“Aveiro STEAM city” (ASC) intends to boost the use of new technologies in the public space, together with the aim to make these technologies accessible for a common public, such as students, teachers and citizens in general.
The city of Aveiro is committed to develop a proper technological urban center through the creation of the first Living Lab of the city, that integrates a number of solutions – demonstrated by different use cases in the domains of mobility, energy and environment – able to capture data that all convey into a business intelligent digital urban platform.
Nevertheless, the project doesn’t rely just on technology, but can count on the strong educational offer of the city to produce a new range of talents – including artistic, creative and human sciences areas – with a STEAM approach (adding the “A” for Arts and creativity to the domains of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and ensuring that supply and demand for new digital skills and competences are matched, in order to contribute in terms of added-value produced by employees in the city.
The project, approved under the topic “Jobs & Skills”, started in November 2018 and it’s coming to a conclusion, formally by the end of April 2022. It represents a strong investment of 6.1 million euros, with funding from the European Commission through the UIA initiative of 4.9 million euros.
Aveiro STEAM city represents the backbone of the city’s digital transformation strategy, a big political program called Aveiro Tech City, strongly endorsed by the Mayor, Mr. José Ribau Esteves, and developing at a fast pace.
Project's main actions
The last year of the project will definitely be challenging but also full of promises to keep: certainly 2020 was a complicated year due to the pandemic; for this reason, in the light of the many goals still to take home, an acceleration in project deliverables will be crucial to keep the overall project ‘pace.
The Municipality has very ambitious targets: more than 10 projects to be executed in the Aveiro Tech City Living Lab; the renewal of the success with the 5G and Urban Challenges; an involvement of, at least, 40 new teachers in the Tech Labs, the conclusion of the "on-site" support in the classroom and the extension of the Tech Labs to 2nd and 3rd cycle of education (with 10 more schools involved).
Aveiro University aims at satisfying through the Labour Observatory the expectations from the companies and local entities: the new challenge will be to think about other structured services, adding to the diagnosis capabilities that the Observatory has developed and tested, in order to improve the sustainability of the team, as well as finding a business model that will be necessary in order to cover some operational activity costs.
Altice Labs, during the next year, expects to massively deploy 5G services in the City and provide streamline indicators for city services and quality of life. A big challenge for them will be the collection and processing the city data running at full power.
Similarly, the Instituto de Telecomunicações aims at making the network fully operational, as well as to build services that could rely on the infrastructure and that will be able to attract new partners and foster them to test and adopt the digital and physical infrastructure.
The overall fixed infrastructure (fiber, communication, computing and sensing units) is being finalized and is expected to be ready by early 2021. They also plan to expand on the use cases being deployed, covering mobility, environment and energy, and are open to include different use cases from 3rd parties.
Finally, for CEDES, the main challenges are likely to be related to defining the business model that will ensure the sustainability of the project, since each project partner has its own expectations and visions for the governance and financing model. Another challenge may be to cross-reference the various sources of user feedbacks, so that the project evaluation is as truthful and as participative as possible.
Generally speaking, the partners are motivated to conclude all the deliverables of their competence but, above all, to focus on the legacy of the project. However, as already mentioned, due to the particularity of 2020 and certainly also of the first half of 2021, a postponement request, already transmitted to the UIA secretariat, was definitely a reasonable move from the MUA.
The partnership is keen on the job done until now: the project management relies on a strong leadership played by the MUA, that also ensure a strong commitment in communication activities; the relationship with companies and local entities is a strength of this partnership that invested on this through many activities: the challenges, the awards and competitions, the Labour Observatory workshops and interviews, the procurement schemes.
Also, the 5G network was deployed in a relatively short time and the living lab infrastructure as well, despite the pandemic. Of course, from time-to-time, slight frictions among one or two partners need to be smoothed and this is not always easy considering the different domains and the many projects contained within the ASC project. On the one hand, some partners claim for more autonomy and less control/supervision, on the other hand the MUA strongly ask for concrete results and customizations of services and activities, that sometimes partners have the tendency to standardize.
The data flow captured through the infrastructure needs to be increased in terms of volumes; the citizen engagement activities must be addressed more clearly and the business model seems still far to be depicted and shared among partners.
The partnership is living into a momentum where all energies are focused to reach the goals and keep the promises made through this great EU funded opportunity: overcome the pandemic will
instill new trust, above all towards stakeholders. In some ways, all the project activities linked to the world of school, education and business creation were among those that transmitted most satisfaction to the partners; but the setup of the living lab was the result of an incredible coordination work, that will certainly be recognized as soon as the use of the technologies installed becomes more common and habitual for citizens and for the innovation ecosystem, strongly rooted in the city and around Aveiro.