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Focus on Techtown project

08 September 2016

TechTown is an URBACT III Action Planning Network of 11 cities which aims to explore how small and medium sized cities can maximise the job creation potential of the digital economy.

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During the period from May 2016 to May 2018 it will examine whether there is potential for spillover from stronger city and regional level digital economies; explore the role of the city in growing a digital economy; examine how clusters can work at city level and look collaboratively at what cities can do to support businesses to access the digital skills and innovations they need in order to start, grow and compete.  The lead partner is Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (UK) and there are another 10 cities involved: Limerick (Ireland), San Sebastian (Spain), Galve (Sweden), Cesis (Latvia), Siracusa (Italy), Basingstoke (UK), Clermont Ferrand (France), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Loop Cities (Denmark), Nyrieghaza (Hungary).

 

The network have completed an assessment of the key challenges faced by each partner city in rising to the challenges that the digital economy brings, and aims to address these challenges by focusing on the following themes in transnational exchange and learning activities and using this learning to co-create Integrated Action Plans at local level:

 

  • Better understanding the digital economy
  • Growing Digital Jobs
  • Governance

 

ROLE AND OBJECTIVE OF LIMERICK IN RELATION TO THIS NETWORK:

 

Limerick City and County Council’s role as a partner to TechTown is to utilise the URBACT framework and tools to create an URBACT Local Group and, through transnational learning and exchange, create an Integrated Action Plan which will focus on the cities key challenges set out hereunder: 

 

Key challenges:

 

Digital inequality is a recognised major barrier to the digital economy. This divide includes imbalances in terms of access to internet infrastructure, information and knowledge, and equality of opportunity depending on income, race, ethnicity, gender or other similar criteria;

  • Many businesses do not fully appreciate the relevance of the internet to them – and its potential to help them become more efficient, or to access new markets. For others it is a problem of not knowing how to go about it, what they need to do, or where they can get help;
  • It is difficult to compete with Dublin, as the Capital City has a number of established national-level technology clusters;
  • Access to the digital economy is conditioned by priority standards, therefore SME’s cannot exploit it; and
  • There is a need for more open digital platforms to enable businesses to operate.

 

Growing Digital Jobs

 

TechTown will look into how cities can grow digital jobs. This will be covered through the following 4 sub-themes:

 

  • Growing new digital jobs through start ups:

What can cities do to support digital start ups?

How can they better position themselves to optimise the conditions for competitiveness?

What sort of business support do digital start ups want and need?

How can cities help start ups to survive and to grow?

 

  • Growing jobs through the digital transformation of traditional industry:

What can cities do to support digital transformation of traditional industry and existing businesses?

What is the role of cluster policy? (How can cities help small family (retail) businesses?)

 

  • Growing digital jobs through the smart city agenda:

How to link the jobs creation potential with delivery of smart city agendas?

What role for local city challenges, hackathons?

What role for public procurement?

 

  • Providing spaces and places for connections:

How important is it to have a physical space for the digital community?

What does this space look like?

What is the accompanying 'offer' in terms of business support, incubator or accelerator support?

What is the unique position of medium sized cities?

 

Smart Cities, Competitive Cities: A Transnational Gathering in Limerick

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On the 13-14 September 2016, Limerick City and County Council will host a transnational meeting of the TechTown Cities and Partners. As well as providing an opportunity for the partner cities to continue to get to know each other and discover more about their respective digital economy strategies and programmes, a core focus of this meeting will be to debate how small and medium sized cities can grow their digital jobs; consider what type of supports businesses really need and want; and discuss ways in which cities can better position themselves to be more competitive in this space.  From Limerick’s perspective, this will include an analysis of the city’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystem.

An exciting programme is currently being finalised by the team in Limerick; and we look forward to reporting on some of the key discussion points in a future edition of the newsletter.

 

For further information on TechTown, please contact Ms. Jillian Robinson, Economic Development and Planning Unit, Limerick City and County Council at jillian.robinson@limerick.ie

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