When Bikes Are Powered, Not By Burning Calories, But By Innovation

Bike Innovation
My old Zeus at the Open Urban Lab

Bike industry in Spain is worth 1.6 Billion Euros, and is being powered by innovation. Going electric, smart training devices, new materials, security, Mobility As a Service, are all innovation paths fueling the sector.

Beginning in 2008 with the launch of the public bike system BiZi, cycling infrastructures such as cycling lanes have spread lately all across Zaragoza, making the city much more bike friendly than it used to be, despite its harsh weather, with hot summers and alternate long streaks of windy and foggy days.  This is part of the strategy to shift towards a smarter, greener mobility mix.

And in fact, biking is one of the paths that will bring safer, healthier and more sustainable cities, and that is why we are proud to announce that next Thursday, 13th Dec, at Zaragoza’s Open Urban Lab, we will be co-designing the future Spanish Lab for Innovation in Bikes and Cycling, part of the Spanish Bike Strategic Plan. A work we do for ConBici and Dirección General de Tráfico.

Note: This is part of a series of efforts to fuel the development of the bike sector thr innovation, beginning with the celebration, in September 2018, of the first hackathon of mobility visualization.  We hope that this will go on.


El valor de las universidades en las ciudades inteligentes españolas

Laboratorio Wetlab. Fotografía: Labs César

Durante mi primera estancia de trabajo en España, varios años atrás, uno de mis compañeros en Madrid me habló del rol esencial que las universidades españolas desempeñaban en las comunidades locales, produciendo valor más allá de las fronteras físicas de los campuses, no sólo a través de la transferencia de conocimiento, sino, también, como motor en diversas áreas. Hoy en día, las universidades españolas tienen la oportunidad, y la responsabilidad, de asumir un papel igualmente esencial en los ecosistemas urbanos inteligentes y en los procesos de innovación urbana.

A pesar de que nos es fácil encontrar universidades españolas dentro de los rańkings de las 100 mejores universidades a nivel mundial, los datos que ofrece la Conferencia de Rectores de Universidades Españolas (CRUE), confirman las fortalezas de la investigación española y de la “transferencia del conocimiento”. En materia investigadora, la producción científica española ha crecido un 50% en los últimos diez años, alcanzando un 3,4% de la producción científica mundial, dos tercios de la cual se produce directamente en las universidades (lo cual convierte a España en el noveno país productor de ciencia a nivel global). En cuanto a transferencia del conocimiento, el porcentaje de patentes obtenidas desde el sector universitario convierte a España en el segundo productor de patentes. Continue reading


Datos urbanos en movimiento

La ciudad, uno de los mejores inventos de la humanidad. Un sofisticado artefacto social cuyo diseño y re-configuración son cada vez más participativos, y cuya comprensión es objeto de creciente atención por parte de todo tipo de disciplinas: cívicas, humanísticas, artísticas, técnicas y científicas. En todo este proceso, los datos urbanos juegan un papel esencial, pues en ellos se encuentran las trazas y patrones que definen la vida urbana: cómo nos movemos, relacionamos, consumimos, o disfrutamos. Con objeto de poner nuestro grano de arena para democratizar este conocimiento, de contribuir a hacerlo relevante y comprensible para la ciudadanía, en Etopia ponemos a disposición de los creadores visuales 5 años de datos de la movilidad urbana, interurbana y ciclista y convocamos al 1er Hackathón de Visualización de la Movilidad en Zaragoza.

¿Por qué en Etopia? Porque Etopia lo diseñamos para ser el punto de encuentro entre arte y tecnología, pero también porque la misión del centro consiste en actuar como “centro de creatividad, innovación y emprendimiento en la ciudad digital”. Y los datos urbanos son esa infraestructura invisible digital que todos creamos con nuestras acciones diarias. Una infraestructura que, de no mediar una acción pública decidida, queda oculta, sin poderse utilizar para el bien común. Sí, hay demasiado potencial en los datos urbanos como para no ser utilizados de palanca para mejorar la vida de la gente, a muchos niveles. Continue reading


Zaragoza: The Power of Citizen Innovation

Pedestrian boardwalk towards Zaragoza's Etopia Center for Arts and Technology

Pedestrian boardwalk towards Etopia by Leonid Andronov (Source iStock)

By Jon Glasco

(Originally published at Bee Smart City.)

