Upgrading STEAM Skills and Increasing Jobs Added-Value through Digital Transformation

Edited on 26/02/2024

Jobs and skills

Project proposal by

  • Institution : Municipality of Aveiro
  • City : Aveiro
  • Country : Portugal
  • Type of region : Less developed
  • Population : 80 880

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Aveiro (Portugal) is considered as a digital cluster and a territory of innovation, but while the city prepared for a new technological revolution with the adoption of a 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure to greatly improve the local innovation ecosystem, it also faced severe hurdles related to a shortage of digital skills.


The challenge was not about how to create more jobs, but how to improve the added value and social and economic wealth produced by the jobs created. The AVEIRO STEAM City project aimed to help companies rethink the resources they needed to innovate, and to establish the means to attract a new range of talent – including artistic, creative and human sciences areas – to the new digital opportunities in a STEAM approach (adding the “A” for Arts and creativity to the domains of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).


At the same time, the project team developed a first-mover strategy towards a radically new technological infrastructure – Aveiro Tech City Living Lab. This innovative approach, integrating STEAM education with Tech Labs into a new urban concept, had not yet been tested anywhere. Aveiro therefore became a trial city for advanced communications, valorising the full range of talents, RD&I, open data and development of new products and services, for the growth of companies and the creation of new jobs.


What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?


The AVEIRO STEAM City project addressed the city of Aveiro's capacity to attract and retain talent for its economy to grow, by structuring a set of innovative activities and projects through 4 main axes under the name “Aveiro Tech City”: 


  1. Education (Students): Tech Labs at schools for all levels of teaching; UBBU (code literacy platform); Live Science School; STEAM Artistic Residences. 

  1. Training (career reshaping for adults): Tech City Bootcamp; Criatech Artistic Residences; MTF Labs (arts + tech); Labour Observatory. 

  1. Technology, Services and Applications: Aveiro Tech City Living Lab / Testbed; Digital Urban Platform; Innovative Use Cases on mobility, environment and energy. 

  1. Challenges to the community: Innovation Challenges (5G and urban implementations) for startups and R&D centres; Participatory Budget; Aveiro Tech Week. 


A new governance model was developed, allowing Aveiro Tech City Initiative to have more than 14 public and private entities after 3 years of implementation of the project.

What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?

For the Education axis, the teachers and students involved increased their STEAM and digital skills by 82%. This result was based on (all) 42 schools being equipped with Tech Labs; + 500 teachers with training; + 200 exercises and + 2 300 hours in the classroom and + 22 600 students involved.


The Training Axis involved 3 bootcamps, with 59 trainees completing from a total of 450 candidates and achieved 75% integration in the local job market.


On the Technology axis, the Aveiro Tech City Living Lab laid down 16 km of fibre optic network to connect 44 communication points with sensing and data computing. More than 40 companies and R&D centres developed projects in the Living Lab allowing them to achieve a higher Technology Readiness Level of maturity.


As for the Challenges axis, this involved more than 10 stakeholders mentoring 40 startups, SMEs and R&D centres that applied from more than 200 applications from 26 different countries.


What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?


The main participatory approaches implemented in the project were: 


- Innovation Challenges for startups and R&D centres – Bringing experience and real use cases from stakeholders and municipal services (mentors), to able entrepreneurs and the startups community to connect with real world scenarios. 


- Participatory Budget - By co-financing small projects submitted by local citizens, who actively participate in their implementation, to empower citizen engagement and co-creative processes. In the last 3 years, AVEIRO STEAM City launched 2 editions and 17 projects, selected among 40 applications and voted for by 638 citizens. 


- Aveiro Tech Week - A week in October dedicated to technology, art and culture, during which the city hosts a wide range of conferences, exhibitions, live innovation demos, educational laboratories, hackathons and other experiences and performances. This event reinforces the municipality’s capacity to attract researchers, technological and creative industries, with more than 3 500 on-site participants in the Tech sessions and more than 25 000 visitors. 


- On the governance model of Aveiro Tech City, where the 14 members from public and private areas actively cooperate to develop shared activities and funding, to ensure long-term sustainability of the initiative and talent retention in the territory. In 2020 it won an “Innovation in Community Engagement Award" from the University of Harvard.

How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?


The AVEIRO STEAM City project addressed economic, social and environmental aspects in an integrated approach through the 4 axis of the Aveiro Tech City Initiative.  


On the economic front, the project led to a strong governance model that supports long-term partnership between the major players of the local tech ecosystem in several Industry areas: Paper and Forest, Telecom, Manufacturing, Tourism, Construction material, to name a few. It also supported the development and testing of innovative and disruptive projects in real context, minimising the “death valley” of startups. It also involved major education stakeholders, like the University of Aveiro, to address the methodology for sustainable job retention through training. 


On the social front, the project team implemented life-changing opportunities for people with low job prospects by allowing them to enrol in tech skills training for rapid re-entry into the jobs market. Also, by focusing on methodologies of STEAM Education in schools, the project was able to contribute to a more knowledge-based society, able to adapt and easily respond to challenges. In the arts arena, the project created intense interaction dynamics, enabling artists in a local context to evolve their skills by mixing arts and technology. 


Finally, on the environmental front, the project team implemented a comprehensive IoT network of mobility and environmental sensors in the city, and aggregated and shared this data through the Urban Platform.

Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?


Cities will find in Aveiro a living laboratory in STEAM Education open to international cooperation. Aveiro is actively involved in the development of a European Network of STEAM Education and is already conducting knowledge-sharing activities with other European cities. 


The Aveiro Tech City Living Lab has proven to be an innovative infrastructure capable of attracting startups and R&D Centres internationally. Steps are being taken with living lab partners to create a “Technological Free Zone” where national or international startups come to test their products in areas like telecommunications or autonomous mobility. Aveiro Tech City provides a long-term strategic vision by involving different players of society, from public, institutions, academia, industry, scholar community to citizens, to use technology and the city as a living lab in preparation for the digital world. The project team are ready to share their vision, action plan, challenges and opportunities with other European cities.