The Foundation for Urban Innovations is a lab for analysis, communication, development, and co-production focused on urban transformations.

The Fondazione per l’Innovazione Urbana (FIU): an ‘open and widespread lab’ focusing on urban innovation

FIU is a lab for analysis, communication, development, and co-production focused on urban transformations.
Our goals are organized into three main pillars that highlight the path the City of Bologna is following in the near future to become more welcoming and sustainable, to strengthen local urban welfare, and to boost urban and digital democracy. We are committed to addressing social, environmental, and technological challenges within urban organisms. To this end, we act as a ‘collective brain’ and hub of urban change, a catalyst for ideas and activities, and a place where citizens, public institutions, associations, social movements, and all representatives of the economic, social, and cultural worlds can meet, discuss, and interact proactively.

In considering a wide range of issues and actions, our strong territorial roots, and our equally persistent international presence, the Foundation could also be described as an ‘open and widespread lab’ with a systematic approach based on collaborative creation to turn the city into a more liveable and resilient organism. We integrate research and innovation into real-life communities and settings by opening up the co-design and co-creation phases to the different key stakeholders in the city.

To reach this goal, the Foundation’s various activities are organized into three main pillars:

  • URBAN CENTER: informational activities to promote the territory and urban culture;
  • MAPPING THE PRESENT: analysing and documenting urban transformations with a focus on open data;
  • CIVIC IMAGINATION OFFICE: activating participatory paths of co-production (such as District Labs and Participatory Budgeting).

The purpose of District Labs is to involve a large number of actors by physically going into the territory to concretely investigate challenges and the needs and will of citizens. One of its main goals is to enhance public participation and transform the relationship between the City and citizens by experimenting with new forms of collaboration and research, with particular regard to urban regeneration, urban planning, economics, technological innovation, sustainability, and resilience. The Foundation is involved in defining municipal policies, programmes, and development plans. In order to engage citizens and gather data to improve the quality of the policy cycle, we organize various activities such as territorial front offices, workshops, focus groups, interviews, meetings, and activities co-developed with the communities.
Moreover, we use a range of participatory and co-design tools such as community mapping, planning for real, web-based engagement, open space technology, and assemblies.

The Foundation interacts with the Administration to implement shared decisions and actively works for innovation in administrative practices and tools to respond to territorial needs. In this respect, citizens are not only passive parties that need to be informed, but also vectors of information, promoters of change, and players capable of studying, proposing, testing, and applying new answers to challenges in the cities. This dual role towards institutions and citizenship is what characterises our work at the FIU. In an effort to constantly update the dialogue on the city, the Foundation uses a complex communication system. We organize territorial communication, trying to simplify the technical and bureaucratic language and include as many citizens as possible in the public sphere. On the other hand, we regularly organize local, national, and international events, powering a virtuous communication mechanism which has been strengthened in the last five years due to a wide range of physical and theoretical tools. The use of online tools and technologies in a broader sense is a great part of our method at the Foundation and they are largely used to boost the engagement of citizens and communities of stakeholders. The Foundation is strongly committed to and motivated by the need to move towards achieving a just transition both for us, as workers at the Foundation, and the City of Bologna, thereby including citizens and city users. For us, this means embracing a social, environmental, and economic process that produces plans, politics, and investments with a view towards a sustainable future where urban organisms and communities are resistant and can flourish.

The Fondazione per l’Innovazione Urbana (FIU) is a non-profit private legal entity founded by the City of Bologna and the University of Bologna. It represents the new legal framework of the former Urban Center Bologna.
Despite being co-founded by both of these entities, the Foundation is supported by major local stakeholders in the City. Our work is supported by a budget divided into financial support from the City, University, and major partners; and international financing, mainly from national and European calls.
The Governing board is composed of: President; Director; Administrative Council: 4 Consultants nominated by the Municipality and the University of Bologna; Scientific Committee: 5 experts who support the Foundation in defining the main research pillars and guidelines and assist our work as a mirror of the changes occurring within the city and our role as a research body investigating modern urban challenges; Review Committee: 2 members.
Our multidisciplinary, territorial staff includes more than 25 professionals and experts in the following topics: sociology, economics, climate change and sustainability, international politics, communication, graphics, anthropology, architecture, EU projects, international relations, cultural projects, and innovation.