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  • In Focus

    The Intercultural cities programme (ICC) supports cities in reviewing their policies through an intercultural lens and developing comprehensive intercultural strategies to help them manage diversity positively and realise the diversity advantage.

    Amadora launches a Guide on the welcoming of migrants

    Blue Economy Forum

    BluAct Toolkit

    BluAct: The Documentary

    2ndChance on Facebook

    2ndChance on Twitter


    Kick-off meeting in September (Ostrava). Transnational meeting in November (Frankfurt).
    Transnational meetings in September (Torino) and October (Bordeaux).
    Transnational meeting in January (Grenoble). Final event in April (Bilbao).

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


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    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

    City of Loulé
    Praça da República, 8104-001 Loulé
    Phone +351 289 400 600


    City of Igualada
    Plaça de l'Ajuntament, 1, 08700 Igualada, Barcelona


    City of Ghent
    Stad Gent
    Botermarkt 1
    9000 Gent

    City of Genoa
    Via di Francia, 1 - XI floor. 16149 Genova


    City of San Donà di Piave Piazza Indipendenza, 13 – 30027


    City of Naples
    Urban Planning Department 
    Phone +39 081 7958932 - 34 - 17 


    The Barnsley Digital Media  County Way, Barnsley, S70 2JW
    Phone +44 01226 720700 


    Preston City Council
    Town Hall, Preston, PR1 2RL

    City of Piacenza
    piazza Cavalli 2 - 29121 Piacenza - Italia
    tel centralino 
    Phone +39 0523 492 111 

    City of Bilbao
    Plaza Ernesto Erkoreka nº1. 48007 Bilbao. Phone +32 944 204 200 

    By mobilising a significant number of stakeholders, this Action Planning network had the mission to rethink the stakeholders’ agendas on business-led economic development and test how the smart specialisation concept might work as a driver. The network pioneered on how the policy concept of smart specialisation applies to the urban environment, more precisely the Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3).

    Smart specialisation at city level
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  • Cluster development and smart specialisation at city level

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    The cluster approach is acknowledged as the most influential one in modern industrial policy worldwide, and the arrival of smart specialisation has emphasized its influence. But, why? How might local authorities take advantage of this momentum to enhance their role as facilitators of cluster initiatives? What new drivers are now working in the field of cluster development? This article gives us the opportunity to introduce some concepts associated to smart specialisation illustrated by examples from the In Focus network cities.

    Clusters and priority domains

    Carbon neutrality

    The so called domains of smart specialisation are often different from clusters and cluster initiatives.

    Strategies for Smart Specialisation (S3) priority domains are broader than clusters, more challenge-based (e.g. advanced manufacturing, low-carbon economy, health and wellbeing…) while clusters are mostly configured as value chains or a set of product/markets which are linked along specific value chains. They are more oriented to structural change and the cluster´s agenda more centred on business growth.

    "The full potential of clusters and cluster policies will be reached if the smart specialisation strategies integrate cluster policies into a broader transformation agenda for the entire regional economy” (European Commission, 2013).

    IT clusters are called to play a primary role in digital transformation, but it is cluster policy makers and cluster facilitators who should unlock this potential if necessary. That is why Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) is working (or should work) as a booster for cluster policies in Europe.

    For instance, the Moravian-Silesian region (which de facto works as Ostrava city-region) priorities are the following: advanced materials, industrial automation, mechatronic applications, regenerative medicine, genomics, bioinformatics, waste processing technologies, intelligent energy solutions, integrated safety systems and supercomputing methods. There is nothing about the automotive sector, which is one of the most significant industries in the city-region in terms of turnover and employment. However, the Moravian-Silesian automotive cluster will have much to do in moving some of those priority research domains forward. As triple helix type of collaboration platforms, clusters should have more capability to mobilize actors into relevant agendas leading to innovation and growth.

    Clusters are usually acknowledged as key RIS3 actors, since - in addition - they provide a real capacity to embed this new strategy across sectors.

    In the case of the Basque Country, a number of strategic initiatives are being promoted in order to stimulate cross-cluster dynamics for a number of S3 priority domains and challenges such as advanced manufacturing, digital transformation, circular economy or sustainable mobility.

    That´s the case of AS-FABRIK, “Bilbao Alliance for Smart Specialisation in Advanced Services towards the Digital Transformation of the industry”, which has been awarded Urban Innovative Action. Its purpose is to accelerate the digital transformation of the wider urban economy, in particular manufacturing, through a number of experimental initiatives on new higher education programmes, prototyping and incubation of new business models, and dedicated workspaces. This alliance is promoted by the City of Bilbao, and two Bilbao-based cluster organizations are playing a key role in it: the IT cluster GAIA and the audio-visual cluster EIKEN. This is a good example of URBACT acting as a catalyst: AS-Fabrik was born inside the URBACT Local Group established to run the In Focus project in Bilbao.

