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  • Development and implementation of a strategy in the field of urban logistics

    Bucharest-Ilfov region is one of the most crowded areas in the country and exposed to air pollution, noise and heavy traffic which has a negative impact on congestion, safety, environment and quality of life in general. A large part of these comes from the transport sector, both through the traffic itself and through the related infrastructures (for example, parking lots that reduce green spaces, or car services that are sources of air pollution).

    TPBI is the transport authority for the entire Bucharest-Ilfov area and needs to test solutions in order to optimize the PT services for all categories of citizens. In the near future, TPBI will also contract the metropolitan railway services and also will administrate all ticketing systems and commercial networks for surface PT and metropolitan railway services. Also, TPBI manages the implementation of measures and investment projects foreseen in the Bucharest - Ilfov Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan 2016-2030.

    Urban transport is responsible for 23% of CO2 emissions, of which a quarter come from urban freight transport. The vision for Urban Freight Transport was presented by the European Commission: Roadmap to a Single European Sky transport system - towards a competitive and efficient transport system. It highlighted the adoption of combined measures on urban logistics so that the impact of this type of transport is reduced. Measures such as making good use of urban land-use planning and the widespread use of urban delivery and service plans, implementation of ITS systems for logistics services and the use of clean vehicles all contribute to reducing the impact and costs of logistics services. "A Call to Action on Urban Logistics", a working document of the European Commission published in 2013, is centered around the objective of achieving by 2030 GHG emission-free freight transport in major urban areas. This reference document propose that a focused attention should be paid to the following four dimensions:

    • Managing freight transport demand in urban areas;
    • Transition to other transport modes;
    • Improving efficiency;
    • Improving vehicles and fuels. (In the following years to come, it would be ideal that the freight vehicles will have the pollution standard EURO 6.


    The general objective is to develop a strategic concept and detailed action plan to optimize logistic services within the Municipality of Bucharest and the Ilfov County, based on reliable and comprehensive data, in order to reduce the emissions and traffic congestion, increase the efficiency of this kind of transport.

    Cristina Nejloveanu
    Bucharest - Ilfov Intercommunity Development Association for Public Transport (TPBI)
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    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).

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  • Public utility park


    Sustainable growth and social cohesion through the creation of a multifunctional public park

    Cristina Preda
    Head of Department Cooperation and Territorial Cohesion
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    The creation of a public utility park in the Ion Creanga neighbourhood of Bucharest (RO) was one of the objectives of the 2nd District Integrated Urban Development Plan, financed under the 2007-13 Regional Operational Programme. In line with goals for sustainable growth, the park was designed to integrate the social needs of the community with environmental protection, increase accessibility and mobility, and reduce disparities between the Ion Creanga area and more developed parts of Bucharest.
    The project was inaugurated in 2012. The large green space now helps the local community by increasing quality of life, encouraging residents to take part in outdoor activities, and giving a chance for better connections between the Roma community and other residents. As for the area's public image, the park significantly improved the urban infrastructure and quality of the environment, including efficient energy use.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Sustainable development is the organising principle for meeting human development goals at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The problems the Ion Creanga area was facing before creating the green infrastructure, public utility park were: high percentage of petty crime, lack of facilities for people with disabilities, insufficient green space that contributed to the migration of young population to more developed areas, lack of recreational areas, air pollution, lack of awareness of environmental protection, a large amount of waste. The construction of the park in the Ion Creanga area offers a set of solutions to be implemented by EU member states: • Making inner-city neighbourhoods more liveable, recreational opportunities for low-income children and families, • Parks and recreational facilities have been strongly linked to reduced juvenile delinquency, • Increasing residents' sense of community ownership and stewardship, providing a focus for neighbourhood activities, expose inner-city youth to nature, connect people from diverse cultures, • Parks and open spaces make compact living attractive and feasible, every tree helps fight global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases, parks and green infrastructure offset the warming effects on cities, making them cooler. • The park's value is calculated through cleaner air and water that improve public health.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The good practice presented was built on a sustainable and integrated approach as part of the 2nd District Integrated Urban Development Plan, which was considered the right solution for the area after various consultations between citizens in the area and local government representatives. The public utility park in the Ion Creanga area can be a significant part of urban sustainable development, from the integrative approaches such as: • Educational value - a public utility park is a valuable resource offering numerous educational programmes that bring together community members of diverse ages, ethnic backgrounds, and economic status to learn from one another. • Economic value - a public utility park supports public health, the economy, the environment, education, and community cohesion; high-quality public utility parks also spur economic development by attracting homebuyers and boosting residential property values by as much as 15 percent, meaning greater wealth for residents and increased revenues for cities. • Public Health value - urban public utility parks support public health by cleaning the air that the residents breathe, outdoor activities in open spaces lower stress, improve physical and emotional health, reduce hyperactivity, and build stronger immune systems. • Community value - residents’ sense of community ownership and stewardship is increased. • Environmental value - natural landscapes are vital, sustainable and rational management of waste, increasing energy efficiency.

