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Vilanova I la Geltru Partner Profile

30 miles from Barcelona

On the coast, south of Barcelona, Vilanova I la Geltru has a close relationship with the sea and a strong industrial heritage. There are 66.077 inhabitants (Census 2017 - (IDESCAT) and the unemployment rate is 13.9%

About The City

  • 99.6% of all companies are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Key local employment sectors include traditional sectors such as fishing, tourism and manufacturing (automotive components and technological components).
  • Services make up 72% of employment and the digital, tech and creative sectors are seen as important emerging sectors.
  • The sea, technology and creativity are identified as economic drivers locally.

About the policy context

The good practice will be transferred within the following policy contexts:

  • At national level Tech Revolution is aligned with the Digital Agenda for Spain and the Employment Policy Plan, which includes a priority to drive entrepreneurship as a strategy for job creation.
  • At Catalan level, the CAT2020, SmartCAT and RIS3CAT strategies establish strategic areas and enabling technologies for Catalonia which are addressed in Tech Revolution – cutting across design and culture industries with technology.
  • At local level the project is linked to Vilanova i la Geltrú’s Municipal Action Plan 2019, Economic Development Strategic Plan 2025, the Local Development Action Plan 2022 and the Internationalisation Plan of Vilanova i la Geltrú 2022. Innovation, creativity and technology are the city’s pathway to the future and the Neàpolis agency is responsible for driving forward this agenda

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Areas of excellence: university, research groups, industry, culture.
  • Inclusion of internationalisation as a strategic element of local policies
  • Optimum location for well-being and development
  • 10 years’ experience of running successful incubator / co working space (Neapolis)

Weaknesses

  • Lack of a shared city story.
  • Organisations not fully equipped for a modern innovation-driven economy
  • Limited number of actors with an innovative strategy, and lack of communication. mechanisms between them and the City Council.

Opportunities and Threats

Threats

  • The county environment does not seem favourable for the economic development of Vilanova.
  • EU funds are highly competitive and it is difficult to capture opportunities.

Opportunities

  • City with a great quality of live and well connected with Barcelona.
  • Collaborative dynamics with other regional cities and governments.
  • Catalan institutional context very open to promote innovative and creative initiatives.
  • Growing role of small and medium sized cities in the world.
  • The new digital paradigm empowers small cities to attract innovative and creative initiatives and professionals.
  • Part of Smart Specialisation project at regional level to boost entrepreneurship in e-health.
  • Increasing involvement in EU projects.

A description of the Good Practice challenge

The city wants to transform its economy from one which historically was reliant on traditional sectors to one with a range of high quality digital and creative start-ups jobs for all citizens. It sees innovation and creativity as central to success. Since 2008 it has run the Neàpolis building, which houses local TV and radio, film sets, an auditorium, a research centre, a ‘hotel’ for companies, an incubator and a co-working space. In this period it has hosted 15 SMEs in the ‘hotel’, 9 Micro SME’s in the incubator and 119 entrepreneurs in the co-working space. The building is now at full capacity and the city needs to consider both follow-on space and a wider community entrepreneurship offer.

Vilanova I la Geltru & TechRevolution

Vilanova I la Geltru want to use TechRevolution to....

  • Improve the delivery, quality and accessibility of its services to local entrepreneurs
  • Explore the development of new spaces and places for digital and creative entrepreneurs including re-use of old buildings to contribute to a strategy which includes pre-co-work and follow-on space so there is something for all entrepreneurs and SMEs at every stage of their journey
  • Explore how to use digital platforms and communities to improve support for entrepreneurs or businesses
  • Engender more of a sense of community amongst creative entrepreneurs and a ‘pay it forward’ culture e.g. by testing different, maybe more informal, community offers or events
  • Contribute to the city’s internationalisation and optimise local opportunities from international networks
  • Develop new better skills and capacities to drive forward, and govern, innovation e.g. develop more of an appetite for risk, more collaboration
  • Further develop Neàpolis’s reputation locally and develop and strengthen local relationships and networks

The URBACT Local Group (ULG)

The ULG will spin out of an Innovation Consortium and will:

  • Share interests, contacts, experience and resources.
  • Develop strategic projects for the city.
  • Be ready for opportunities (regional/state/EU projects).
  • Develop a win/win agreement between local organisations
  • Create the conditions in which a better ecosystem can develop

ULG membership will include: city council (Innovation, Urbanism and Digital Infrastructure teams), Neapolis (the city’s Innovation agency), Municipal Institute of Education and Jobs, Government of the Region of Barcelona. (International Relations and Urbanism Teams), College of Industrial technical engineers of Vilanova i la Geltrú, UPC-EPSEVG (Headquarters of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in the City), Datalong Health Care Internet of People (start-up) and other start-ups.

Assets for, and barriers to, transfer

Neapolis is the city’s public agency for innovation. The sea, technology and creativity are seen to be important economic drivers. Vilanova has significant experience delivering a large incubator and co working space facility spread over 4 floors and 8000m2. It houses organisations and actors from education, enterprise, citizens and government. One key achievement is surviving the economic crisis, despite local pressures to use the building differently during this period. It has developed and delivered several successful projects such as a master in interactive cinema, an international app development company and around 10 new ICT/Creative SMEs.

The city appears to be well connected with the regional government of Barcelona and with many different local and regional activities and networks linked to entrepreneurship and business support including an audiovisual industries cluster and a strong maker movement targeting young people.

However the city is not always able to adopt the risk-taking mindset so vital to innovation. It needs new knowledge, skills, resources and capacities to support innovation and change. In addition:

  • The city is in a period of political change and innovative initiatives can be difficult to integrate into political agendas, although new councillors responsible for innovation and economic development are very supportive.
  • Other statutory services (e.g. civil protection, education) are perceived as more important which means that it can be hard to allocate resources to innovation priorities.
  • Linked to this, a lack of resources, both people and money (in part due to the size of the city), could be a barrier to implement the good practice in all its components. It will be important to have some quick, easy, low cost wins to best position Neapolis for future funding opportunities at local, regional and EU level.
  • Language and a lack of technical knowledge in some areas could be an extra challenge for the personnel responsible for transferring of the good practice.
  • Lack of metrics to fully measure progress and inform future development.

Practical steps to transfer

Vilanova is interested in using the following techniques to transfer the good practice:

  • • Online and offline fora where Tech Revolution network members can openly and honestly share knowledge and experience on the topics outlined above.
  • • Professional development of Neàpolis’ staff through peer learning and / or staff exchanges.
  • • Support to develop a system of indicators and evaluation and a communications plan.
  • • ‘Learning by doing’ and testing and learning quickly from beta actions

The team of six at Neapolis will lead this process and there is clear support from stakeholder organisations. Due to the local political situation it is difficult to assess the level of political support at this point.

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