Sant Joan Despí: Improving the permeability of the city

Sant Joan Despí: Improving the permeability of the city

How can technology help to increase the permeability of the soils in Sant Joan Despí?


The climate crisis, rising temperatures and the increasingly frequent heat waves in cities have adverse effects on people’s health and on the increase of energy demand, especially affecting the most vulnerable groups. Faced with these effects of climate change, cities have an important role to play as centres of innovation to promote resilience, sustainability, and the conscious use of natural resources, such as water. In this context, the lack of infiltration capacity of the soil in urban areas is a problem that affects the water cycle, leads to a lack of rainwater harvesting, a loss of the regenerative capacity of aquifers and the risk of flooding. 

The main cause of the lack of soil permeability is the use of non-porous materials such as asphalt and non-draining pavements which, although involving less maintenance, cause the so-called heat island effect, making it impossible to recharge aquifers and increasing the risk of flooding. Moreover, they are also incompatible with trees and vegetation. In this sense, the challenge is to seek innovative technological solutions to increase the permeability of the soils in Sant Joan Despí, specifically in the city centre, which accounts for 48% of the population of the municipality and is the area that has historically suffered the effects of flooding and where the rainwater collectors are located. In this way, the aim is to make use of rainwater, facilitate the recharge of aquifers and reduce the risk of flooding. 

Sant Joan Despí approved the Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition Plan at the Municipal Plenary in February, with a time horizon of 2023 to 2030, and it is therefore a priority to make progress on this issue and find innovative solutions to be implemented in the short term. The municipality’s previous experiences, including the use of different materials on footpaths in green areas, have shown that there is room for improvement in the agility and effectiveness of the response, as well as in the impact measurement. 

The project contributes to the following SDGs: 


The call seeks to identify and test innovative technological solutions that help to improve water infiltration in poorly permeable soils and in poorly porous pavements in the municipality of Sant Joan Despí, in Barcelona. The solutions must have a level of technological development equal to or greater than TRL 6 (Technology Readiness Level), and their implementation through a pilot must be viable, both technically and economically, in a timeframe between 6-9 months. Those solutions that have scalability potential and whose management is as autonomous/independent as possible will be valued positively. The winning solution will be piloted in the municipality of Sant Joan Despí.
Technological solutions can focus on but are not limited to, the following aspects:
  • Improve the clear width of narrow pavements due to the fact of not having a tree well.
  • Solve the problem of pavement heave caused by trees, if we can ensure that the tree has sufficient water in the subsoil.
  • Improve the health of trees affected by overly compacted soils.
  • Improve the thermal comfort of the city.
  • Reduce the consumption of irrigation and maintenance of green spaces.
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    Key Dates

    How to participate?

    Find out how the call works and present your proposal.

    How to participate?


    Any legal entity can submit a proposal without geographic or size restrictions of the requesting entity.
    The call is aimed at solutions with a degree of technological maturity greater than or equal to TRL6. The solutions must be ready to be tested in a real environment and must provide concrete and measurable results.
    The proposals can be written in English, Catalan or Spanish.
    The winning proposal will receive financial support of up to € 25,000. However, the applicant organization must contribute at least 20% of the total project budget. Financial support will only be available for those activities and aspects directly related to the implementation of the pilot and no personal, travel or dietary expenses may be included.
    Proposals will be evaluated throughout three evaluation phases. The last phase will be within the framework of a Pitch Day where our jury will select the winning proposal.
    You can send an email to [email protected]. We will reply to you as soon as possible.