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On the project's side - Interview of the AS-FABRIK project

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The UIA Secretariat organised a series of interviews with the projects selected under the topic "jobs & skills in the local economy". What is the most innovative elements of their project to promote jobs and skills? What are the main changes they are expecting? What are the main challenges they are confronted with? Hear the feedbacks from AS-FABRIK project in Bilbao.

1) Why did your City decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?

Bilbao is a City that has undergone a very successful transformation in the recent past, where a decadent industrial City has become a services City, with very high standards of living and a very liveable environment; but despite our success, we are fully aware that we cannot simply live on enjoying our current success: the only way to succeed is to keep transforming in order to keep up the pace with the huge changes that are occurring in the world.

The Basque Country considers the Advanced Manufacturing Industry a core of our economy and is one of our 3 Smart Specialization Sectors, included in their RIS 3. In this sense, Bilbao does not want to forget its industrial past, and from a modern urban perspective, we want to contribute to the development of this sector.

Additionally, Zorrotzaurre (where the AS-FABRIK projects is developed) is a large brownfield near the City centre that we want to recover for the City. Zorrotzaurre was the heart of the old industrial City, and is still populated by industrial warehouses and old port utilities. Without losing its original flavour, we want to transform this area into the heart of the new university district, the epicentre of the entrepreneurial activities in the City, and the powerhouse of our economic Activity.

Our past success has come from being able to partner and collaborate with other leading organizations; our new transformation may only come from a similar collaborative perspective. The broad partnership we have assembled for the UIA – Bilbao AS-Fabrik project, as well as the support of the Permanent Secretariat, the European Commission as a whole and the ERDF funding will definitely help us speeding up this transformation, opening channels to know other initiatives from which we can learn, and help us communicate more effectively a project that from its birth has an international ambition.

2) What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project?

This project is not a training centre, nor a centre where suppliers and customers meet, nor an incubator. Under the concept of Venture Builder, we are designing a project that looks into the Industry 4.0 sector, that after identifying the technological and business-model trends, and after mapping supply and demand side, builds a roadmap that identifies gaps and agents able to fill them.

These gaps may be filled by 3 different ways:

  • If there is a lack of knowledge through training activities
  • If there is a lack of transparency in the market, bringing together suppliers and customers
  • If there is a lack of offer through new entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial activities

 

3) What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?

After the transformation of the City, the industrial companies migrated from the City to the rural areas of the Basque Country. This was a necessity to create a more environmental-friendly and liveable City, and thus Bilbao evolved from an industrial City to a services City. This project aims to return a protagonist role in the industrial world of the Basque Country to the City of Bilbao, through the creation of new value-added activities arounds the KIBS sector.

Additionally the project also seeks the transformation of the Zorrotzaurre District, acting as one of several ignition points that will lighten up the new growth space of the City; a space that is critical to build the first step of a new model of City, that will then infect the rest of the City districts.

 

4) After a year of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you expect to be confronted to?

After one year the project is attracting a significant level of attention, not only from local agents but also from cities around Europe.

Regarding the activities, and in terms of communication, monthly newsletters and project news have been disseminated through the social nets of the project and the Bilbao Website. The press kit and initial Corporate video were created and widely used in different project events. With regards to the Advanced Services Observatory, a screening of Industry 4.0 tech and new business models trends have been collected. Also, quantitative analyses have been performed with regards to the KIBS supply and industrial demand side in Bilbao. IA European policies benchmarking report for 2017 was developed. The outputs generated under have contributed to the Roadmapping of the Technology-Push, Market-Pull and Value Opportunities exercises. With regards to the Specialised Education planned within the project, the design of the Industry 4.0 tech-based expert courses has started, as well as the Servitization expert course that initiated in September 2017. In addition, a Servitization doctoral candidate has been recruited.

With regards to Partnership Brokering, the Partnering Methodology and Brokering Guidebook has been was developed. In terms of the Startup Boosting which is another key element, the First-Cut Value Propositions methodology and tools is being developed. The analysis and selection of tools has been commenced for the LO-FI MVP toolkit to allow the prototyping of audiovisual mock-ups to test with lead users the qualitative and quantitative business hypotheses of the venture projects. Finally, the City Council will become the Beta II building owner by the end of 2017. The functional design of the building would also be finished by that date. And regarding the transformation of Zorrotzaurre area of the City, many companies and institutions have approached the City Council asking about what is happening in Zorrotzaurre. In this sense UIA – Bilbao AS-Fabrik has played a critical role in attracting attention to this new area of opportunity in Bilbao.