Fifteen years ago, Zaragoza – the historic Spanish city situated between Madrid and Barcelona – pioneered a vision of a future digital district and knowledge-based society. Since then, the city has developed an impressive portfolio of smart city projects and new urban services. According to Daniel Sarasa, Urban Innovation Planner, one of Zaragoza’s unique strengths is its culture of citizen involvement and participation. This culture has its roots in the reawakening of democracy. In the late 1970s, the city of Zaragoza (like other cities in Spain) looked back on thirty five years of dictatorship – and looked ahead to an uncertain future. During the years of dictatorship, Zaragoza had grown in population from approximately 235,000 to more than 500,000, but the civic infrastructure and public services needed to support this urban growth were inhibited by an autocratic national government which maintained severe austerity measures.

With democracy regaining a foothold in the early 1980s, the citizens of Zaragoza knew that the recovery of their communities and the development of civic infrastructure would depend on them taking matters into their own hands. From this awareness was born a grass-roots determination and pride-of-community mindset to reclaim rights to the city and to build new infrastructure. This resulted in citizen-inspired plans and actions to build neighborhood civic centers, kindergartens, centers for the elderly, public libraries and sport centers.

In the early years of democracy, citizens and city planners in Zaragoza could not have imagined that, decades later in the early 21st century, the city would become a leader in making the transition from a technology-centric to a citizen-centric smart city vision. Trust in citizen-inspired innovation was embedded in Zaragoza’s culture, waiting to be nurtured and developed. >> Read full article


Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge: Linking Architecture and Smart City

Original photo at roomdiseno.com

It was made public today that Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge in Zaragoza will host a center for showcasing progress in electric mobility. According to the local media, the project is a joint agreement between Aragon’s main savings bank, Ibercaja, the administration and the motor industry, and will reinforce Zaragoza’s strategic position in the mobility arena.

Mobility is an essential side of any smart city strategy, as it is a smart citizenship. But, traditionally, the motor industry around Zaragoza, which accounts for 6% of the region’s GDP and more than 25.000 jobs, has stood with his back turned to the city. The situation will likely change when the Pavilion Bridge opens its doors and the citizens will be able to interact with the latest developments through its exhibition rooms.

But this is not the only divide that the renewed Pavilion Bridge is intended to close. On each bank of the Ebro river, two flagship urban developments still seem unconnected. On the north bank, the Expo site, formerly dedicated to water and sustainable development and now hosting many of the regional administration offices, is mainly fueled by the regional Government. On the south, the Digital Mile, an innovation district planned by the City Hall in 2003 that has stagnated for almost five years following the financial crisis. The crisis has also left its footprints on the Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge. Lifeless for almost 10 years as a consequence of Ibercaja’s struggles to digest the real estate crash, it wil now require more than just a coat of paint to shine again as one of the landmarks of the “new Zaragoza” that emerged with the Expo 2008. Continue reading


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


Descifrando la estrategia urbana de Zaragoza

Aunque en Open Your City hablamos de ciudades, en general, uno de los objetivos “fundacionales” de este blog era ayudar a comprender nuestra ciudad, Zaragoza, sus proyectos y sus retos. En el apartado estratégico, nos hemos dado cuenta de que no hay un único lugar donde aparezcan todas las piezas, todos los planes estratégicos sectoriales que marcan el presente y que marcarán el futuro de nuestra ciudad. Por ello, nos hemos tomado el trabajo de buscar todos ellos y mostrarlos en un único lugar. De esta manera el lector, planificador urbano, político, académico o simplemente ciudadano curioso, puede tener una visión integral acerca de adónde se dirige su ciudad, así como del trabajo que a la ciudad le queda por hacer desde el punto de vista de su estrategia urbana.

Empecemos por arriba. Continue reading