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Innovation Screening Tool (LIST): driving the identification of city innovation pathways

15 November 2023

Innovation Screening Tool (LIST): driving the identification of city innovation pathways

15 November 2023


The CLEVER Cities framework for innovation aims to capitalise on synergies between the NbS interventions (in terms of monitoring, management, methods, and materials used) and local capacities (place, people, and platforms). CLEVER Cities pursues the idea that innovation is present in both the technology of the NbS itself, as well as during the NbS co-creation process. The proposed framework allows for the identification of specific actions from which original solutions may emerge.

The Local Innovation Screening Tool (LIST) is a tool developed by Tecnalia and embedded in this framework, with the aim of supporting city urban planners and administration teams in their efforts to boost innovation within the context of NbS implementation. LIST is a self-assessment instrument which enables a better understanding of the innovation potential that emerges during the NbS implementation process. In CLEVER Cities, LIST was used by both Frontrunner and Fellow cities, with a two-fold goal:

  • To inspire cities to innovate in NbS implementation processes through a detailed list of innovation criteria.
  • To help cities identify and understand innovation pathways and recognise their transformation during the lifetime of the project.

For the first objective, the tool enabled the evaluation of 150 innovation criteria to be applied in NbS processes, hierarchically structured into four levels (Tiers, spheres, components, and innovation criteria). The second goal focused on understanding the trajectory of each city over the project timespan, indicating their innovation pathway by identifying the criteria that were effectively implemented by those cities which had initially expected to innovate. To do so, the tool enabled both ex-ante (performed during the NbS planning) and ex-post (after the NbS implementation) analysis.

In this analysis, we used LIST to evaluate various aspects of the criteria:

  • We assessed the four innovation models - applying innovation in different contexts, upscaling innovation, combining different innovative solutions, and creating new solutions or approaches.
  • We examined the innovation viability - considering technical, economic, legal, and social feasibility.
  • We also evaluated the Innovation Readiness Levels (five in total) - Not yet considered (level 1), conceptual (level 2), pilot (level 3), applied in specific environments (level 4), and fully operational (level 5). We conducted this evaluation both at the initial and final phases of the implementation of the solutions.

After completing the entire evaluation process, we observed the significant impact of LIST regarding the final CLEVER Innovation Pathways. Many of the expected IRL improvements were met, with some criteria even surpassing initial expectations. (IRL increased by two levels). Additionally, the criteria selected by cities had not been considered before their use of LIST, thus achieving one of LIST´s main goal of inspiring cities through its content.

The results provided a reasonable understanding of the innovation pathway pursued by CLEVER Cities. However, there is room for improvements in the methodology for identifying innovation pathways, particularly in measuring qualitative processes, considering the methods implemented and the schedule proposed by the cities. Specific conclusions are illustrated below.

In summary, the use of LIST in identifying CLEVER Innovation Pathway enhanced our understanding of which, how, and by whom, the innovation aspects were addressed throughout the project. The systemic perspective of the LIST, along with the insights from the self-assessment process, offered valuable information for a deeper understanding of the innovation efforts made by the cities.

The results offer significant evidence of the areas in which cities have primarily innovated and demonstrated the importance of the active engagement of all FR- and FE-cities in implementing and evaluating innovation processes. The comprehensive set of criteria provided in the tool presents possibilities for inspiring cities to become more pioneering and creative in their actions. While improvements in certain results may appear modest, they should be seen as opportunities for reconsideration and potential implemented beyond the scope of CLEVER Cities.

Innovation Screening Tool (LIST)