What is Urban Innovation?

Urban innovation is the combination of new practices, solutions, and services that enables adapting and anticipating processes of change that cities undergo. Large cities evolve and transform because of technological advances along with social, cultural, political, and climatic changes. In this evolution, citizens are the primary drivers of change, while innovation facilitates the implementation of new solutions.

Cities and urban environments are living spaces with demands when it comes to evaluating urban services such as mobility, recycling, street cleaning, and infrastructure maintenance. They are also the clearest indicator of the adoption of new technologies, evolution, and change. They are very dynamic and competitive, and they are always striving to take advantage of their resources and put them at the service of citizens.


The citizen is the backbone of innovation in cities. It is the citizens who influence, determine, and adopt the different types of developments in large cities. For this reason, it is vital to listen to citizens, which will mean an effective transformation of the services provided.

This is why the focus of urban innovation must be on the citizen. Concepts used to date, such as the Smart City, evolve towards a new terminology that revolves around Responsive Cities, which means that the services provided by cities must be adapted after studying people’s behaviors. This term is defined as “harnessing the power of technology to support a complex, large-scale, integrated planning approach to future city systems.” And this is achieved through data management, the use of new technologies, and the interaction between people, communities, and their physical environments.


At Ferrovial Services, we are committed to urban innovation as a means for the evolution and adaptation of cities to the environment, putting citizens at the heart of things. To do this, we make a multitude of solutions, technologies, and initiatives available to citizens to promote citizen participation and involvement.


To improve the quality of life in cities, we at Ferrovial Services bring together the differential value of the most advanced technological solutions, with extensive knowledge of the urban services sector and infrastructure management. Urban innovation enables the shift and transformation of services to data-based models, artificial intelligence, and new relationships based on digital technology.

At Ferrovial Services, we’re working to improve different areas of city services. In areas like mobility, we identify what citizens need to get around the city better, or how the distribution of goods in the last mile should be organized to reduce environmental impact. In addition, we’re developing projects in recycling by launching initiatives to understand how to get citizens involved in separating waste at its source, how citizens think city cleaning can be improved, and to know how, where, and when citizens need more or less lighting on their streets.

cciudades receptivas - ferrovial servicios


At Ferrovial Services, we’re implementing innovative programs, solutions, and models to provide urban services, working collaboratively with the most progressive cities and urban agents. We’ve developed various methodologies with the support of an ecosystem of universities, consulting firms, and start-ups in order to respond to the needs of the most demanding urban environments. Our long-term partnerships with MIT, the University of Deusto, the University College of London, and the University of Technology in Sydney stand out among these. We’re also partnering with consulting firms like Altran, Barrabés, and Everis as well as start-ups, which help us develop our approach to niche technologies and knowledge as far as possible, providing a global vision.


Bicing service in Barcelona


This public bicycle rental service in the city of Barcelona is managed by Ferrovial Services. This service has more than 7,000 bicycles – 6,000 mechanical ones and about 1,000 electric ones – and 519 mixed stations spread out over the city’s 10 districts, and it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This service’s innovation has led to increased use by residents by clearly identifying users’ needs.


Merchandise distribution in the last mile in cities needs a redesign due to the increased demand after the e-commerce boom in recent years. Thanks to programs such as the one developed by Ferrovial Services, along with the consulting firm DataCity in Barcelona and two start-ups specializing in data management, the question of how to address this mobility challenge was addressed by identifying the keys to improving the distribution of goods.

Dugud, an app to promote recycling


This mobile app lets citizens get obtain prizes by accumulating points for their good recycling practices. The goal is to increase recycling rates in cities. Residents have an electronic key to deposit waste in containers, which measure the amount of organic matter deposited. Through this process, users can then redeem their points for things like museum tickets, movie tickets, discounts on transportation vouchers, or a variety of social or environmental projects that can be implemented in their respective neighborhoods or districts.



Ferrovial Services has launched a pioneering system of smart containers to collect and then recycle organic waste in this municipality of A Coruña. ‘Orgánica de Calidad’ (‘High-Quality Organic’) is the name of this project. The new organic waste containers have sensors that enable analytical data management on the filling process, odors, noise, and temperature conditions, in addition to having a connection channel for residents through a social network. The project assesses and measures the impact of communication on recycling among citizens so that the most appropriate data can be identified to scale the model.



Londoners’ Lab is a collaborative innovation program with University College London that focuses on identifying and addressing the main challenges of urban services through citizen collaboration. Londoners’ Lab aims to transform how services are provided in the capital, going beyond organic recycling. The project’s partners include the Greater London Authority, Ferrovial Services, University College London (UCL), and Future Cities Catapult.


This program for start-ups focuses on the validation and integration of innovative solutions aimed at improving the lives of citizens. The program connects start-ups with leading companies to validate their solutions using real data in a real environment and to work directly with their potential clients or partners. Ferrovial Services Portugal has developed pilot tests along with E-Floater, Eccocar, and CardioID to improve mobility in cities.


Ferrovial Services and the chair of Cities at the University of Deusto have developed a program to answer the following question: can urban services become tools to facilitate social cohesion? The program revolves around studying the potential contribution of these services to the improvement of well-being, coexistence, and social cohesion in cities. The work has been done in two urban laboratories at the same university, where real citizen interaction with the selected services was identified.


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Like other technologies, the bicycle has undergone different transformations over time. It has never stopped evolving, and it is clearly an invention of great importance with great staying power, just like penicillin and the light bulb.

10 Tweets About Mobility in Responsive Cities

Even though the impact of technology is tangible in practically all sectors, the uses, customs, and solutions related to urban mobility are going through a time of rapid and profound transformation.

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Without participation from citizens, there would be no movement towards the “smart city,” but with it, the future is coming closer, faster.