Valencia mayor: We are ready to become testing ground for innovation in Europe

Mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó [David Rota]

Valencia is one of the dozen finalists in the race to become the 2020 European Capital of Innovation. In an interview with EURACTIV, its mayor, Joan Ribó, defended their mission-oriented proposal to overcome the biggest challenges of our period, bringing on board political parties, the civil society and the scientific community.

Ribó has been the mayor of Valencia since 2015. He is a member of Compromís, a local left-wing party coalition. Ribó replied to a written questionnaire sent by EURACTIV.

Your campaign is based on the power of missions to achieve objectives, as in the case of the moon-landing mission. What lessons do you draw from the Apollo project?

From the Valencia City Council, we draw two very specific lessons. On the one hand, its high capacity to unite and excite an entire territory in something concrete and very easy for people to understand; and on the other, its commitment to the inclusive sum of sectors and technologies, from all sources and fields of knowledge, that could provide solutions for the success of the mission. Our governance framework Missions València 2030 contains these two aspirations. In Valencia, we like to say that innovation is a collective journey and not an individual destination.

Why has Valencia chosen this strategy?

València needed a focus, a concrete reference. Horizon Europe inspired us at the beginning of 2019 to define that concrete reference. In addition, Europe needs courageous cities that want to demonstrate that European mission-oriented research and innovation proposals work and have an impact on people. València has prepared for it during 2019 and offers itself to the EU, with humility and a lot of work behind it, to become a testing ground for innovation, thus anticipating what we are sure other cities will soon do. Our commitment to these cities is to share our learnings and join a collective journey with them as well.

And finally, the potential we have in Valencia as a European city due to our creativity and culture, our quality of life, our universities and talent attraction, our technological institutes, our ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurship and our experience accumulated in the past in matters of innovation. We had the bases and the pillars in place to aspire to a strategy with a greater impact on citizens and society.

The Brief, powered by Yara – A mission-oriented narrative for Europe

Horizon Europe, the EU’s research programme, has been one of the biggest winners of the EU’s long-term budget after 2021. But it’s not all about money (even if we’re talking about  €100 billion here). Science needs a mission, Commissioner Carlos Moedas told reporters on Thursday.

What are the missions you want to achieve?

We like to say that our Missions in Valencia are more important than going to the Moon, or any other planet, and coming back. Our missions are inalienable for today’s society. To reach consensus in these missions, we have followed the recommendations of the European Commission and we focused first on the citizens’ involvement to agree on the relevant areas for Valencia on which to set the innovation missions.

The result is a catalogue of mission proposals with a common denominator: the improvement of people’s lives and that these people perceive that improvement. They are missions of such relevance for our society as 365 days a year of quality air to breathe before 2030, fully oriented to the European mission of climate-neutral cities, that our elderly people can live longer in their environment and actively and without unwanted loneliness, reduce 90% of the plastic and micro-plastic present in our seas, rivers and nature reserves that surround València before 2030, or eliminate energy poverty in València before 2030.

By the end of 2020, politicians will choose 3 missions, with the broadest possible political consensus as we have done to date, and another 3 missions will be chosen by the society during the first half of 2021.

Does it have the support of the entire political class and the scientific community?

The broad political and scientific consensus makes the initiative an emblematic project of the decade for our city.  Our initiative was approved by 94% of political leaders in the city of Valencia. Only a minority Eurosceptic force voted against it. The best way to prove that they are wrong is by making València the European Capital of Innovation with Missions València 2030 and improving people’s lives also through innovation.

One of the keys to the success of the moon-landing project was a very robust and centralised management system. Would the high level of decentralization present in Spain complicate your progress? 

This is one of the great challenges of the governance of Missions València 2030 that we have ahead and we are going to address it by relying on 3 pillars. Firstly, through the promotion of the Office of Innovation and our local centre for social and urban innovation, Las Naves, to coordinate innovation in public services that guide the success of missions as well as relationships with the rest of the members of the ecosystem. Secondly, deploying the strategy of alliances and networks with the rest of the levels of government, both at national and regional levels. And finally, aligning Missions Valencia 2030 within the urban strategies so the cities where the four areas are represented also serve as social assemblies for the main decisions and validations.

How will the project benefit from the €140 billion that Spain expects to receive from the EU recovery fund to overcome the COVID-19 crisis?

Missions València 2030 is part of the set of actions to get out of the crisis as soon as possible. With our missions, we will be able to access these EU recovery funds with a competitive advantage and be able to manage the impact on recovery thanks to them.

We have already asked the Government of Spain that part of these funds serve to update the railway infrastructures of our city, an essential node of the Mediterranean Corridor, to have a more efficient and sustainable transport. On the other hand, we have also requested an investment in social matters that promotes aspects as fundamental as access to housing for young people, or support for those families going through really hard times because of the COVID19 pandemic. As I said before, no one should be left behind.

EU research 'moonshots' focus on climate crisis

The European Commission unveiled five flagship research and innovation “missions” yesterday (4 July), two of which are directly aimed at addressing the climate crisis.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Vlagyiszlav Makszimov]


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