Enabling towns and cities to become more productive, smart and connected is a key goal of EU Cohesion Policy and a cornerstone of the New Leipzig Charter on sustainable urban development.
Productive, smart and connected cities demonstrate economic growth and competitiveness, integrating digital innovation into their infrastructure, services, and governance. They develop the local economy in ways that improve people’s lives, support urban resilience and promote social and environmental sustainability.
Resources for supporting productive, smart and connected cities are provided under eight sub-headings below.
Sub thematic areas
Digitalisation is a major transformative, cross-sectoral trend affecting all dimensions of sustainable urban development (New Leipzig Charter). For cities, this involves integrating digital technologies and processes to enhance operations and services, aligned with public needs.
Cities are harnessing the power of data and technology to become more adaptive, responsive, and sustainable in addressing urban challenges. Solutions include smart city initiatives, digital economies, and innovative digital platforms and applications.
Resources cover how cities can adopt advanced digital solutions – such as artificial intelligence, data standardisation and data protection – in ways that optimise urban management, promote efficiency, and improve quality of life for all.
Promoting local production that is environmentally responsible and socially inclusive is a key factor in sustainable urban development. Supporting local businesses – including small and artisanal companies – fosters economic activity and job creation, and enhances resilience against global supply chain disruptions.
Consumption of locally sourced goods also reduces cities’ carbon footprints, especially when supported by sustainable production methods and actions such as waste prevention, re-use and recycling, further supporting local resources and jobs.
This topic is about how cities are boosting local economic growth while minimising environmental impacts through actions such as fostering green industrialisation and creative industries – cultivating a sustainable, vibrant local economy.
Improving sustainable urban mobility is good for accessibility, inclusiveness and citizens’ health. As highlighted in the New Leipzig Charter, mobility systems should be efficient, carbon-neutral, safe and multi-modal.
Whether it’s pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, more accessible public transport, bike-sharing programmes or better traffic management, cities can enhance urban cohesion, reduce congestion and lower emissions by facilitating sustainable solutions for the movement of people..
This topic covers active mobility, walkable cities and cycling, as well as strategies for improving public transport. It highlights the value of re-imagining urban mobility to prioritise well-being, create greener urban spaces and improve everyday life in the city.
Transportation and logistics systems
Taking a sustainable urban development approach to transportation and logistics systems involves delving into the complex networks that facilitate the movement of goods and services within cities and beyond.
By integrating various green modes of transportation, cities can reduce emissions and alleviate congestion. Innovative, sustainable transportation, freight and logistics solutions also contribute to the circular economy by prioritising waste reduction and responsible material handling.
Portico resources are about developing sustainable supply chains and logistics that minimise environmental impact, optimising distribution, promoting resource efficiency, and supporting sustainable economic growth.
Sustainable tourism is per se a complex concept. Complexity derives from the coexistence and interaction of different dimensions of sustainability, as well as the complexity of the tourism ecosystem (value chain), which implies the need to integrate a wide variety of policy objectives and tools (Ex-ante assessment of the “Sustainable Tourism” thematic area under the Urban Agenda for the EU, Bellini, 2022).
Following the UN World Tourism Organization definition, sustainable tourism is “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”.
In cities, tourism is a crucial component of sustainable development of socio-cultural and urban economies.It is about balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the need to minimise the negative impacts on the environment and local communities. Relevant actions include community engagement, cultural heritage preservation, and conservation of natural resources. Central to this topic is the promotion of ethical responsibility in the sector, which helps nurture a resilient and inclusive tourism industry
An economic system that aims to minimise waste, promote resource efficiency, and ‘close the loop’ of product lifecycles, is fundamental to the EU Cohesion Policy’s vision of integrated sustainable urban development.
Cities play a pivotal role in driving the transition from a linear "take-make-dispose" model to a circular economy, promoting the re-use, recycling, and regeneration of resources. In this way cities can reduce their environmental impact, enhance resilience, and unlock new economic opportunities in sustainable production and responsible consumption.
This topic explores strategies and initiatives for cities to reduce waste and pollution while extending the use of products and materials.
Job creation and entrepreneurship
Support for job creation and entrepreneurship is central to fostering sustainable economic growth and social inclusion – both key aspects of integrated, sustainable urban development.
In the context of the EU Cohesion Policy, businesses assume a vital role in driving positive social and environmental change. By supporting entrepreneurship and skills development, cities can help create a workforce that supports sustainable development goals. Meanwhile, inclusive job creation can reduce poverty, promote diversity, and enhance the overall prosperity and resilience of urban communities.
This topic explores initiatives that promote social entrepreneurship, social economy, and inclusive job opportunities to drive sustainable urban economic growth.
Research and Innovation
Research and innovation in sustainable urban development involves the systematic exploration, discovery and implementation of new knowledge, approaches and solutions that support smarter and more productive cities.
Successful research and innovation addresses real local needs. This involves connecting researchers with businesses and other local stakeholders who can conceive, develop, test and upscale new ideas and successful approaches.
Resources in this section support urban practitioners in addressing key research and innovation challenges, from identifying emerging trends, to developing cutting-edge technologies. Topics include social innovation, business incubation, and fostering entrepreneurial solutions to local challenges.