Terrassa, representing its Urban System, participated from October 17-19 in Grenoble, France, at the Economic Development Forum (EDF) meeting of the EUROCITIES network. In this meeting, Terrassa took over the vice presidency of the working group (WG) of City Branding and Economic and International Relations, shared with Genoa and Ghent. Barcelona took over the presidency of this WG. More than 100 participants, including 5 elected city politicians, from around 50 cities discussed and shared experiences on the links between internationalisation and economic development in cities, the changing trends of international cooperation and their impacts on local development policies and the strategies developed by cities with/toward other continents.
The main objective of the EDF meeting organized by Grenoble Alpes Métropole was to discuss on how cities are working on international policies and strategies and how they act on internationalisation at local level.
Urban societies are today at the forefront for facing global challenges that have strong impacts on local economies. The internationalisation process is changelling local development strategies wich have to face new stakes (digitalisation, economic competition, migrants, security, climate change) and to look for new opportunities (markets, investments, sicentific partnerships) and solutions.
European and national frameworks give now to cities greater capacites to act at international level (SDGs, European projects,…), especially as a support for local stakeholders but also to develop their own. In this context some of them have adopted explicit international strategies and other not. During the meeting, the participating cities could enjoy speechs and different panel debates about cities internationalisaton and economic attraction. One of the panels was a dialogue between cities sharing their strategies. In the roundtable discussion the participants were from Vienna, Nantes, Barcelona, Helsinki and Terrassa. The director for European and International Affairs,Joan Chicón, explained the recent strategies in Terrassa about internationalisation and competitive identity.
The main speech in the WG meeting was given by the associate professor at the Copenhagen Business School Sebastian Zenker. Zenker explained that city marketing or branding “is often mistaken as place selling, focusing on the promotional aspects of marketing while disregarding the central aim of place marketing and branding”. This aim must be “to maximize the efficient social and economic functioning of the area concerned, in accordance with wathever wider goals have been established”.
The City of Nantes will take over as the Chair after Vienna’s two-year Chair period. At the same time, Helsinki will start as the Vice Chair City and become the Chair of the Forum in 2020.
Tanja Wehsely, EDF chair and councillor of the city of Vienna, Claus Habfast, Vice-President Grenoble Alpes-Metropole, and Martin Zahner, Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM), opened the meeting on 17 October. Tanja Wehsley highlighted the fundamental role that cities have to play now for a better Europe for citizens. The Vice-President Habfast presented the Grenoble Alpes-Metropole and its plan of action for the internationalisation. Martin Zahner stressed the importance for the local development of linking the city’s and university’s strategies.
On 18 October, the two keynote speeches by Rose-Marie Di Donato and Peter Ramsden gave several inputs for the internationalisation strategies at the local level. In particular, Ms. Di Donato underlined the relevance of a long-term strategy and the need to wait for medium term «return on investment». Mr. Ramsed focused his speech on the factors that impact on urban level, stressing necessity of choosing a clear method for rooting transnational learning in local policy.
WG Innovation members discussed on how to manage night time economy and the follow up on the paper Local Innovative Ecosystem. The debates stressed the importance to face the new urban challenges analysing the different ecosystems that act in the cities. The members elected Helsinki as new Chair and Espoo as new Vice Chair.
WG City Branding and International Economic Relations shared experience on how to measure the effectiveness of the city branding strategy – the monitoring and the evaluation process. Furthermore, a critical friend review on the case of Barcelona took place during the working group meeting. The session moderated by Sebastian Zenker (Copenhagen Business School) highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the Barcelona’s strategy. The members elected Barcelona as new Chair and Genoa, Terrassa and Ghent as new co-Vice Chairs.
WG Entrepreneurship and SMEs members discussed how the cities provide with optimal support to international talent and SMEs. The presentations by different actors of the local context (cities, university and urban agency) and the debate underlined the relevance of a holistic approach to support SMEs and entrepreneurship in the internationalisation process. The members elected Braga as new chair and Barcelona as new Vice Chair.
EUROCITIES is the most important city networking and lobby organisation in Europe. The city network encompasses 135 cities with a population of more than 200,000. The network has six thematic forums, where the Economic Development Forum’s sphere of operations includes industrial and innovation policy. The Urban System of Terrassa consists of several cities: Castellbisbal, Matadepera, Rellinars, Rubí, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Sant Llorenç Savall, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Terrassa, Ullastrell, Vacarisses and Viladecavalls, with a total of 400,000 inhabitants.
The next EDF meetings:
– Spring meeting: 27-29 March 2019 in Florence – ecosystem of innovation.
– Autumn meeting: 16-18 October 2019 in Munich.