    Based on a participatory approach

    To provide an efficient solution for the problems of the area in an integrated manner, the 2nd District Integrated Urban Development Plan was developed and financed under the Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013. The vision was to work with local people to guide a major change in the way the land is managed and to give the local communities a better future. A series of measures were being undertaken within this framework in close collaboration with local stakeholders, authorities all working together. To better define and address the solution to the local community the 2nd District City Hall organised a series of debates and public consultations, advertised the project on its website and took all the active measures to integrate the community’s demands in the project.

    What difference has it made?

    The park's creation had positive impacts in terms of environment, health and community: * It made the Ion Creanga neighbourhood more liveable; it offered recreational opportunities for at-risk youth, low-income children, and low-income families; • It increased residents’ sense of community ownership and stewardship, provided a focus for neighbourhood activities, expose inner-city youth to nature, connect people from diverse cultures, improved the interaction and communication with the Roma residents in the • Provided a high quality environment for the community; • Provided sustainable and rational management of waste by installing compartmentalised bins to educate the population to collect garbage differently; • Increased energy efficiency through the automated installation of lighting and irrigation systems; • Increased outdoor activities in open spaces, connection through sports and games between Roma children and Romanian children; • Attracted homebuyers and boosted residential property values in the area by as much as 15 percent.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Sustainable development is the organising principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depends. The desirable end result is a state of society where living conditions and resource use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural systems. The good practice presented is relevant in the context of social, economic and environment challenges that Europe faces nowadays by encouraging a smarter, more integrated approach to development which ensures that Europe’s limited space is utilised in as efficient and coherent a way as possible and it can be transferred to smaller or larger areas, both at district level or broader territorial contexts. Therefore, the good practice could be implemented in other areas that face problems Ion Creanga area faces and where it is vital to create green area for increasing the quality of life of the community and for changing and improving the neighbourhood. In the context of a European Union that promotes sustainable growth and especially the protection of the environment, it is imperative to build more green areas in the cities that lead to pollution reduction, social improvement and especially better living conditions for the citizens.

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  • The urban dimension of smart specialisation: building a two-way bridge

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    Smart specialisation and its related methodology known as Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) have been assessed as “the most comprehensive industrial policy experience being implemented in contemporary Europe”. In this context, what is the role to be played by cities? Right now, at the time of implementation, a number of major cities feel they have much to contribute in moving RIS3 visions and roadmaps forward. So, what are the pathways and frameworks to enhance better alignment between regions and cities with regard to existing RIS3 strategies? What is the urban dimension of smart specialisation? This article brings some insights to these questions.

    Culture & Heritage

    Smart specialisation adds two key values to previous Regional Innovation Strategies in the EU, namely:

    1. the value of prioritizing (of making smart choices) and
    2. how such prioritization should be done and kept current through a collaborative process that involves as many stakeholders from the triple/quadruple helix as possible, in particular research centres, leading firms and entrepreneurs in a process that is now called “entrepreneurial discovery”.

    Since RIS3 was fixed as an ex-ante conditionality for EU regions and member states to get ERDF funding for their Operational Programmes on innovation, smart specialization has entered the mainstream vocabulary in business-led economic development.

    InFocus-Smart Specialisation at City Level is a pioneering URBACT network that brings a city perspective to this new policy concept, pursuing a double aim.
    Firstly, re-invigorating the urban agenda on economic development by means of smart specialization as an overarching approach. That is, testing how this concept can foster and refine the work cities and their stakeholders are doing (or can do) in four key areas: cluster development, entrepreneurship, workspace provision and investment attraction.
    Secondly, making a bridge with the existing RIS3 strategies at regional level, which is basically a matter of multi-level governance.

    Why both cities and RIS3 leading authorities need to be involved

    Tackling the question of effective city-to-region articulation with regard to smart specialisation presents a precious opportunity to raise the status of some innovative cities in the field of industrial and innovation policies, especially given the main role major cities play in today´s global competition. But are cities ready to take full advantage of smart specialisation and RIS3?

