BCN Ciutat Digital

Good practices in urban innovation

Driven by the need to resolve growing urban challenges in a new and different way, cities around the world are developing urban innovation laboratories (labs), supported by public administrations, the private sector and/or civil society, characterised by their willingness to take risks and experiment in the city.

Barcelona City Council's i.lab, in collaboration with the consultancy firm Idencity, has carried out a comparative study of labs and innovation teams in cities all over the world in order to compile good practices.

Based on the global mapping of 75 labs, 20 have been selected for an analysis of their purpose and their way of achieving it, based on criteria that include geographical diversity, impact, diversity of governance models and areas of action. 

A number of European and North American cities, such as Amsterdam, Aarhus and Paris, as well as San Francisco, Toronto and Montreal, have local urban innovation laboratories. There are also regional urban labs (27th Region) or national labs (Government of Chile Lab).


What is an urban lab?

An urban laboratory is a place for reflection, experimentation and co-creation, in collaboration with various stakeholders in the ecosystem of the public, private, academic and social sectors. 

Their aim is to activate innovation as a driving force for change, in order to improve the quality of life of city residents, optimising the provision of social and urban services and activating the business network.


Innovative culture and public services

The labs work on a variety of subjects, but they generally focus on two main areas: fostering an innovative culture within governments and improving the city's public services, progressively incorporating citizen participation.

Some laboratories focus their activities on the creation of new technological products, working closely with emerging enterprises and large companies. Others are more focused on civic innovation and on achieving structural social changes.

Download the report summary and find out what urban labs contribute and what good practices we can learn in order to innovate in a collaborative way in our cities.



  1. San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (San Francisco, USA) 
  2. Long Beach Innovation Team (i-team) (Long Beach, California, USA) 
  3. Laboratorio para la ciudad (Mexico City, Mexico) ** 
  4. Sidewalk Toronto (Toronto, Canada) 
  5. Quartier d’Innovation (Montreal, Canada) 
  6. Mayor´s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) (Boston, USA)
  7. Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (New York, USA) 
  8. Laboratorio del Gobierno (Santiago, Chile) 
  9. Las Naves (Valencia, Spain) 
  10. Urban Lab by Paris & Co. (Paris, France) 
  11. La 27è Région (Paris, France) 
  12. Behavioural Insights Team (London, United Kingdom) 
  13. Århus Innovation Centre (CFIA) (Aarhus, Denmark)  
  14. Mindlab (Copenhagen, Denmark) **
  15. City Innovation Exchange Lab (CITIXL) (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 
  16. Helsinki Design Lab (Helsinki, Finland) ** 
  17. Fondazione Innovacions Urbana (Bologna, Italy) 
  18. Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) 
  19. Seoul Innovation Bureau (Seoul, South Korea) 
  20. The Australian Center for Social Innovation (TACSI) (Adelaide, Australia) 


**These laboratories have closed down.

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