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Stocktaking Workshop on EU-China Cities Cooperation

The IUC project team held today an online meeting to take stock of ongoing city-to-city cooperation.  The meeting was attended by the FPI and DG REGIO and included an update on the main priorities of the new Chinese cities (joining the programme in November 2019) for their IUC engagement, an assessment of the Local Action Plans (LAPs) by the IUC methodology task force and an evaluation of the pilot projects identified or under implementation between European and Chinese cities. The meeting was introduced by the FPI manager Alexandra Lehmann and moderated by the IUC team leader Pablo Gándara. Ms. Lehmann referred to the current Corona-virus crisis currently affecting a few Chinese cities and to the possible implications for the project implementation.

Dr. Ronald Hall – external advisor to the DG REGIO of the European Commission – welcomed participants to the stocktaking workshop and explained the importance of this year for the EU multiannual framework. Mr. Hall referred to the methodology developed by the IUC for the cooperation with China and provided an update about the EU-China Regional Policy Study, which is scheduled to be finished during the second half of 2020. He explained the main features of regional innovation systems in Europe, with bottom-up and multi-level governance at the centre. He referred to the smart specialisation platform run by the EU’s JRC in Sevilla.

Wang Qian from the IUC team provided an overview of the Chinese pilot cities and of the support provided by the NDRC. Due to the current corona crisis, the team has only been able to visit one of the new Chinese pilot cities, namely Yangzhou. Especially in the cooperation with this city, Ms. Wang emphasised the role of culture and tourism for the city-to-city cooperation with Europe. She referred to the horticultural expo 2021 as well as to the possible cooperation on innovation and education. Ms. Wang also referred to the Guangzhou Huangpu District (GDD) and to the focus on hydrogen energy as well as on advanced manufacturing & vocational education. Also, Nansha district of Guangzhou will be involved as the host of Guangzhou Port as well as of automotive industry and tourism. Ms. Wang also referred to potential cooperation with Liuzhou and few other Chinese cities.

Sandra Marin from the methodology taskforce referred to the Local Action Plan (LAP) elaboration in other IUC regions and highlighted the triple-helix approach implemented by the IUC Asia team for the pilot projects, something different than in most other IUC regions. She recommended cities from China and the EU to focus on a few pilot projects and to restructure the LAPs in order to include more activities.

Jens Bley from the IUC team introduced the tangible results of the pilot projects, both in the bilateral city-to-city cooperation as well as within the thematic clusters. On the bilateral cooperation, he referred to the initiative by Nice and Haikou to establish a joint institute for smart city and silver economy, which includes several stakeholders like IMREDD, Fullsing Town, and Alibaba Incubation Center. On the cluster approach, he focused on Liuzhou’s cooperation with several European pilot cities and to the importance of involving several city departments in the projects’ development. On the business cooperation, the IUC project does not focus on cities’ investments, but on start-up exchanges and support to the local economy.

Gianluca Fabbri from the IUC team focused on a few pilot projects per city and referred to some initiatives by the EU cities. When working with companies, he explained the role of clusters in the EU pilot cities in order to achieve results. One of the clusters’ projects is the launching of a platform for cooperation among business form European and Chinese pilot cities.

Oscar Prat from Nanjing Fair assessed the LAPs and referred to the selection of stakeholders in the Chinese cities, the political support from the cities’ leadership, and the bottom-up work that needs to be done at the district level by the relevant stakeholders. The objectives of the LAPs should be as specific as possible, especially for the Chinese cities. Oscar made a SWOT analysis of the LAPs and the pilot projects, specifying a few recommendations for the successful implementation.

Marco Mazziotti – Head of the EU Affairs at the City of Milano – provided an external view of the IUC project. Mr. Mazziotti referred to Milan’s cooperation within the IUC Latin America project with Sao Paulo as well as to the city’s participation in previous projects like URBELAC and World Cities. Mr. Mazziotti explained a few challenges faced by European cities while achieving international cooperation.

The discussion also included contingency measures due to the corona-virus crisis in Chinese cities. The team will remain in touch with Chinese authorities and will postpone missions to China scheduled for March 2020. It was agreed to further define the matrix with the different levels of achievements for the involved cities in the pilot projects.

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