AVEIRO STEAM CITY Closure Event: a legacy to inherit through a new governance pact

City protocol's signature
City protocol's signature
It’s time to draw the strings of a long journey that has brought important innovations to the city of Aveiro: Aveiro Steam City (ASC) project is coming to a conclusion. The project officially closes in April 2022 and then one year of monitoring will follow.

This is the reason why the Municipality organized an articulated closing event which gave the opportunity to represent all the most significant actions produced by this project. The final event was preceded by a site visit organized for the UIA secretariat.

A MoU was signed at the end of the event between an extended partnership and this means an important positioning with respect to the desire to continue the project activities even beyond the natural deadline of the UIA funded project.
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The Site visit has been organized by the Municipality in order to host Tim Caulfield, UIA Director and Tommaso Galli, ASC UIA Project Officer. The aim was to provide information on the progresses of the project, on the critical issues encountered, on the opportunities generated and on the next steps foreseen.

This “update” was also useful in light of the 6-month postponement for the conclusion of the project, which was originally scheduled for October 2021 and then rescheduled by April 2022.

Obviously, one of the issues addressed was how the pandemic affected the project but also how the partners positively exploited the situation to accelerate some processes, especially those based on the use of digital platforms.

Interesting points touched upon during the discussion were related to the connection with national and regional policies, with respect to education and labor: the efforts in terms of integration and permanent dialogue have been underlined.

The issue of how to continue nourishing the startup community of the Aveiro region, after the success achieved thanks to the "Challenges" initiative, was also addressed. The Challenges made it possible to – literally - "challenge" the startups to use and test the technologies made available by the living lab for their innovative solutions, in exchange for prizes and visibility. This has led many local startups to test their solutions and grow.

Andre Costa, ASC project manager, identified the 3 achievements that from his point of view were the most significant in relation to the impacts of the overall project:

1) The STEAM education strategy implemented for the primary (first and second cycle) and secondary schools (with extra funding provided by the Municipality, in addition to UIA funding) provided education, equipment and training to schools, school teachers and pupils.

2) The Aveiro Living lab: even if not yet in its full scale, the living lab – after just 2 years of deployment - already allows national and international companies and start-ups to test their solutions.

3) Tech city bootcamps: these bootcamps allowed companies to find full stack developers ready to be hired. The program (14 weeks in classroom + 14 weeks of training in the companies) made possible for the 75% of the participants to secure a job in an ICT company in the Aveiro Region.

The site visit also represented an occasion to see and visit Local Schools (equipped with the Tech Labs), the project living lab’s Use cases (mobility, energy and environment’s use cases) and the Aveiro Tech city hub within the Atlas building, one of the most relevant results among the investments.

Finally, several hours were dedicated to a discussion with the project partners, through a multi-voiced vision of the strengths and project’s opportunities that could still be exploited; among those: the effectiveness of the partnership and the willingness to continue to work together in the future.

ASC CLOSURE EVENT

Guests were welcomed in the Teatro Aveirense by an opening speech held by José Ribau Esteves, Mayor Municipality of Aveiro, and by Ana Abrunhosa, Minister for Territorial Cohesion from the Portuguese Government.

After the opening, the most significant activities deployed thanks to ASC were presented by the voices of the partners.

In order:

  1. STEAM Education activities: presented by the Municipality, the University and a local school
  2. Training: developed in the scope of the Labor Observatory, presented by the University of Aveiro, INOVARIA, the Municipality and a Bootcamp Cadet
  3. Tech, Services & Apps: presented by the Institute of Telecommunication, Altice Lab and a representative of the startup called “Ubiwhere”
  4. Challenges and the three smart city case studies: presented by Altice Labs, University of Aveiro, Institute of Telecommunications and the Municipality.

