Highlights from the Economic Development Forum

22 October 2019

First day: working group meetings
During the working group meetings there were very productive and engaging exercises. The city branding and international economic relations working group main theme englobed co-branding with stakeholders to boost local economy and different city strategies to attract ‘knowmads’. They had an intense interactive session with presentations from the city of Barcelona, Netwerkstad Twente and Grenoble. Their presentations were exhibited through a critical friend review of Lille Metropole new city branding strategy.

From the working group innovation, there were great presentations introducing best practices from the cities of Espoo, London and Nantes on ‘Cities as platforms of experimentation and the impact of digitalisation on stimulating innovation in their cities. The presentations were followed by a discussion session moderated by the city of Helsinki and engaging members in debating strategies for developing good practices in their cities.

The working group entrepreneurship and SMEs discussed the use of smart cities as an opportunity to promote entrepreneurship and innovation, engaging members in small groups through ice-breaking questions. This enabled members to closely look at their city’s examples. Following the ice-breaking sessions were the example presentations of the city of Barcelona with its I.Lab to accelerate urban sustainable and socially innovative solutions to city challenges. Munich’s smart business promotion and Gothenburg’s ‘Green Gothenburg’ initiative; a national export and investment platform for smart and sustainable city solutions and the activities which led the Gothenburg’ to win the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) award.

The working group public services and public procurement focused on presenting city strategies that boosted innovation with the mission of delivering higher quality public services. This was followed by discussion questions and the presentation of EUROCITIES’ big public buyers initiative.

Lastly, during the joint meeting of the working groups which focused on public procurement of innovation had several interesting presentations. François Brizard, policy officer from the European Commission (DG RTD) introduced the concept of procurement of innovation with a focus on what the EU is doing to promote ‘innovation ecosystems.’ This was followed by a Q&A session with the objective of informing member cities on EU level activities. Nantes then presented a best practice case on how to implement successful public procurement innovation. The presentations lead to a fruitful discussion activity in which every city gathered in groups and wrote down together, the challenges and opportunities they had. This sharing experience ended in a presentation by groups defining the points brought by each member to further develop strategies to better public procurement performance across the working groups participating in the joint meeting.

Second day – Keynote speech, thematic panel debates, iCapital and political workshops
The relevance of cities in disruptive and creative solutions to current challenges is unquestionable. It was this EDF’s mission to work and exchange what cities are currently doing to boost city creativity in times of rapid transformation, strong competition as well as social, economic and environmental challenges. How cooperation between the private sector and local authorities are developing innovative frameworks and solutions to further sustainability are paramount to tackle the challenges cities are facing.

It is in this context that André Sobczak, Chair of the EUROCITIES Economic Development Forum initiated the meeting with a clear key message: ‘With common projects, we can make a change’.

In this occasion, we had the pleasure to host more than 100 participants from over 30 cities who committed our forum. Members had the chance to showcase some of their cities’ most disruptive projects and exchange best practices among their city counterparts. Sharing city knowledge along with private sector exhibitions and their experiences additionally provided a valuable exchange platform for both city representatives and private sector actors to learn and exchange methods of collaborative strategies, favoring cooperation in the context of innovative sustainable practices.

The highlights from the main day began with a stimulating presentation from the keynote speaker, Professor Philip McCann, urban expert from the university of Sheffield, presenting the challenges and opportunities for urban innovation strategies. Professor McCann stressed 4 key messages on what cities must take into account for successful urban innovation: 1. Urban innovation must address societal challenges which are specific and relevant to the urban context; 2. There is need to identify opportunities for experimentation, testing and trialing which relate to the local urban challenges; 3. A good urban governance system is required to allow and foster innovation strategies including allowing failures and; the need to identify intended ex ante outcomes, ongoing monitoring and ex post evaluation for strategic success.

We were also happy to have, in the duration of the forum two panel debates. One focusing on a more institutional perspective on ‘how urban transformation and innovation strategies stimulate creativity and entrepreneurship’ with contributions from the European Commission and the OECD. A second debate with a local authority and civil society perspective addressing ‘how cities are reacting to digital transformation and the impact of new technologies on local development. Both panel debates stressed correlating messages. Regarding the institutional perspective, DG RTD’s Francois Brizard emphasized what the European Commission is doing to promote local innovation and how the EU has committed to extend the scope of its financing schemes through not only prizing disruptive initiatives but also funding ‘innovation ecosystems’. The OECD presented their champion mayors for inclusive growth survey results stressing the work cities have made to enhance innovation capacity. During the second panel debate, we could hear several cases of what local authorities and the private sector are doing regarding digital transformation and the potential of technologies at a local level. Nantes Metropole presented metropolitan data charter, an ethical framework to protect citizens and regulate the use of data in the local area. This mechanism allows Nantes Metropole to provide for key commitments for its citizens: Guarantee local data sovereignty, protect this data, ensure transparency and promote new uses for the data. The city of Helsinki emphasized the use of digital transformation as an opportunity to enhance digital and smart tourism in cooperation with international firms, including from China. Furthermore, the city has, since 2011 promoted open data and provided transparency principles making their services publicly available to everyone. The panel debate also counted on the participation of the knowledge society forum ambassador, who explained the activities and focus areas of the KSF which led to the conclusion that in fact many cities are sharing similar problems and emphasizing the role of governance to solve some of these issues, focusing on the local needs of each city. Lastly, the panel debate saw the contribution from a start-up and a FabLab, examples of how civil society and local entrepreneurs can contribute to sustainable practices.

iCapital workshop
EUROCITIES members had the opportunity to meet and learn from this year’s winner of the European Capital of Innovation (Nantes -FR) and runner-up cities (Antwerp – BE; Bristol – UK; Espoo – FI;). The second part of the workshop was a kick-off for the consultation process on the future of the European Capital of Innovation award and its potential to help developing and scaling-up local innovation ecosystems and their connections across EU and associated countries.

Political workshop:
How EUROCITIES members can cooperate more closely to impact on big corporations from platform economy?

Several of our member cities (deputy mayors from Munich, Helsinki, Nantes, Paris and Venice) met in Munich, to discuss the rather thorny issue of the platform economy, especially Airbnb rentals and what this means for city administrations.

The political workshop objective was to present and discuss the opportunities and challenges provided by the collaborative economy in cities as well as to provide insights for political positioning of EUROCITIES within the new European institutions.

Third day – study visits and business meeting
During last day of our forum we had a chance to participate in study visits during which we learned about start-ups and technological hub strategies and how to support for social enterprises in Munich.

At the EDF business meeting except the policy update on EUROCITIES` policy, lobbying activities and project work members also had an opportunity to learn about the actions of Jobs and Skills Partnership of the EU Urban Agenda in the context of digital skills and how and why it is worth applying for the Fair trade city award.

Next EDF in Valladolid 2020
The following forum was voted on and has been decided to take place in Valladolid, Spain. The theme will be ‘New forms of economic models – sharing and circular economy. How cities can increase their impact on business strategies.’ The forum will take place mid-February 2020.