Juan María Aburto


345,122 (2016)

Lead Innovation Officer

Jordán Guardo

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve internal government operations

  • Anticipate and manage future challenges

Critical success factors:
  • Focus on measurement

  • Leadership from Mayor

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Bilbao

Bilbao has been integrating bottom-up approaches to its municipal strategy. Each councilor, each department director and each public official with knowledge of specific areas of their work try to provide precise and accurate solutions to citizens’ needs. While creating a big picture and political leadership at the highest level, Bilbao takes into account a close-to-the-citizen approach in everything the city does such as creating a new bus line, or setting up an innovative district heating system.

Note: The City Innovation Snapshot (PDF version) was produced in 2019 and some aggregate findings have been updated with the latest survey results below.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Bilbao does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to 24% of cities surveyed, Bilbao approaches innovation capacity in specific policy areas/domains.

Policy areas that Bilbao is focused on

Digital governance
Social welfare/social services
Policy areas by number of cities

Innovation skills or roles

Bilbao does not have a dedicated team for innovation. Instead, the city has created an organization divided into small departments, each one of them with a technical director and a political councilor. On top of those departments, the leading councilor for one of them will act as a coordinator of several (up to 5) departments. Above them stands the Mayor. This organizational structure enables a citizen-centric approach, where micro-management level is taken care of their departments while having a common coordinated ground. This is also done for innovation projects and innovation strategy, where a three-level approach is created.

Innovation roles by number of cities

Terms Bilbao most associates with innovation

Human-centered design
Resident engagement

Bilbao's most common innovation activities

  1. 1

    Taking risks or testing new ideas

  2. 2

    Data-driven analytics/public data management

  3. 3

    Engaging residents in new ways

  4. 4

    Developing new solutions based on digital technologies

  5. 5

    Organizational change within the municipality

  6. 6

    Human-centered design

  7. 7

    Rethinking your city’s approach to financing partnerships

Data not available.

How is innovation funded here?

Like 19% of cities surveyed, Bilbao does not have dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Bilbao has no reported sources of funding.

Activities being funded

Bilbao does not fund any specific activities.

47 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
79 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
51 cities
Investing in digital systems
36 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
30 cities
Paying for services

How is innovation measured?

Bilbao has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations.

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with the private sector, academia and think tanks to collect and analyze data, as well as with other cities. The city also has formal cooperative agreements and European co-funded projects including programs like Interreg, Horizon 2020 or Urbact.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data

Policing and law enforcement

Labour market and skills

Social inclusion and equity


Digital governance

Insufficient data

Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Waste and sewage

No Response




Environment and climate change



Public works