Innovation Districts: From Barcelona to Dublin, This Is What I Know

Elections for Mayor are a-coming. With the aim of shaping my contribution to the approaching campaign, I have been reflecting lately on innovation districts. Ours, the Digital Mile (Milla Digital) is unfinished. One tends to think that all innovation districts are, by definition, unfinished. But, seriously, the Digital Mile must be one of the more unfinished innovation districts in the world, and I’ve known a few. Planned ahead of its time, built too late, never fully understood.

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona's 22@

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona’s 22@

I know that innovation districts are big real estate operations in the first place. Land owners, developers and construction companies are the first and primary beneficiaries. To shift the urban economics from construction to innovation we need bricks, glass and concrete. And a delicate urban planning, too. See the delicacy in Barcelona’s 22@ urban fabric, the first innovation district I knew back in 2002 and a place I have visited many times since.

In it, the legacy of Cerdà’s urban layout serves as a landing track for Castells’ discoveries about digital economy. Jane Jacobs would have approved: perfect block sizes, mixed uses, walkability. And a focused management structure, that soon shifted its efforts from urban development to economic development. The result: more than 100.000 new jobs (many of them high-skilled) and an overall impact of 15% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the city. Continue reading

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Dublin’s Declaration on Smart Districts

Dublin’s Smart Docklands District

Last month I was invited to participate in the Harvard Smart City Accelerator, which, organized by Harvard Tech and hosted by the great Smart Dublin team, took place at Dublin’s Smart Docklands, the thriving smart district of Ireland’s capital.

During three days we launched urban challenges, discussed on subjects such as economic growth, privacy or openness, learned from multiple stakeholders’ views, from industry to academia, walked the district under Irelands’ chilly winter and toasted with Irish beer for the success of our respectives innovation districts and strategies back home. Continue reading

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Zaragoza Smart Citizen Card: a tiny plastic card that fits 100 ideas

Just speaking on behalf of the Zaragoza Citizen Card’s outstanding team at the Cities in Transition International Conference

Let’s imagine how a tiny piece of plastic that fits in your wallet can both be a cashflow generator for the city and a tool for granting refugees access to the city public services. A piece of plastic that can be shared with a visitor through a mobile app or that can be used by a disabled person to pay for a taxi ride just the price of a bus trip. A card that encompasses 15 different other cards and that can turn as well into the digital passport to citizen partipation. Your all-in-one key to the city, or the future city social currency…

When the city hall becomes a facilitator, you can count on your ideas to be set in motion. We need everyone’s ideas to make a smart city, let’s move on to a zero waste circular economy of ideas! Let’s hack and co-create the Zaragoza’s Citizen Card!!

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Data sharing and co-creation will boost urban innovation

Well, or so it seems. We are cruising through very busy weeks for our smart city team in Zaragoza. If I were to decipher the message that 2017 is bringing, I would say that data sharing and co-creation will certainly boost urban innovation in the forthcoming years. And that, in Zaragoza, we have some interesting tools to make it happen:

  • our smart Citizen Card, our “de facto” digital platform upon which we can build all sorts of services, from gamification to citizen participation
  • our Open Urban Lab, the co-creation lab of the city, located at the very core of Zaragoza’s flagship innovation hub “Etopia Center for Arts and Technology”
  • a thriving civic and innovation ecosystem and a program “100 Ideas ZGZ” conceived to set bottom-up ideas in motion, using the city as an innovation platform

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Zaragoza Citizen Card wins the ‘Green Digital Charter’ award

We are so proud to share the following

Press release from EUROCITIES

Brussels, 25 January 2017

Zaragoza (Spain) has been revealed as the winner of the Green Digital Charter (GDC) 2016 Award on ‘Citizen participation and impact on society’. The awards ceremony took place during the conference ‘Cities in Transition – the role of digital in shaping our future cities’ jointly organised by the EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum (KSF) and GDC.

Cristobal Irazoqui, formerly policy and project officer on smart cities and sustainability at the European Commission (DG CNECT), presented the award and congratulated Zaragoza on the deployment and success of its Zaragoza Citizen Card, which offers all-in- one access to the city, improving the sense of citizenship and belonging in Zaragoza. Continue reading

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Zaragoza Sources the Code to Citizen Co-Creation

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Co-creation workshop of the open mobility challenge “Bicisur”

Back in 2003, a group of local geeks and open source advocates met with Zaragoza’s future mayor Juan Alberto Belloch who, after being the last all-mighty minister of Justice and Interior in the last of prime minister Felipe González’s cabinet, was running for office for his second term. After a short immersion in the open source community, Belloch “fell instantly in love” with Linux philosophy and quickly made open source-based innovation one of the axes of his political campaign. His plans included turning the northeastern capital of the Spanish Aragón into the “Redmond of the European free software world,” for which purpose his team projected a 102-hectare innovation district, a city-wide free public wireless network and an ambitious campaign of digital literacy, with the city hall leading and paving the way by becoming one of the most advanced European administration in systems migration towards open source software. In an article appeared in Wired in May 2003 he declared “this open source battle might not be easy, but ‘open’ is the way it must be.” Continue reading

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Open, Agile and Lean Startup Principles for Urban Innovation

Progress towards a more open and agile urban innovation is a must for city halls. The case could be named “Google versus City Hall”. Yes, cities change rapidly, but on too many occasions those changes are powered by the giants of the “new economy”: Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber… City Halls just lag behind those changes trying to control damages in the local economies and communities. We reckon that the smart city is built between a multiplicity of agents. The city hall, universities, local startups, big corporations, and, mostly, citizens. But also that a new type of conversation between cities and big corporations can happen. Continue reading

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Smart innovation through active citizen participation

Stockholm New magazine, Sweden Art Direction by Henrik Nygren, cut Rubylith-masking film 1994

Picture by http://www.followtheline.com/

Daniel Sarasa’s interview for Nordic Smart Cities about smart innovation, whose original content can be found here.

If people are given the power to decide and be part of the decision-making process, their mark is felt all around. The city of Zaragoza manages not only to aim for active citizen participation, but to actually reinvent itself with the help of its people.

How can municipalities realize their potential for innovation?

The potential for innovation in municipalities truly lies in cities and in the citizens. There is a lot of talent in cities, hence we, the city hall and the public servants, have to make sure that we can gather as much talent and ideas as we can and put it into these Smart City projects or into the innovation process. That is the main issue and the main challenge. The reason why this is not easy is because we are so used to planning the city with a top-down perspective and it requires a complete shift from Smart City project managers or from the public servants to change their perspective. We need to open up and be able to take into account the ideas of our citizens, the ideas of our local ecosystem. Continue reading

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