Virginio Merola


392,027 (2019)

Innovation is helping to:
  • Engage residents and other stakeholders

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

  • Improve service delivery

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Focus on measurement

  • Human resource support

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

  • Leadership from Mayor

Spotlight on innovation in Bologna

In Bologna, the Civic Imagination Office serves as an urban policy innovation lab to research, communicate, and co-design urban transformations. The Office helps oversee six District Labs—hubs of collaboration and innovation where city officials and residents work together to tackle challenges facing Bologna. These Labs not only accompany citizens’ project proposals (called collaboration pacts), but also facilitate the participatory budgeting process in Bologna. These efforts have led to a significant increase in citizen engagement: resulting in more than 480 collaboration pacts being implemented, and more than 14,000 people voted in the first year of participatory budgeting.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Bologna has an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Bologna approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Bologna is focused on

Citizen engagement
Urban regeneration

See more examples of District Labs (citizen engagement) and INCREDIBOL! program (urban regeneration)

Policy areas by number of cities

Bologna utilizes 4 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Community engagement staff
Innovation roles by number of cities

The Deputy Mayor, in charge of Civic Imagination, is responsible for innovation. The work of his office is supported by the Urban Innovation Foundation, through the Civic Imagination Office, the Digital Agenda Department and the Culture and City Promotion Department.

Terms Bologna most associates with innovation

Resident engagement
Data analytics

Bologna's most common innovation activities

Engaging residents in new ways
  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

How is innovation funded here?

Like 81% of cities surveyed, Bologna has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

International/multilateral institution budget
International/multilateral institution budget
This refers to resources from international and/or multilateral institutions’ budgets (i.e. European Union)
Municipal budget
Municipal budget
This could include, for instance, City Council approved funds; operating budget; a special funding process (bond, Mayoral special initiative funding, etc.); and participatory budgeting / citizen-selected budgeting.
External funding
External funding
This could include private, philanthropic/non-profit and/or academic/think tank resources.

Activities being funded

Investing in digital systems
Investing in physical infrastructure
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

*"Training staff and building capacity" is not an option in the 2018 survey, while "Launching or sustaining a project" is not an option in the 2020 survey.

How is innovation measured?

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

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with the University of Bologna and the City of Barcelona with the aim of establishing their Data Office.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data



Environment and climate change


Social welfare/social services


Land use

Built environment


Insufficient data

Government finance

Social inclusion and equity

Economic Development

Digital governance

Labour market and skills

No Response


Waste and sewage

Public works


Policing and law enforcement