Smart Catalonia: Building an ecosystem of smart, sustainable and liveable cities
City/Region : Government of Catalonia - Ministry for Digital Policy and Public Administration , Spain

Smart Catalonia is an initiative by the Government of Catalonia forming a network of 50 cities to share challenges and deploy urban solutions, generating economies of scale by adopting similar projects, and developing new business models to implement and sustain urban innovation across the region.

It promotes innovation in public services and economic growth across the cities within the network, and furthers economic growth and alignment with international frameworks such as the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda, and the Basque Declaration.

Smart Catalonia involves more than 70 public entities and 350 private partners.

Agendas addressed
Local economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Promoting digital skills

Smart Catalonia aims to promote digital technologies, which are an essential tool for pursuing the objectives of the Government: economic progress, citizen welfare and sustainability.

Particular challenges were:

  • Developing a new regulatory framework suited to the new digital economy.
  • Promoting a framework to enhance the collaboration between the Government, municipalities and the private sector.
  • Promoting a more equitable development of the territory.
  • Deploying innovative urban initiatives in the territory, no matter the capacity of a single municipality.
  • Contributing to the strengthening of the competitive position of the sectors upon which Catalonia wished to base its industrial growth: Big data, 5G, Block chain, AI.
  • Promoting technological careers among young people and women.
  • Promoting the deployment of the Open Government strategy of the Government of Catalonia and its inter-relationship with other municipalities.

Two Government Agreements have promoted the development and implementation of the Smart Catalopnia initiative. These came into force 28 October 2014 and 13 December 2016 respectively.

In Action
Urban Labs and platform integration

The approach taken by the regional Government of Catalonia is that of networking with cities in order to share common challenges, gain critical mass and generate a greater market in order for the industry to develop solutions.

Specific values that have been promoted include:

  • Facilitating the linking of the elements of the innovation ecosystem in Catalonia: municipalities, industry, research and technology centers, academia and talent.
  • Testing, researching, prototyping and deploying urban solutions and new technologies to improve cities.
  • Generating a market and industry for these kinds of solutions: attracting FDI, talent and start-ups that generate and stimulate economic growth.
  • Developing new business models for the sustainability of urban solutions: promoting new business models, alliances and PPPs.

Specific mechanisms include:

Catalonia SmartLab: the experience of Innovation Labs was brought into a network of urban laboratories, testing and validating smart solutions in real environments. Its aim is twofold - to promote the technology sector by providing access to infrastructure and equipment, and enhancing open innovation in cities by participating in pilot tests. So far, 15 smart projects have been developed in different Catalan cities.

Platform for Smart Region: the idea of a smart city platform is being developed. It would integrate the data and information of different cities in a unique shared platform. It is also being developed with other layers of government.

SmartCATALONIA Challenge: This is a competition to promote the creation of new solutions to tacklec challenges cities face.


Within the framework of this initiative, the Smart Catalonia Observatory ( was developed in order to offer results and metrics on the state of development of the different projects included in the strategy, in order to:

  • Promote the exchange of experiences and creation of synergies
  • Catalyze projects, solutions and companies, as well as priorities
  • Attract ICT and smart city investment and talent
  • Visualize what’s been done and how

Through the Observatory, the Government quantifies the level of development of the Smart Catalonia initiative. It contains and measures, information of the initiative, including the development and state of deployment of urban solutions in the +50 cities. It also showcases the different solutions tested, the metrics and business models for solution delivery and the market/ challenge needs (see website for details:

Since this is an open tool, users of the Observatory include: municipalities, citizens, industry, research centers. It has proved to be very efficient in partner searching for joint projects and for sharing challenges and needs between cities.



  • Cities: number of inhabitants, maturity level, technology needs, urban challenges, priority areas.
  • Research centers: areas, technologies.
  • Companies: solution, technology areas, competences


Smart Catalonia has proved to be a very successful initiative, since it has helped create cohesion in the territory and promote the development of smart cities and digital infrastructure in Catalonia. It has also served to promote joint projects between municipalities and to develop new models of public-private relationships with the industry and innovation agents. No doubt it has served to form and tighten the innovation ecosystem in Catalonia.

Since 2014, the results have been outstanding:

  • 52 cities involved in joint project development and/or testing solutions
  • 10 research centres involved in generating new technologies for city challenges
  • 192 projects developed and implemented
  • 95 technology solutions developed and tested

So far, only some of the projects of Smart Catalonia have been measured in terms of impact on the territory and return on investments. We believe that measuring the impact of Smart Catalonia and the different projects in economic, social and environmental terms will not only help us establish the Return on Investments (in order to continue promoting joint investments in innovative sustainable solutions) but it will also become a supportive tool for the political narrative, promote new collaborations and PPP's and pursue financial models for future projects.

One of the challenges we have faced when measuring outcome is the lack of data and registries regarding the investments and their impact in the territory. A first approach to this has been measuring the impact on GDP and measuring additional private investment.

Specifically, in one municipality of the network (3.5 million inhabitants), for the specific projects of WiFi City Networks, Smart Lighting, Energy Efficiency, Smart Water, Smart Mobility, Open Data, Smart Innovation, Smart Social Services and Education and Urban Furniture results have been:

  • 85 million euro impact on GDP
  • 1,870 jobs created
  • 53% more investment thanks to private funding complementing public budget
  • Saving of 9,700 tones of CO2 and 600,000 litres of water

 It is our intention to further measure the strategy's impact. In fact, in order to further contribute not only to our territory development, but also make our contribution to global development, we are committed to the SDGs and therefore we are currently studying the impact of the Smart Catalonia initiative against the 17 SGDs and the 169 sub-goals. We believe this will also serve to scale and share successful solutions with other cities and communities in the world. This study will be presented at the Smart City Expo 2018 (November in Barcelona, Spain).

Challenges and lessons learned

Initial obstacles appeared in the form of the multiplicity of stakeholders to integrate within the network of Smart Catalonia. A Governance model has resulted to be very effective in order to align efforts and resources, and bear track of the innovations developed and deployed.

The Governance model incorporates the alignment of internal and external stakeholders:

  • External stakeholders: citizens, entrepreneurs, businesses, Research and technology centres, universities and international cooperation
  • Internal stakeholders: City mayors, corporate departments, service departments, other public sector organizations

It also comprises different committees both at the strategic and tactic levels in order to integrate the different interests.



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