The Netherlands


Jan Van Zanen


350,000 (2018)

Innovation Website
Lead Innovation Officer

Thomas Kruse

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve internal government operations

  • Anticipate and manage future challenges

  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Utrecht

Utrecht has the vision of Healthy Urban Living for all citizens, which is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Health is at the heart of the city’s urban development strategy. For this vision, innovation is required in diverse domains and themes to connect and cooperate with the stakeholders. Innovation can help the city define problems, develop ideas, and prototype scalable solutions.

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

Policy areas that Utrecht is focused on

Healthy Urban Living for Everyone
Policy areas by number of cities

Utrecht utilizes 7 different innovation skills or roles

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

Utrecht’s innovation work is sprinkled throughout the municipal administration. In particular, there is a team of 5 strategists

Terms Utrecht most associates with innovation

Human-centered design
Theme-based approach innovation

Utrecht's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
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, Utrecht has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Multilateral institution budget
Higher levels of government
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.
Innovative financing tools
e.g. Social Impact Bonds, Crowdsourcing
Non-financial resources
Non-financial resources
This could include staff on loan and/or other in-kind contributions (e.g. materials, infrastructure…)

Activities being funded

Launching or sustaining a project
Idea generation & brainstorming
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

Utrecht also invests in digital systems and physical infrastructure.

How is innovation measured?

Utrecht has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations in addition to cooperation at the international level.

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.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Policing and law enforcement



Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills



Social inclusion and equity


Digital governance

Insufficient data

Environment and climate change

No Response

Public works