    From sector prioritization to specialized diversification

    This capacity of clusters as “bridge builders” has to be exploited as much as possible. Priority sectors and technological domains should be seen as a starting point in the context of smart specialisation not an end in themselves. What RIS3 strategies provide is a roadmap to a sort of “specialized diversification”, which is the real key concept, since S3 is just a long term guide for growth, shaped in a way to avoid path dependency.

    Concepts like cross-innovation and intercluster (cluster-cluster cooperation) were already being used before smart specialisation came up. Nevertheless, what smart specialisation brings for the first time is a single structuring guidance to envision as a whole all the key productive components of a spatial economy (call them clusters, domains…).

    In this context, clusters that are organized around a unique competence or key technology, which can be expanded across many different sectors and value chains are highly appreciated.

    The Bordeaux-based cluster on photonics is a paradigmatic case. Branded as Route des Lasers, it comprises of 170 members, of which 120 are companies, that offer advanced solutions on innovative optics, lasers and photonics to a variety of industrial sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, energy, chemistry, electronics and even the food industry.

    City making clusters

    Cluster-based readings of the urban economy often have a sort of revitalizing effect. They are a precious opportunity to unveil new emerging activities or simply highlight those activities with a special link to the city. These are a kind of “city making clusters”.

    For instance, in San Sebastian, the Surfcity Donostia cluster represents a unique linkage between economic activity and the city; and Bilbao Urban Solutions is a cross-sector business network aims to capitalize the brand Bilbao as a world-class reference in urban transformation.

    Some activities have a special impact on central urban spaces, from the creative economy to advanced tertiary. Concerning the latter, according to the European Cluster Observatory, regions and cities with a strong Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS) sector exhibit higher prosperity and it positively affects innovation performance. It is a cluster with a strong “urban character”, and some cities perform better than others.

    That´s the case of the emerging FinTech scene, which is quite vibrant in Frankfurt and fuelled by several cluster-type networks together with local and metropolitan authorities.

    KIBS is one of the six priority clusters in Bilbao, and Bordeaux is making a big bet for its advanced tertiary sector (70,000 jobs, 200 head offices and the 4th services and financial marketplace in France with a specialisation in trading and risk) that includes a new central business district as part of Bordeaux Euratlantique, which is the largest urban regeneration project now in France.

    The progressive digitalization of both urban management and the urban experience is creating continuous business opportunities. New clusters around the smart city concept are emerging in many cities, closely linked to their corresponding smart city projects.

    In Bucharest, IT cluster Different Angle´s mission is to “promote and support research, innovation and education in order to develop and implement solutions meant to transform Bucharest into a smart city”. It brings together 14 members, mostly software solutions.

    Also in Bucharest, Go Electric cluster - recently founded by the Polytechnic University of Bucharest – concentrates on developing and implementing the concept of electric mobility in the capital of Romania.

    Cities as cluster facilitators

    City authorities should become promoters and facilitators of cluster initiatives in a multi-level governance environment.

    Like Sebastian Schäfer, promoter of Frankfurt Tech Quartier and a serial entrepreneur himself, many businesses do emphasize the expected role from local governments as key animators.

    We (the City of Porto) are an actor in a multi-actor process”, said Ana Teresa Lehman, at that time head of Invest Porto and now appointed as State Secretary of Industry in Portugal during a policy maker dialogue organised during one of the In Focus workshop.

    While regions and central governments are mostly focused on financing, expanding and networking, the role of the city/metropolitan level on cluster policy might be more oriented to impulsion and local stakeholder coordination animation, according to Gabriel Voisin-Fradin, who was formerly strongly involved in Grenoble´s cluster policy and now works for the metropolitan authority, Grenoble-Alpes Métropole.

    Grenoble metropolitan authority is full member of some cluster platforms, even member of their steering committees, and co-financer of cluster structures and some cluster-focused infrastructures.

    Provision of cluster-focused work and innovation spaces is much appreciated. For instance, Bordeaux´s metropolitan authority pays a special attention to the “physical dimension” of cluster development, resulting in business facilities and tech parks oriented to the different cluster´s needs, e.g. Bordeaux Aéroparc (aerospace), Bioparc Bordeaux Métropole (health cluster), Ecoparc (cleantech), Cité de la Photonique (lasers & photonics) and the Cité Numérique (the Digital City), the latter still a work in progress.

    The role of Bordeaux Métropole there is first to make land available, in order to meet the specific industry requirements with regard to location and urbanization works; and second to set up the relevant independent body for real estate management and animation of the cluster-based innovation ecosystem, involving the own cluster organizations as much as possible.

