Cuenca

Jobs and skills in the local economy

UFIL - Urban Forest Innovation Lab

“Forest has originated resources and wealth for centuries. It is time to re-recognize its importance and design new ways of forest management associated with business innovation and new services and products that favor local economic development” 

Angel F. Mariscal Estrada, Mayor, City Council Cuenca
The project in numbers
53.000
hectares of wooded area
65%
of the municipal extension is within Natura 2000 network
22%
of forest businesses belong to the primary sector (compared to 11% in the region of Castilla La Mancha) and 11% are primary processing industries (5% in CLM region)
97.6%
of unemployment increase since 2006
4%
of population decrease in the last 5 years
17%
of unemployed has a university degree and for those seeking their first job this rate reaches 41%

EUR 3,943,741.92
Total ERDF budget granted
Challenge addressed

Cuenca is the EU city with the vastest forest area (53.000,00 has.) with unique species of autochthonous fauna and flora. However, Cuenca’s forest is underexploited, weakening the economic and businesses creation capacity associated to it. There is a lack of educational programs focusing on forest or bioeconomy in Cuenca, as they are mostly located in other cities of the region with smaller forest extensions. This hampers the ability of the city to retain and attract talented people, worsening the already existing issue of ageing and declining population.  
The challenge for the city of Cuenca is to take advantage of the important economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainable forest exploitation, through the development of an innovative forest business industry. This will allow for a broadening of the local economy beyond public services, heritage and culture tourism, and will ensure a better forest management, fire prevention system and the creation of GHG sink. 

Solution proposed

URBAN FOREST INNOVATION LAB (UFIL) aims at fostering local economic development, through the promotion of innovative means of forest exploitation that include a rural-urban perspective. Those means are:
•    An innovative training model aiming at design-based business creation in the field of forest bioeconomy. This training is divided into 3 main pillars: 21st century skills, forest bioeconomy and business and environmental innovation in forestry. The training is complemented with practical work on challenges presented by sponsors. Multidisciplinary groups of participants from different backgrounds (industrial, agroforest, business administration and IT) will work throughout the training, in order to identify possible solution to the sponsors’ challenges.
•    Incubation and acceleration: During the trainings, participants will incubate and accelerate their business projects with the necessary equipment for testing and prototyping. Cuenca’s forest will be the test ground for solutions incubated, regularly monitored by experienced professionals.
•    Knowledge development: UFIL will conduct a deep research on forest opportunities in Cuenca and main areas for business development and innovation.
•    Consolidation of forest bioeconomy: An action plan for Cuenca’s forestry sector will be developed  in collaboration with different levels of administration (National, Regional, Province).

Partnership
  • City of Cuenca
  • Universidad Castilla La Mancha
  • Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
  • Junta de Castilla La Mancha - regional government
  • CEOE - Business Confederation
  • IED - Design Institute
  • ACMSA - Wood Council
  • International Forest Stewardship Council FSC -Wood Council
  • Khora Urban Thinkers
Expected results

This project seeks to achieve the following results for the development of forest bioeconomy local industry. 
•    Increase forestry companies created in Cuenca. The program aims at creating new companies in forest bioeconomy.
•    Improvement of forest bioeconomy training and capacity building for entrepreneurship. UFIL will provide technical training focused on forest bioeconomy, coaching, and training in 21st century skills. 
•    Attraction and retention of talent and highly qualified workforce for forest bioeconomy development. 
•    Knowledge improvement on forest bioeconomy and its possibilities for innovative entrepreneurship changing public's perception on the forest. 
•    Stimulate urban integration with natural and rural environment. 
•    Enhance collaboration between administrations for forest sustainable economic exploitation.

Main milestones

August 2019: Study on Cuenca’s bioeconomy opportunities completed, defining main areas of opportunity that will determine training, incubation and acceleration.
December 2019: Signing collaboration agreements with sponsors whose business challenges will be solved by UFIL trainees.
January 2020: First recruitment campaign. This campaign will target users with diverse background and experience and will take place in Cuenca, universities and businesses.
April 2020: Start of first UFIL class of 35 people that will combine one week of training and three weeks of incubation and acceleration for 10 months.
September 2021: Presentation of last trainees’ Endeavour Business Projects to sponsors, trainers, coaches, tutors, other trainees and experts.
 

The project in numbers
53.000
hectares of wooded area
65%
of the municipal extension is within Natura 2000 network
22%
of forest businesses belong to the primary sector (compared to 11% in the region of Castilla La Mancha) and 11% are primary processing industries (5% in CLM region)
97.6%
of unemployment increase since 2006
4%
of population decrease in the last 5 years
17%
of unemployed has a university degree and for those seeking their first job this rate reaches 41%

EUR 3,943,741.92
Total ERDF budget granted
Contact of the project
Mariano Aragón
Project Manager – Development Unit

Media

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