Highlights of our economic development forum: ‘people, firms, places’

  • economy

On 26-28 March, our economic development forum (EDF) met in Braga Portugal to discuss the role of cities in the knowledge economy. 100 participants from over 45 cities, including 11 elected city politicians, shared expertise during these three days on smart and inclusive growth, investments and translating Sustainable Development Goals into local actions; focusing on SDG 8 ‘decent work and economic growth’ and SDG 9 ‘industry, innovation and infrastructure’.

Ricardo Rio, the Mayor of Braga, and Tanja Wehsely, EDF chair and councillor of the city of Vienna, opened the conference on 27 March. Mayor Rio explained that the city of Braga works with the university of Minho and private companies like Bosch and Aptiv on research and innovation, developing new technologies for automotive systems. Tanja Wehsely highlighted that the voice of cities matters in debate on the future EU policies and funding programme for research and innovation.
Commissioner Moedas delivered a video message to our members underlining the central role of cities in catalysing research and innovation and creating conditions for living labs. He reminded the role of Horizon 2020 programme in supporting investment for sustainable development in cities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjWtGmYGxuU&feature=youtu.be&a
Marissa Plouin, coordinator of OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth initiative, gave an inspiring keynote speech on smart and inclusive cities of the future. She said: ‘People, firms and places matter to address global challenges like digitalisation, demographic change and climate change’. All these global trends give cities opportunities but bring also risks: ‘low-carbon transition will place new demands on firms and workers: they will be winners and losers’. Local public policies can mitigate these risks.
Our members debated during a world café session on future EU policies and funding for innovation, and speed-networking session on innovation, long-term investments, and SDGs.
Our forum included study visits of: the institute of science and innovation for sustainability IB-S, where researchers and private companies work together to increase knowledge and economic value; and the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory INL, where scientists and engineers from all over the world work in a highly interdisciplinary environment and strive to make INL a world-wide hub for the deployment of nanotechnology addressing society’s grand challenges.
The key messages highlighted during the three days of debate were:
- To foster smart and inclusive growth, cities need to promote a ‘race to the top’: cooperation rather than competition between cities. For instance, Nantes and Hamburg exchange companies and organise international economic missions together.
- Cities public policies counter-balance the negative impact of automation and digitalisation, and use technological opportunities for improving public services, for instance thanks to data collected by censors.
- Local authorities also support knowledge diffusion: investing in skills and entrepreneurship, facilitating knowledge transfer by working with companies, research centres, universities and technical schools.
- Cities invest in tradeable sectors (infrastructures, manufacturing, etc.) and non-tradeable services (social housing, education, etc.) to support smart and inclusive growth and a good quality of life for all citizens.
Imagine the Urban Future

Economic development forum members exchanged on the future challenges for cities and how to address them within EUROCITIES.

Brian Field, professor and urban planning adviser at University College London, set the scene with a keynote on ‘sketching the future urban scenario’: developing city visions and integrated planning to implement them.

Members discussed key areas of work for cities: supporting industry and innovation, including circular economy and new business models; governance and regulations; long-term investments; managing digitalisation and technology development; employment, skills and inclusive growth. They analysed how to tackle these within our network for effective outcomes.

Working groups meetings
WG innovation members discussed the involvement of citizens and stakeholders in growing local innovation ecosystems. 
WG city branding shared experience on how to use branding strategies to promote SDGs at local level.
WG Entrepreneurship and SMEs members discussed challenges and solutions for cities to support social entrepreneurship and social innovation.
The next meeting of our economic development forum will focus on cities’ international economic cooperation and will take place on 17-19 October 2018 in Grenoble.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Aleksandra OlejnikPolicy advisor