The city of 66,000 people has a coastal location to the south of Barcelona in Catalonia and is a large fishing port. What isn’t so evident is Vilanova’s heritage of learning and innovation, having long established universities and a tradition of using new technologies in their industries - metals, textiles and chemicals. Part of this is Neàpolis, the city’s business support and innovation hub.
City leaders in Vilanova were forward thinking and took a calculated risk to set up Neàpolis in 2008 as the Innovation Agency of the City Council. The centre was designed to take advantage of the new facilities of the local TV and radio to deliver a new concept space and support for businesses from the digital and creative industries, helping to enable this aspect of the economy. Whilst many of the original ambitions have been a success, including a 95% business occupancy rate, the centre had a difficult to start - operating during the 2008/9 economic crisis and its knowledge-based services were relatively complex to deliver. It meant that the impact and value for money of Neàpolis were questioned by citizens and politicians, and the delivery team have had to reflect, re-addressing their strategy and priorities.
Outcome: Entrepreneurial Support, Open Innovation and Social Technology
The Neàpolis team started by setting out their vision, mission and main objectives – which focus on:
To improve the sense of community and services linked to the co-working space and offices, they are providing a platform to share knowledge, and making use of a local app to showcase tenant businesses.
The main action has been to deliver the URBACT Local Group (ULG), known as the Local Innovation Forum, which creates a forum to tackle city challenges and initiate projects on an ongoing basis, even after URBACT funding ends. This has resulted in developing e-health and gamification hackathons and related entrepreneur programmes. Currently this group is working on the local innovation manifesto which will be presented in June during mWeek, linked to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Through the alliances formed, the team is also working with an international research organisation based in the building and Neàpolis will play a role in the 5G deployment in Catalonia, enabling local Internet of Things (IoT) projects.