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


Alumbrado inteligente, sensible y con “sentido”

El diseño de sistemas de alumbrado inteligente pone de manifiesto algo que comentaba hace tiempo, en un post titulado “Smart Cities: sentido y sensibilidad”a la hora de desplegar nuevas soluciones tecnológicas en nuestras ciudades, hay que ser cuidadoso en no poner el “cerebro” (software) antes que la “sensibilidad” (los sensores) y, especialmente, que todo esto no fuera en contra del “sentido” (el factor humano y social).

Los ingenieros tenemos una fe casi ciega en la tecnología, hasta tal punto que tenemos tendencia a pensar antes en la solución que en el problema. Hace un par de años di un taller de “Smart Cities sin tecnología” en San Sebastián. Diseñamos un sistema de atención temprana a personas de avanzada edad usando a los tenderos del barrio como “vigilantes”, que ponían pegatinas rojas o verdes en el escaparate en función de que estas personas hubiesen o no pasado por la tienda en su rutina habitual, para proporcionar al asistente social del barrio, en su paseo diario, un “cuadro de mando” en tiempo real. Continue reading


Smart lighting, public space and urban innovation


Photo by Carlo Ratti Associatti

The Italian magazine “Luce et Design” interviewed us for its April 2016 number. We talked about topics such as urban innovation strategies, smart lighting, digital art, public space and… refugees. We share a translation of the interview in English.

Luce Et Design: What was your training course?

I had my masters degree as a Telecom Engineer at the University of Zaragoza, back in 1997. After almost twenty years of practice I added to my training a masters degree in city sciences by the Politechnic University of Madrid.

LED: On which essential techniques and strategies did you base your intervention to turn Zaragoza into a Smart City?

Zaragoza’s implementation of its own unique Digital City model will at a particularly difficult time for the both city and its inhabitants have the concept of open source as its connecting theme: open data, free software, accessible networks and open government, meaning a truly transparent and participatory administration.

In addition to this, it shall have an open code architecture which gives rise to reconfigurable buildings (“open place making”), new digital public spaces that are made up of, used and reconfigured by the public itself; spaces where they exercise their participation, grow in knowledge and strengthen their digital links with the city. Continue reading