Innovative City 2017 NiceHow middle-sized cities become innovative milieus? Innovation exists outside the metropolis

INTA session at the occasion of Innovative City Forum in Nice on the 6 July 2017 from 14h to 16h, in K9.

English speaking session 

Innovation: a liquid definition

Territorial innovation corresponds to innovation by all the players in the territory, at the service of local development. Territorial innovation is broader than technical innovation. It aims at the sustainable and inclusive development of the territory and its populations, seeking answers to the challenges of economic growth and social cohesion as well as the stakes linked to transitions (demographic, ecological and energy and digital transition). Territorial innovation corresponds to all new answers, technological or not, to needs expressed in a given territory.

How do local authorities, in particular medium-sized cities, position themselves as facilitators and stimulators for innovation? What conditions enable the local public and private players of the territory to innovate? How can we create and sustain innovative and open ecosystems, bringing together the diversity of the players so that they can meet, understand and cooperate? How can we foster "working together" and co-construction, a climate of trust, open and cross-cutting R&D systems, hybridization of models and resources?

Obstacles to overcome

The territories are full of interesting initiatives but their knowledge remains fragmented and globally insufficient. At the territorial level, innovation is carried by a multitude of actors operating in different and relatively compartmentalized spheres. This inhibits capitalization and promotes the reproduction of micro-models rather than a dynamics of change of scale benefiting the territory on which they develop but also to all the territories over which they could potentially impact.

Therefore, the priority is not so much the deployment of new technological solutions, it is in setting new governance mechanisms at the scale of mid-sized city, with a strong attention to the conditions for a creative and supportive local ecosystem of innovation and to accompany the shift of the local economic sector towards the adoption of 4.0 technologies. The final outcome is to unlock the potential of social innovation and grassroots initiatives in jobs and value creation.

Middle-sized cities: conflict or complementarity with larger cities

Europe is a territory of predominantly medium- sized and small cities that intend to exist vis-à-vis the big cities and metropolises accused of "aspiring" talents and resources and to hinder the innovation potential of the intermediate territories. In England the Government recognised that that the current singular focus on large core cities is too narrow to promote genuine economic and technological development, social wellbeing and environmental resilience. In Germany the demand for autonomy has led the German medium-sized towns to claim a specific place in the development by asserting themselves as "regional city: Regiopolis.

The concept of Regiopolis includes the smaller cities whose extensive land print and population is much smaller as compared to the metropolises, but which nevertheless play a significant role in their region that is beyond the normal extent of a regional centre. The challenge is to see "places", i.e. territories, not as strictly delineated spaces by administrative boundaries when today they are characterised by systems of flows.

Governing innovation in middle sized cities

There is a growing need for urban authorities to design and test new, bold and innovative solutions based on the diffuse expertise and knowledge that already exist. Which relations between innovative economic models and innovative local governance?

How can we ensure that medium-sized cities are not lacking of structures to accompany or stimulate innovation, which could be the case for some landlocked territories. Medium sized cities need to position themselves as favourable ecosystem for personal and professional development while respecting new lifestyle choices.  Which instruments can they use? In Rostock, Germany, it is not the poor quality of life or infrastructure but rather the lack of innovative entrepreneurial and educational milieu that drives away talented people.

Speakers :

  • Nikolaos Kontinakis, Senior Project Coordinator, Eurocities
  • Michel Angers, Mayor of Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada
  • Andreas Schubert, Director of Planning, City of Rostock, Germany
  • Wolfgang Schmidt, Director for International Affairs, City of Kiel, Germany
  • Philippe Serizier, Research Institute of the CDC, Paris, France
  • Ionut Mocanu, Managing Director Tehnopol Galati, Romania
  • Marius Humelnicu, Chief Executive Officer, City of Galati,Romania
  • Michel Sudarskis, Secretary General, International Urban Development Association (INTA), Paris, France


// Innovative City Forum Website

Back to previous page

International Urban Development Association

A global membership association of urban policy-makers and practitioners to share knowledge, experience and tools for integrated territorial development.  // READ MORE