“Citymart is proud to partner with Barcelona to pave the way towards a more open, entrepreneurial and innovative city government. This is a unique and bold step to improve the lives of citizens, and a unique commitment to support the global innovation community.”

Sascha Haselmayer, CEO Citymart

What is BCN | Open Challenge?
Barcelona City Council and Citymart announced an international call for businesses and entrepreneurs to propose their innovative solutions to six different challenges to transform public space and services in the city.

As a radical departure from many competitions, the BCN | Open Challenge was a direct commitment to contract the winning solutions. Winners of many urban competitions received an award or the opportunity to pilot. Barcelona was breaking this mould by using public contracting to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship and the growth of small and medium enterprises.

BCN | Open Challenge was a new program opening up the city administration to SMEs from around the world to transform public services. By seeking solutions to the city’s challenges with a more inclusive process, Barcelona will accelerate innovation and leverage public spending more effectively to deliver better public services. For the first time, public procurement directly focused on innovation providers, leading to faster, stronger local economic growth and tangible improvements in citizens’ lives.

As urbanization trends continue cities face the complex challenge of delivering improved quality of life to its citizens using ever more constrained resources. With 557,000 local governments spending $4.5 trillion each year on service delivery, large investments in new and high technology infrastructures are expected to help meet these challenges. These infrastructures promise to make cities more productive, more efficient, and more sustainable – ‘smarter’. However, to deliver these services, cities are faced with a considerable challenge in becoming agile global procurers and regulators of technology on a large scale, in a marketplace that is currently highly inefficient and fragmented.

At the heart of the BCN | Open Challenge was a commitment from Barcelona City Council to:

  • Procure and implement the 6 selected winning solutions. This promise was backed up by a dedicated innovation fund of 1 million euro.
  • Support winning companies with a business package for growth including free space for landing or growing in Barcelona, support with financial and human capital development or coordination with relevant local partners.
  • Validate project references for the winners to strengthen their credentials when accessing other new markets.

Traditional procurement typically precludes small or international providers or new business models. With this initiative, Barcelona was offering companies the best support possible by becoming a significant, open-minded and importantly, prompt-paying client. This will not only support the development and growth of the solution, but provide the company with an excellent reference for business development around the world from Barcelona, a city recognized internationally for innovation.

Everyone agrees on the importance of promoting economic growth and quality of life through innovative activity. BCN | Open Challenge showed that Barcelona is focused on designing the best possible environment for creativity, innovation and growth.

Barcelona was looking for high-impact solutions to the following urban and social challenges to transform the city’s public services:

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Reducing bicycle thefts in the city
To encourage more bicycle use in the city, Barcelona is looking for a bike parking system that enhances the security of private cycles

Empowering support systems to reduce social isolation
Barcelona is looking to support families and healthcare professionals in the care of senior citizens to reduce isolation and loneliness.

Monitoring pedestrian flows in the city
Real-time data on people distribution throughout the city enhances the management of Barcelona’s public spaces.

Tools for digitization of museum and archive collections
Digitization of Barcelona’s rich archives of books, manuscripts, photographs and other documents will enable this unique record of Catalan culture to be better shared with citizens.

Automatic detection and alerts of damaged road surfaces
Responsive, efficient road-surface management is essential for ensuring a citizen- and commerce-friendly city.

Empowering local retail through technology
Improving the competitiveness of small local retail businesses by increasing their online visibility.

BCN | Open Challenge summary

1. Process

1. Process

2. Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation criteria have been developed for each phase to help support the final decisions.

2. Evaluation Criteria

Guidelines for submission

1. Key Steps

2. Important submission information

  • In order to submit, participants will need to provide one reference for the solutions or project (prototype stage is acceptable).
  • Anonymity has to be strictly followed and applies to all stages of the Competition of Ideas. Non-compliance will result in exclusion.
  • The contents of envelopes 2 & 3 need to be identical both on paper and online; otherwise the submission will be excluded.
  • The submission deadlines for the paper and online applications are different. The paper submission deadline will take place earlier and, only once closed, will the online submission period begin. Both submissions are compulsory; failure to submit anonymous, identical proposals both on paper and online will result in disqualification.
  • Submissions can be in Catalan, Spanish or English.

3. Key Dates

4. Document Check List

The partnership
Barcelona City Council worked with Citymart to design and deliver new tools to support more open problem solving, to catalyse innovation and to accelerate business growth in the city. This bold new program took the step of using public procurement to stimulate development and attract new talent. Through BCN | Open Challenge, Barcelona City Council became an important new client for the selected companies.

The context
Today, more than 557,000 local governments and city councils spend approximately EUR 3.5 trillion per year. Yet, in a survey of 54 global cities carried out by the Agile Cities consortium, only 1% of global city governments publish their problems to the business community, and less than 10% of city governments accept unsolicited proposals or new solutions from entrepreneurs or small businesses.

Such exclusion means many technologies and innovations are barred from improving citizens’ lives, and smaller businesses and start-ups are precluded from most public procurement opportunities.

BCN | Open Challenge set a new standard for accountability and transparency within Barcelona’s regulatory and procurement decisions. The game-changing process allowed citizens access to more information about how problems are solved in the city.

Available data shows that by opening its problems to the market, Barcelona will not only gain more market intelligence, but can deliver better solutions to its citizens up to three times faster. As a result, the entire procurement process becomes more cost-efficient.

This efficiency opens doors for companies, especially SMEs, with new technologies and innovative approaches to win opportunities in public procurement. Using the open challenge process to procure real solutions means public spending rewards innovation and competitiveness, nurtures high-quality talent and attracts investment to the city.

Barcelona Activa will support entrepreneurs, accelerate the creation of jobs in competitive business, and strengthen the city’s global brand as a trusted innovation leader.

BCN | Open Challenge also carried an important social impact by improving the quality of life of Barcelona’s citizens.