The URBAN AND REGIONAL INNOVATION Research (URENIO) is a university laboratory for the promotion of research and supply of technological services in the field of intelligent cities. URENIO is part of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Development in the School of Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. URENIO is mainly involved in competitive projects from the European R&D Framework (FP, H2020), and Territorial Collaboration (Interreg, MED, SEE) programmes. We took part in numerous projects funded by national and international research institutions and the European Commission. URENIO is well known for its research record in the fields of innovation ecosystems and intelligent cities. Research carried out in the Lab is acknowledged by leading organisations worldwide. It is among the academic organisations promoting research in the field of intelligent cities, having introduced the concept of intelligent cities as physico-virtual territorial systems of innovation and most advanced innovative agglomerations.


The research focus of URENIO concerns the innovation-led development of cities and regions and their ability to create environments supporting R&D, human skills, learning, and innovation. Interest in the contribution of technological innovation to urban and regional development peaked after 1990 by economic geography research on industrial districts of central Italy, new industrial spaces in the USA, the planning of large technopoles in Japan, the rise of global innovation clusters, learning regions, and regional systems of innovation, and actually by the smart specialisation strategies enabling smart growth in Europe.

00_research_focus_smThe current research emphasis of URENIO is on innovation ecosystems and intelligent cities. Intelligent cities are 3-layer environments of innovation, combining (1) knowledge activities, (2) innovation and technology learning institutions, and (3) digital spaces. Intelligent cities constitute a discrete category of innovation systems created by the agglomeration of knowledge-intensive clusters,  innovation creation processes  that operate within cities (technology absorption, creation, dissemination), and digital networks and smart environments. Their added value and urban improvement potential comes from the integration of three types of intelligence: human intelligence of the city’s population; collective intelligence of institutions supporting learning and innovation; and artificial intelligence of digital networks and online tools and services, which altogether assure a higher innovation performance of cities and regions. Intelligent cities actualize a series of innovation circuits that improve the urban economy, city infrastructure and utility networks, living in the city, and urban governance. 

Main research fields of URENIO are:

  • Innovative agglomerations development and planning: Development, assessment and planning of innovative agglomerations, innovation clusters, technology districts, technopoles, science and technology parks, innovation centres and incubators.
  • Regional innovation systems analysis and strategy: Knowledge-based urban and regional strategic planning. Management of regional systems of innovation. Regional innovation strategies. Smart specialization strategies (RIS3). Measuring and benchmarking of innovation performance.
  • Intelligent cities / smart cities design and development: Planning and development of intelligent clusters and districts. Living Labs. Intelligent city strategies and applications. Web platforms for collective intelligence, technology transfer, collaborative new product development, and digital marketplaces. User-driven innovation ecosystems and future Internet technologies.


URENIO has developed long-term research and technology cooperation with public and private organisations, including:

Universities and research institutes: Catholic University of Louvain, Technical University of Milan, University of Montpellier, University of Social Sciences of Toulouse, Fraunhofer Institute, University of Cardiff, University of Manchester, University of Glamorgan, University of Salford, University of Tampere, Aalto University, Turku University, Luleå University of Technology, ESADE Barcelona, University of Bremen, Universite Paris XII – Val de Marne, University of Lodz, Technical University of Sofia, University of Craiova, University of Udine, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Research and Technology Institute of Maastricht, INRIA – Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, IBBT- Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology.

Technology development organisations: Andalusia Technology Park, Archimides (Estonia), Centro Svilupo (Aosta), Fundacion Labein (Basque Country), Fundecyt (Extremadura), Josef Stefan Institute (Slovenia), Infyde (Bilbao), Institut Jules Destree (Wallonia), Kent Technology Transfer Centre, LABEIN Technology Centre, LEIA Technology Centre, Alava Pronovum (Hungary), Science and Technology Park (Crete), Steinbeis Foundation (Stuttgart), Tagus Technology Park, Talos (Cyprus), Tech Tirol (Lower Austria), Technology Park Oulu TEKES (Finland), Technology Park (Thessaloniki), Zenit (Mulheim), Adventure Research.

Regional authorities: Basque Country, Central Macedonia, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Epirus, Ionian Islands, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Lorraine, Mantova, Peloponnesus, Southern Aegean, SW Oltenia, Thessaly, Wales, Western Macedonia.

International organisations: European Commission, UN, Unesco, Unido, OECD.


URENIO has been involved in more than 100 projects funded by national and international organisations and the European Commission. The overall research effort concerns the ability of cities and regions to create environments supporting R&D, innovation, human skills, and collective intelligence. Core competences of URENIO are in the intersection of strategic planning, innovation management, and information technology platforms and applications. Apart of applied research the Lab took part in technology park planning and regional innovation strategies in most countries of Europe.


02_virtual_innovation_enironments_smURENIO has developed a series of online tools assisting key phases of the innovation process, such as strategic intelligence, technology transfer, new product development, digital product / clusters promotion, and company incubation. Some of the applications and e-tools appear on the virtual innovation space webpage. URENIO has also developed a series of platforms that facilitate the design and development of virtual innovation environments and intelligent cities. The platforms support key innovation processes, such as (1) strategic intelligence, allowing to gather, analyze and disseminate information about technologies, markets, and competitors; (2) technology dissemination, allowing to learn about available technologies and ways to valorise them; (3) collaborative innovation, for creating networks of product design and new product development; (4) new company creation; and (5) digital marketplaces and online marketing of products and services.


The Benchmarking Centre has been created by URENIO Research to disseminate methodologies of Benchmarking in companies, cities, and regions. The Centre provides services via benchmarking certified consultants who have access to online benchmarking applications developed by URENIO.  A series of software applications support benchmarking to companies, as well as to tourism and ICT companies, allowing online filling out of questionnaires and generation of comparison diagrams which are then further analysed by the consultant. Benchmarking of regions involves monitoring the performance of regions in innovation and development by use of selected indicators. As a result of this monitoring, annual reports can be produced describing the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region concerned.


This is a service of URENIO since 2005. It is a global watch on research and planning activities related to intelligent cities – smart cities – innovation ecosystems. News, software, publications, books, papers, reports, and best practices are presented in 22 categories dealing with innovation theory and metrics, innovative companies and clusters, virtual innovation environments, digital and intelligent cities. The website of URENIO holds the first positions globally among the most visited sites in ‘Urban and Regional Planning Education’ categories, see ALEXA ranking.


06_icosICOS is a meta-repository of open source applications and solutions. Each application is categorised by the city function it serves, the type of software, technical characteristics, and license type. ICOS is also a community of developers, planners, engineers, and users working in the field of intelligent / smart cities. ICOS is addressed to anyone interested on intelligent / smart cities development and looks for open source applications and solutions that have been successfully implemented in cities. In the technology supply side, it is addressed to developers wishing to disseminate applications and solutions they have created. In the demand side, ICOS is addressed to city authorities, infrastructure and utilities operators, and stakeholders wishing to use smart city solutions in order to increase the competitiveness, cohesion, and sustainability of the city.


The permanent staff of URENIO is about 20 people. Scientific areas and qualifications of the staff cover urban and regional planning, civil engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, architecture, information technology, sociology and economics, applied mathematics and statistics.