ICT, energy, logistics, health shopping, access to public spaces, culture and leisure) of citizens and in particular the next generation in a sustainable way;

-               Analyse the impact of social and economic inequalities on sustainable and smart development of cities;

-               Identify in which way European cities can become hubs of peaceful integration of diversity and a place of creativity and innovation;

-               Contribute to the establishment of smart urban ecosystem services, where open data, big data and data access help to create thriving urban areas;

-               Enhance understanding of urban structures, by creating new methods and tools, network approaches to cities and analysis of the economics of urban and peri-urban areas;

-               Evaluate urban areas in terms of current and future ""functionalities"" opportunities, including urban public spaces and the employment of sustainable infrastructure and networks also in the field of cultural heritage preservation and access to all.

The following dimensions could be addressed: Urban Living Labs can be a promising option to design research and innovation projects dealing with the multi-dimensional challenges in urban areas; a strong comparative perspective can enhance mutual learning between cities and urban regions; a multilevel context, taking into account the global, European, national, regional and local contexts and actors, enables the examination of urban issues from different perspectives.

The proposed ERA-NET aims at coordinating the research efforts of the participating Member States, Associated States and Regions in the field described and to implement a joint transnational call for proposals with EU co-funding to fund multinational innovative research initiatives in this domain. Proposers are encouraged to implement other joint activities including additional joint calls without EU co-funding.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of a maximum of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: The proposed research programme on Smart Urban Futures is expected to provide new insights on European urban dynamics, on the localisation of economic and social activities, and the implementation of urban innovations in small, medium and large cities, both in growing as well as shrinking urban areas. It will have an EU comparative and EU forward-looking dimension. Through the use of co-creation of knowledge urban stakeholders will be involved in the complete process from concept to implementation. Emphasis will be put on the scaling-up of urban best-practices.

Type of action: ERA-NET Cofund