 

With regards to the legacy of the project, 3 aspects resulted particularly crucial:

  1. Aveiro Steam City represents the backbone of Aveiro Tech city - the new municipal administration, established in autumn 2021, after the experience of the Aveiro Tech city program, powered mainly by the Aveiro Steam City project, has decided to implement this initiative also from an organizational point of view, making it a structural stream of work. The administration has created a political program, assigned to a division, specifically dedicated to run Aveiro Tech City and this means that Aveiro Steam City was a project that, starting from an experiment, was able to produce a stable and lasting policy line for the local administration.
  2. The smart city solutions tested in Aveiro might be scaled to the regional level - this legacy aspect refers to the living lab: the value of this test bed area is great to the extent that it could be scaled thanks to a national program launched by the Portuguese National Agency for Innovation. The Agency has launched a varied program that concerns both the financing of new test beds that can take place locally and the creation of sandboxes called "free tech areas". In this context, there is a concrete possibility for the living lab of Aveiro to grow and to represent a good practice to be scaled both at a regional and national level.
  3. The STEAM approach implemented led to an innovative and integrated educational strategy in all levels of education - the national government recently funded an initiative called “the social and education alliance pact of the Region”: in this scope the University of Aveiro has managed to obtain funding for 12 million euros, to launch new education programs (such as master degrees) on stems, leveraging on what has been built thanks to Aveiro Steam City and the activities tested in the area of education on stems.

The conclusions of the closure event were made by Cedes and the Municipality and the closing by Tim Caulfield, Director of UIA program and by João Machado, Councillor for the Municipality of Aveiro.

ASC closure event

One of the most significant moments of the closure event was represented by the presentation and simultaneous signing of an important memorandum of understanding: 15 signatories, well beyond the partners of the ASC project, committed themselves to follow up on the legacy of the project and to relaunch the work set until here with a horizon that reaches the end of 2025.

As reported above, the Municipality of Aveiro has created a new political program specifically dedicated to Aveiro Tech City. The governance model for this stream of activities is designed within this agreement, although a legal entity to be appointed for all aspects of management is still to be created. In addition to the project partners, the signatories are large corporates from the region, ranging from transport, to the environment, to mobility, to Telco’s and an innovation park. Aveiro Municipality is the leader of the MoU and the University of Aveiro is appointed as the main partner.

The purpose of this MoU is to define the operational model of the Aveiro Tech City initiative, which will have as the most strategic objectives:

  • Stimulating the competitiveness and attractiveness of the territory;
  • Promoting the digital skills of its citizens and boosting innovation in education;
  • Ensuring an increase in the quality of life of the citizens.

In operational terms, the specific objective is to define and agree, by October 2022, a strategic action plan for the period 2022-2030, which seek to make the most of the opportunities that EU funds represent for the period above mentioned;

The Municipality of Aveiro, in particular, undertakes to seek funding for the Management and Implementation Structure, to promote the necessary political Lobby to guarantee support for this initiative, at national and European level and to develop the Communication Strategy, ensuring its execution.

CLOSING REMARKS

The initiative was overall successful: the UIA Secretariat got in detail all the potential generated by the project; the closing event represented the various “segments” of ASC and was followed by over 150 participants present at the Teatro Aveirense and 150 in streaming. Undoubtedly, a very important moment was the signing of the MoU, and not just for the "obligations" assumed by the signatory parties, which are in any case a testimony of the will and interest to continue, but especially for other two other reasons.

The first reason to underline concerns the enlargement of the partnership: in addition to the initial nucleus, almost all the corporates that have a strategic role for the entire region signed the protocol. This is a signal that confirms the interest that the project has generated, and therefore its value, especially for those who have not been able to "get on board" from the beginning. Certainly, an objective of the projects financed by UIA is to generate a positive echo in the area and this one in Aveiro is an exemplary case.

The second reason concerns the premises that this new partnership represents: what we expect is that in the upcoming months this MoU will find a "home", a container that gives legal and programmatic force and that inherits the management of an important infrastructure. In fact, as in other UIA projects, an interesting option for the Municipality (but also for the partnership) could be to identify or create a company 100% owned by the Municipality, to which to confer the infrastructure’s management (fiber, devices of the living lab, the urban platform) and that can also enhance it economically.

For example, in the case of OpenAgri in Milan, at the end of the project, the City closed an agreement with one of its municipal companies for the management of the renovated farmhouse, with the prospect of valuing the hybrid space dedicated to research, innovation and development around the circular economy domain.

This could also be a desirable path in the case of Aveiro, especially in terms of public-private collaboration for the development of Aveiro Tech city.

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