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Innovation Challenges
Innovation Challenges
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The IDB Cities Lab identifies innovative solutions and opportunities for urban experimentation through calls for proposals and the Open Innovation method. "Cities for All" has been carried out to identify urban challenges associated with systemic vulnerabilities that accentuate urban inequity, and that can be addressed through urban experimentation processes. The Cities Lab promotes public-private synergies through the Open Innovation methodology, which explores, identifies, connects and experiments with solutions from the private sector and civil society to address urban problems.

Call for proposals

The IDB Cities Lab launched in December 2021 the Challenge: Cities for All. Its objective was to identify urban challenges associated with systemic vulnerabilities that accentuate inequality in Latin American and Caribbean cities, and that have the potential to be experimented with, to design innovative, replicable and scalable solutions. This call is part of a process through which the Cities Lab provides technical assistance to three teams of local governments and their partners to implement experimentation processes in order to seek innovative solutions to urban challenges. Among the application requirements, it was necessary that the local government be the applicant or part of the application team, since the call also seeks that innovation methodologies are incorporated into the daily work of public servants.


More than 250 applications were received from 150 cities in 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

Mentoring Process

Six semi-finalist teams participated in a mentoring process to improve the definition of the challenge and narrow it down. The teams learned about methodologies and tools that facilitate the identification of the main causes and effects of the challenge. The six semifinalist teams presented their challenges during a pitch day, where three winning teams were selected.

Six semi-finalist teams:

  • Urban Laboratory of the Municipality of Mendoza, Argentina: Experimenting with circular economy for the social production of habitat.
  • Municipality of Renca and Fundación Techo, Chile: Housing emergency in Renca.
  • Laboratorio de Innovación de Fortaleza (Labifor) and the Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (Citinova) of the Municipality of Fortaleza, Brazil: Social innovation and urban revitalization of the canals of Gran Bom Jardim.
  • Empresa de Renovación Urbana y Desarrollo Urbano de Bogotá, Colombia: Social Rental Housing in buildings with reuse potential. 
  • Innovation Unit of the Planning Office of the Council of Mayors of the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (COAMSS/OPAMSS), City Adapt, University of El Salvador and Don Bosco University, El Salvador: San Salvador in development...of heat? Project to explore mitigating the impact of heat islands in San Salvador.
  • Municipality of Apizaco, Government of the State of Tlaxcala, Instituto del Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda para los Trabajadores (INFONAVIT), Secretaría de Desarrollo Agrario, Territorial y Urbano (SEDATU), and Observatorio de Ciudades del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico: I decide and build my habitat, a project to improve the quality of self-produced housing in Apizaco).
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Three winning cities
  • Mendoza, Argentina:
    • Challenge: High index of precariousness in housing and sanitary conditions affecting the inhabitants of Barrio Sierras Altas of the urban conglomerate La Favorita.
    • Experimentation potential: Experiments to test construction techniques using solid waste.
  • Apizaco, México:
    • Challenge: Self-production housing processes do not ensure habitability or positive externalities towards public space.
    • Experimentation potential: Experiments, within the framework of the national program "Decide y Construye", to test community processes including training and technical assistance.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador:
    • Challenge: High climate vulnerability and pollution affecting urban areas in the San Salvador Metropolitan Area.
    • Experimentation Potential: Experiments with nature-based solutions to test their impact on heat island mitigation.
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Experimentation Process

The Cities Lab is providing technical assistance to the three winning teams to continue with the implementation of the experimentation process. This process will last approximately six to eight months.

Timeline of the process

Empathize: June 2022

Problem definition: June / September 2022

Ideation: August - October 2022

Pilot Implementation: January-May 2023

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Climate Resilience and Access to Housing

Between late 2021 and early 2022, the Open Innovation methodology was applied to explore solutions to the issues of climate resilience and access to housing for the informally employed population. The questions guiding the problem definition and solution discovery were:

  • How can we increase access to affordable financing for housing application*, for LAC informal income population? *New/used home purchase, rental, improvement, construction (self or assisted), titling, regularization.
  • How can we help cities become more resilient to potential effects of climate change?

The Discovery phase yielded a total of 77 solutions, of which 40 were discussed, resulting in a short list of 12 solutions, which were presented at the Pitch Day to specialists from the IDB Housing and Urban Development Division, their counterparts in each country, and IDB LAB specialists. A summary of the 12 solutions identified can be found here.

As part of the Matchmaking phase, the rainwater harvesting solution for consumption, called Isla Urbana has been presented to the IDB LAB and Water and Sanitation Division (WSA) teams, with whom the possibility of implementing a pilot project in Central America is being explored.

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Proptech for housing access

The IDB Cities Lab worked with IDB LAB to identify ventures and companies that offer services in the real estate sector for buying, selling, leasing, financing, improving the quality of housing, maintenance, condominium management, etc., using technology as a strategy that adds value to their business model. 

PropTech is the name given to technology companies that use digital applications, artificial intelligence or virtual reality to make the real estate market more efficient.

The results of this work are collected in a publication, which lists and classifies the solutions found, and analyzes their relevance for the Latin American and Caribbean region, as well as their potential to improve access to housing, especially for low-income people or those without formal employment. Once this stage is completed, the Open Innovation process will continue.


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