Visionary and integrated solutions to improve well-being and health in cities

It is estimated that by 2050 up to 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Urbanisation affects human health and well-being through factors such as exposure to pollutants, including noise, disasters, stressors and diseases, urban density, lack of physical activity, degraded ecosystems and erosion of natural capital, which can be exacerbated by climate change. As acknowledge by the Habitat III New Urban Agenda, public spaces play a crucial role in urban interaction and systemic urban innovation and they need to be designed and managed sustainably and equitably to ensure that the way citizens produce, consume, commute and interact within the urban fabric has a positive impact on their health and quality of life, enhances resilience to disasters and climate change and reduces the environmental footprint of the cities. The systemic integration of social, cultural, digital and nature-based innovation in the design, development and governance of public space has a tremendous potential to transform these spaces into diverse, accessible, safe, inclusive and high quality green areas that increase well-being and health and deliver a fair and equitable distribution of the associated benefits.


Actions should deliver visionary and integrated solutions (e.g. therapy gardens, urban living rooms, creative streets, city farms) at the intersection of social, cultural, digital and nature-based innovation to increase citizens' health and well-being in cities. These solutions should address social, cultural, economic and environmental determinants of health and well-being and support urban communities in reducing their exposure to climate-related risks, pollution (including noise), environmental stress and social tensions, including the negative effects of gentrification.

Actions should also demonstrate how the integration of these solutions into innovative land-use management, urban design and planning could reduce health-related environmental burdens in socially deprived neighbourhoods, foster equitable access for all to public spaces, enhance their quality and use and promote sustainable urban mobility patterns.

Actions should test new transition management approaches, governance models, legal frameworks and financing mechanisms to re-design public spaces and urban commons and assess their contribution to improving health and well-being. They should promote multi-stakeholder initiatives, citizens' engagement, co-creation and co-ownership of public spaces. Optimal and cost-effective use of behavioural games, networks of sensors, GIS-mapping, big data, observational programmes such as Copernicus and GEOSS, and citizens' observatories should be made as appropriate to enable the integration and visualisation of data for more effective monitoring of the transition towards healthier and happier cities.

The involvement of social sciences and humanities disciplines such as psychology, behavioural science, economics, law, anthropology, sociology, architecture, or design studies, is considered essential to enhance social learning and promote the role of social and cultural innovation in transforming public spaces, with particular attention devoted to gender dynamics and diversity.

To enhance the impact and promote upscaling and replication of these solutions, projects should engage in substantial networking and training actions to disseminate their experience, knowledge and deployment practices to other cities beyond the consortium. To enhance impact cooperation and synergies with the activities undertaken within the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative and its regional components (supported by the EC) should be sought where appropriate.

Furthermore, actions should envisage resources for clustering with other ongoing and future projects on sustainable cities through nature-based solutions funded under the 'Smart and Sustainable Cities' call in part 17 of the 2016-2017 Work Programme as well as relevant projects to be funded under topics SC5-20-2019 and CE-SC5-03-2018 of this Work Programme. Cooperation with relevant actions funded under the Horizon 2020 Societal challenge 6 topic 'TRANSFORMATIONS-03-2018-2019: Innovative solutions for inclusive and sustainable urban environments' should also be sought as appropriate.

Funded projects are expected to establish long-term sustainable data platforms securing open, consistent data about the impacts of the deployed approaches and ensure interoperability with other relevant data infrastructures for effective communication, public consultation, exchange of practices, and sharing of experiences.

Proposals should pay attention to the special call conditions for this topic.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 10 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 project results are expected to contribute to:

  • high quality, multifunctional, public spaces able to integrate digital, social, cultural and nature-based innovation to enhance health and well-being, while ensuring 'the right to the city' as specified in the Habitat III New Urban Agenda;
  • European cities being world ambassadors of sustainable lifestyles, providing universal access to greener, safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces, also accounting for the gender dimension;
  • participatory approaches in re-designing and transforming public spaces to increase health and well-being in cities through innovative public-private-people partnerships (PPPPs);
  • more comprehensive assessment of the sustainability and resilience of cities through the development of health and well-being indicators;
  • establishing innovative monitoring systems to measure benefits and capture the multiple co-benefits created by nature-based solutions in terms of health and well-being.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • Open Innovation
  • Gender
  • Open Science
  • RRI
Application date
Social sciences : Demography, Environmental Sciences, Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Geography, Sociology
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology
Other : Physics, mathematics and engineering, Medicine