COVID-19 no barrier to innovation in resilient cities: How to prepare for the next big crisis

19 April 2021

Cities are being invited to learn from leading innovative UK peers at a special national event this May.

UK cities have seen some of the most challenging COVID-19 conditions this past year and one could be forgiven for thinking that all but the most essential activity came to a halt in the face of the unprecedented health crisis.

In fact, some of Britain’s hardiest workers have been rolling out innovative initiatives that have helped local communities – from urban regeneration to combatting hate  – and new approaches such as digital transformation and innovation in public procurement.

Funded under the URBACT* Transfer Networks, the group including Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Brighton & Hove, Barnsley and Preston, had planned to work with local communities and businesses to implement proven breakthrough innovations. COVID-19 has meant that the city project teams have found themselves working in new and surprising ways with communities to achieve their overarching goals when tried and tested approaches were no longer possible due to pandemic restrictions.

Yet, the experience has served to make the cities ever more resilient – highlighting ways to deliver innovation in future, even in the face of a prolonged crisis. The cities will come together at national event in May to share their learnings and invite other cities and those who work with cities to join them in exploring the implications for innovation and collaboration.

Each project team will present the outcomes of their innovation projects, including reflections on how they managed to keep on track in the face of the pandemic at a virtual event on May 13 2021 (9am-12.30am GMT), ‘Perspectives on resilience for cities: what next for innovation and collaboration in a time of COVID-19 and towards COP26?’ [link]

Manchester’s initiative, which focuses on combatting climate change through innovations in the Arts sector, is a case in point of a project which is vital yet vulnerable to the very forces it aims to combat – the impact of extreme events from pandemics through to flooding brought about by climate change. The project team has valuable lessons to share as cities work towards net zero.

The agile working and innovation shown by the city project teams has helped at this crucial time to implement these important projects – embedding proven innovations that will
strengthen cities in a whole range of ways – and making them even more resilient for the future.

At a point when cities are facing uncertainty around future funding for innovations, the event will also bring some much-needed guidance on what avenues might exist for securing resources for projects going forward, with guest speakers including: Cassie Robinson, Deputy Director Funding Strategy; The National Lottery Community Fund; and a representative of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The six cities will tackle:

  • Manchester City Council – climate action in the arts
  • Preston City Council – public procurement
  • Barnsley Council – digital transformation
  • Birmingham City Council – urban regeneration
  • Brighton & Hove City Council – NGO capacity building
  • Cardiff Council – countering negative attitudes.

The event will provide opportunities to learn from each city, and for round-table discussions and city-focused break-out sessions. The event is free and open to cities and those who work with cities to join.

Registration is open at

More information on these and other Urbact UK initiatives are available on the URBACT webpage

*URBACT enables cities to work together

to develop sustainable solutions to

major urban challenges, through networking,

sharing knowledge, and building capacities

for urban practitioners. It is funded by the

European Regional Development Fund and

Partner and Member States of the European Union

since 2002.