    The fact is that for many cities it seems like RIS3 has little to do with them. This misunderstanding arises from the RIS3 elaboration process, when cities were mostly approached within a conventional public consultation logic, rather than in the spirit of real co-production. As a result, the idea of smart specialisation is still barely assimilated at local level, and there is much to do to raise awareness on the meaning and potential impact of smart specialisation.

    Another powerful reason to draw the attention on the city-to-region articulation with regard to smart specialisation is that RIS3 implementation has just begun. It is a significant challenge, bigger than RIS3 design, where all efforts, at different scales, should be activated. In this respect local and metropolitan authorities could help to embed RIS3 strategies properly. As a territorial innovation policy at regional/national level, RIS3 should have a more consistent and explicit territorial strategy. The InFocus network is working to fill that gap, in close collaboration with the S3 Platform, which is the unit created by the European Commission to assist regions and member states on smart specialisation.

    Furthermore, some innovative cities and metropolitan areas in Europe are currently promoting ambitious transforming agendas, e.g. Next Economy roadmap in Rotterdam inspired by Jeremy Rifkin´s ideas, and Bilbao Next Lab which is presented as an “action-research approach for the economic transformation of Bilbao”. Thus, RIS3 strategies (which are themselves presented as policy frameworks for economic transformation) and these visionary city roadmaps might become mutually reinforcing if well connected and aligned.

    Building the bridge

    So, what can you do to properly align your work agenda as a city to your regional smart specialisation strategy? How can you make the most of the powerful concept of smart specialization to refine your own urban agenda in economic development? We, in InFocus, have gathered a number of experiences as follows, inside and outside the network, mostly, still at an exploratory stage which can provide a path to tackle these questions.

    Integrated urban development initiatives (art. 7 ERDF).

    In the context of integrated and sustainable urban development strategies (article 7 of ERDF), the DG for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission is encouraging cities to bridge with their existing RIS3 strategies at regional/national level. For instance, the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) now underway in the urban agglomeration of Ostrava (CZ) is organized in three strategic goals (the “3E” Employment, Entrepreneurship and Environment) and eleven specific objectives. One these objectives, as part of the strategic goal on Entrepreneurship is specifically dedicated to “implement activities to support smart specialization strategies for Moravian-Silesian Region”.

    New metropolitan agendas as windows of opportunity.

    Territorial reform in some member states, like France and Italy, has led to urban policies in major cities being re-scaled up to the metropolitan level. In urban agglomerations like Bordeaux, Grenoble and Turin (all of them InFocus partners) new policy-mixes for new ambitions are in progress, and the smart specialisation approach will certainly play a significant role. The former province of Turin, now turned into new metropolitan authority (Cittá Metropolitana di Torino, including 315 municipalities and a population of 2.3 million - 890,000 in the Municipality of Torino) is facing the challenge of both horizontal and vertical multi-level governance. At this juncture, the idea of smart specialization has great potential to work as a driver to promote more articulation and cohesion. That is, smart specialization as a tool to create more alignment and focus among all the initiatives within the metropolitan area on cluster development, entrepreneurship, attraction of investment, etc.

    RIS3 authorities taking the lead to engage with funding.

    Catalonia is organising sub-regional initiatives called Territorial Specialisation and Competitiveness Projects (PECTs) to articulate to regional RIS3 (RIS3CAT). PECTs are innovation-oriented integrated initiatives that are developed by a partnership of minimum four entities led by a public administration at local, county or province level. On a yearly basis, the regional government launches competitive calls for funding PECTs, which are actually addressed as RIS3 delivery tools. The budget for the 2016 call was 50 million Euros to cover 50% of the approved projects, of which 20M went to Barcelona metropolitan area and 30M to the rest. In this context, Barcelona has drafted the strategy RIS3BCN Growth, which is explicitly presented as an alignment to RIS3CAT. 

    Matching priority domains from regional and local levels.

    This might be a first step a city takes to align itself to RIS3 at region/country level. For example, Sevilla (ES) started a bridging process of this kind in 2016 with a comparative analysis between the RIS3 priorities set at the regional level and the city´s own industrial specialisations, dynamics and assets. This analysis led to a strategic vision, the identification of sectoral priorities and policy recommendations in order to give more focus to a number of existing working areas at city level, such as entrepreneurship, workspace provision and city branding. The idea is not so much to confront vertical priorities set at both regional and local levels, but to align the existing cluster dynamics at city level and cluster initiatives, if any, to the priority domains already agreed at regional/national RIS3 level.