    In the last years, Bordeaux has devoted around 1.5 million Euros annually to cluster development, and 4 member staff from the economic development department were dedicated to liaisons between organisations and stakeholders. This way has led to a more autonomous and consolidated role of cluster organisations, while Bordeaux Métropole staff now focuses more on cluster-cluster cooperation and cross-sector innovation in challenge-based domains like smart mobility, digital transformation, big data and IT for health.

    All these examples show that In Focus has provided a useful platform for cities to learn from each other different ways to support smart specialisation, and creating a bridge between different actors and governance levels.

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  • Atlas of metropolitan spaces


    An atlas of interdependency and interconnections, with a view to implementing efficient partnerships across the territory as a whole

    François Cougoule
    Urban Designer, a’urba
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    For the Agence d'urbanisme Bordeaux métropole Aquitaine (AURBA), accepting that society functions as a network is central to understanding the changes at work in urban and metropolitan systems. In 2016, they produced an atlas of the metropolitan spaces of Bordeaux (FR) that not only analyses the evolution of factors like population, employment and mobility, but also shows exchanges with other territories.
    The idea is that this “relational approach” to certain spaces enables the notion of changing reality to be integrated into their development and urban management. In this way territories can be understood according to their interdependency and interconnections, rather than in terms of distribution and localisation alone.
    The atlas builds on the conviction that in a context of diminishing public resources and inward-looking attitudes, improving familiarity with, and understanding of, our neighbours fosters greater openness and new forms of partnership.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Metropolisation is a process. Our analysis does not focus on a finished geographic object, but rather seeks to shed light on dynamic processes and trends. Our angles of interpretation and perimeters are multiple. Pre-existing limits are discarded in favour of explorations of territories fashioned by exchange networks. The Bordeaux metropolitan area is varied in nature - Bordeaux exchanges employees with the Arcachon basin and Libourne, patients with La Rochelle and Toulouse, clients with Bayonne and Langon, second home owners with Royan and Périgueux, spectators with Angoulême and Toulouse, engineers and editors with Paris and Lyon, tourists with Barcelona and London, students with Bucharest and Dakar, researchers with Munich and Los Angeles, and bottles of wine with the whole world. Our aim is to promote ways of developing territorial strategies in full knowledge of the forces at work, the existing stocks, interactions and exchange networks. Whether metropolisation is to be endured or desired, ignored or regulated, it concerns everyone. The issues at stake are thus extremely numerous - demography, migration, employment, the economy, public facilities, services, the environment, tourism, local resources. In addition to exhaustive monographs of stabilised perimeters and detailed indicators, dynamic explorations are also presented, with a view to comparing and contrasting different scales, themes and objects of observation (as well as exchanges and stocks).

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Over and above urban challenges, specifically territorial challenges lie at the heart of this atlas. Understanding the functional reality of a territory, by comparing and contrasting themes and scales is the raison d’être of this work, as a means of shaping a global, structuring vision of how territories function. This approach examines a variety of interrelated themes: the environment (water resources, nature reserves etc.), the economy (links between head offices and branches, patents, exports etc.) or social factors (residential migration, utilities and public facilities, etc.). Horizontal thematic integration is essential if we are to gain a full grasp of the metropolisation phenomenon. This comparative approach is also adopted in terms of spatial scale, as a means of exploring this subject on a comprehensive level. Metropolisation is of course a large-scale phenomenon, taking place on the European or world scale, but it is first and foremost a daily development, clearly observable in cities and neighbourhoods.

    Based on a participatory approach

    A participative approach has not been implemented in the development and production phase. The complexity of the phenomenon under study is such that it demanded the formation of an academic committee comprising researchers in the field of geography and experts in data analysis and cartography. The most significant phase is now commencing, with the delivery of our first results for discussion. These findings were initially addressed to political decision-makers, as they are directly responsible for managing territorial resources. The light shed on existing and upcoming partnerships makes it possible to make budget savings by offering support to ongoing dynamics (be they social or economic). The results are also of interest to people living in the areas studied. People across the region have shown a clear interest in our research and cartography during public presentations of our work.

    What difference has it made?

    As described above, our research aims to shed light on areas of effective partnership between territories, towns and cities. In the current climate, it is becoming increasingly necessary for services, facilities and resources of all natures to be pooled, and towns will be able to build on our findings to begin to work with rather than against each other. This will make way for the creation of new structures on which partnerships may be founded, such as the “Metropolitan Poles” already in action across France, through which territories commit to clearly defined cooperation goals in a range of precise areas (e.g. academia, culture, economic development).

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Metropolisation is a process which affects the whole of Europe, both in urban, peri-urban and rural environments. While major conurbations often see it as a positive element, rural and outlying areas seem to endure rather than control it. Tracing the contours of the process shows that, in reality, all territories have their part to play and that rather than merely modifying the size of our towns, a whole set of measures and policies of an inherently local nature are driving this trend. If metropolisation is inevitable, then it is important that it be understood by all, and that all territories should play their role to the full.

    Is a transfer practice
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