    Re-thinking the policy-mix at city/metro level in a way that actively contributes to RIS3 roadmaps.

    RIS3 type strategies consist of the definition of a specialisation pattern, together with a set of aligned horizontal policies, such as research and innovation, entrepreneurship, cluster development, internationalisation, etc. Smart specialisation can be seen as an organisational driver aimed to promote growth within a place-based, comprehensive long-term strategy to sustain competitive advantages and help to build new ones, as well as to accelerate the necessary structural changes.

    Therefore, changing or just influencing the strategic agenda from existing operators is one of the main paths to move RIS3 from strategy into action. When that existing operator is a local agency of a major city with an extensive background in economic development, such a delivery channel may work as a strategic lever for success. Furthermore, in some cases, that kind of public or private-public body in charge of economic development at city level is already working actively in areas like workspace provision or inward investment and talent attraction. These work areas cannot easily be found in most of RIS3 designs at national/regional level, so the result is a refinement of the RIS3 conventional policy-mix. This is why the challenge of connecting RIS3 to the city should be addressed as a two-way bridge.

    In any case, cities can take advantage of the smart specialisation concept to strengthen their own policy-mix on business-led economic development. In the frame of the InFocus network, the City of Ostrava is drafting an Integrated Action Plan oriented to talent attraction and retention. To do so, they are using the range of priority knowledge/productive domains set at RIS3-Silesian Moravia as structural guidance. On the other side, as a genuine contribution from the urban scale, Ostrava´s brand new policy on talent management will enrich the policy-mix supporting the RIS3 at regional level.

    The way forward

    To summarise, there is still potential to exploit regarding the contribution of cities (local authorities and their relevant subsidiaries) to RIS3 implementation. The best way to do so is not to replicate the RIS3 method automatically top-down to the local level, as this would probably lead to more fragmentation, but rather to bridge with the existing RIS3 strategies, in a kind of two-way bridge, where some innovative cities may enrich strategies as well. As well as providing a bridge with RIS3 at regional level within a vertical multi-governance approach, smart specialisation as a concept is so powerful that it can be used by cities as a crosscutting approach to boost their own work agendas on economic development. 

    Bilbao, the InFocus lead partner, is a good example of how to operationalise the involvement of cities as smart specialisation practitioners. In 2014, Bilbao Ekintza, the local development agency, made a step forward and organized a cluster prioritization exercise at city level, with an eye on the Basque Country RIS3. It was named “Innovation and intelligent specialisation strategy for Bilbao”. As a main result 6 domains were identified at the time and prioritized in a dynamic way according to their level of consolidation as real business frameworks: Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS), Tourism, Urban Solutions, Arts & Culture, Ecotechnology and Technologies applied to Health. In parallel, the city´s economic development policy-mix was revised, emphasizing a number of working areas such as business cooperation and clustering, entrepreneurship and attraction of investment and knowledge.

    At present, within the URBACT-InFocus framework, Bilbao is going further in two mutually reinforcing directions: i) promoting more fluid and in-depth interaction with Basque RIS3; ii) and focusing on three domains out of the six above mentioned: advanced tertiary (KIBS), creative economy and digital economy, also exploring the connections among them, i.e. turning Bilbao-based KIBS sector into an engine for digital transformation, in particular regarding advanced manufacturing which is Basque RIS3´s most significant priority. In practical terms, the aim is to promote and facilitate a pipeline of projects in those domains and in close alignment with the RIS3. 

    To achieve this objective, Bilbao Ekintza has set up a new collaborative platform by bringing together the following necessary contributors: multi-level governance (Basque Country RIS3 management team and Diputación Foral de Bizkaia as a body with funding capacity), research centres and think tanks (Tecnalia-Technology Corporation and Orkestra-Basque Institute of Competitiveness), private sector and cluster organisations (Chamber of Commerce, IT cluster GAIA,  EIKEN audiovisual and AVIC engineering and consultancy) and public and private Universities (UPV/EHU, University of Deusto and Mondragón University).

    This collaborative platform is none other than the URBACT Local Group (ULG) the City of Bilbao has established in the frame of InFocus. The ULG is proving to be an effective tool to engage RIS3 regional authorities in a fruitful dialogue with the city. Other InFocus partner cities like Porto, Bucharest or Frankfurt are following in this path and more results of the approach will be shared in the Integrated Action Plans to be launched in 2018.


    Image 3: InFocus thematic workshop, Ostrava, September 2016

    Image 4: Smart specialisation as a driver to refine the urban agenda on business-led economic development

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