Gipuzkoa shapes the green future with local actors
In The News
17 Nov 2022
Gipuzkoa is taking action towards sustainability through collaboration with EIT Climate-KIC and local stakeholders. The Government of Gipuzkoa is adding the sustainability layer, systemic approach and experimentation element to its Etorkizuna Eraikiz, an initiative to build collaborative governance, under the Deep Demonstration programme. The activities carried out under the Deep Demonstration programme are focused on the two leading sectors of mobility and food. Gipuzkoa plans to invest almost 900,000 euros in innovative projects complementing this process.
Gipuzkoa, one of the three provinces of the Basque Country with its capital in San Sebastian, has a high degree of development and social cohesion and is often known for its cooperative movement. In addition to its commitment to involving residents in governance, Gipuzkoa authorities have taken further steps to become an inclusive and green place. The innovative regional strategy “Building the Future” (Etorkizuna Eraikiz), launched in 2016, anchors social cohesion as the province’s local identity and the Deep Demonstration process helps Gipuzkoa to drive a low carbon economy.
Designing the sustainable future of Gipuzkoa
Etorkizuna Eraikiz strategy is an open and collaborative governance model for building the future by bringing people together with public institutions. The main objectives of the strategy are to identify the challenges and needs of the collective dialogue through citizen participation (such as the Citizens’ Assembly), collectively design experimental solutions and jointly tackle social and economic projects of a strategic nature through reference centres. According to Markel Olano, Deputy General of Gipuzkoa, Etorkizuna Eraikiz it is “a change in the way of engaging in politics by forcing institutional representatives to engage organizations, companies, associations, universities and residents. Its purpose is to change the relationship between politics and society, getting away from the model to which we have become used by representative democracies.”
In 2021, the Gipuzkoa government started to work with EIT Climate-KIC on the Deep Demonstration programme to add sustainability and future climate resilience aspects to the regional strategy through a systemic approach and strengthening the experimental layer.
“The main goal of our strategy is to promote collaborative governance to transform our public agenda through innovation, but we recognised that we needed to improve the sustainability character of these projects with the stabilisation of the economy as a transversal point. We did not want to approach it with classical methodologies, because we already realised that these methodologies were quite hierarchical, and we wanted to find interconnections among projects, departments and sectors. The main reason for starting the collaboration was that EIT Climate-KIC has the tools and methodology to do this and to manage a complex architecture in a systemic way. So the main input that we have obtained through participating in the Deep Demonstration process is incorporating the systemic vision into our project portfolio.” – said Olatz Errazquin Amiano, expert of the Cabinet of the President of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa.
The partnership aims to bring a deeper systemic way of thinking and working to the activities of the Etorkizuna Eraikiz strategy and to link these activities to the context and needs of climate emergency and sustainability in a wider European and global context. This transformative process, led by the Provincial Government, involves local stakeholders who are actively engaged in planning a new governance model for the region.
Local stakeholders engaged in influencing two key sectors
The Deep Demonstration project picked up steam in 2021 and this year has introduced another layer with local agents advancing the work on two focused strategic areas of mobility and sustainable food. “We are looking to focus on two specific areas that are very complex, involve different stakeholders, and where they need to cooperate with different levels of administrations. We want to involve people from different disciplines and coordinate across departments and sectors. It’s a complex approach, but the methodology helps us address complex systems.” – Errazquin Amiano continues. “We have already learned that technological change by itself isn’t enough to boost the transformation of the region and the society. The social network is crucial to us and since our goal is to promote the innovation and transformation of our agenda, we have to engage stakeholders in all these processes. The contribution of the knowledge of business, academia and other actors and citizens as well is invaluable. We know that we can influence them, but we would like them to also influence us.”
These two sectors were chosen because they are transversal and hold the main challenges of the region, impacting its economy and life. The project involves local institutions IDOM, AZTI and Agirre Lehendakaria Center. “As part of our work on the mobility sector, we are focusing on collaboration and partnership with the business community by, for example, reflecting on how the automotive industry is adapting to market requirements to become more circular. If we discover that this is not going as expected, we will work together to develop recommendations and possible activities, such as for example creating a capacity-building programme for business leaders to be more open to anticipating climate change risks or investing in deep tech or lifecycle processes so they can adapt to being energy efficient.” – said Anna Brussa, Deep Demonstrations Orchestrator at EIT Climate-KIC.
The food sector is deeply rooted in local identity, as Gipuzkoa is known for its many Michelin-starred restaurants. However, the sector also faces significant challenges in becoming more sustainable. “The region’s cuisine is famous for its meat and fish dishes, and since simple continuity of such is not the future of the modern sustainable food industry, there is also something significant to work on here to keep the cutting-edge competitiveness of the region” – Brussa adds. There have already been individual initiatives such as measuring food waste rate, but from now on, the Province plans to tackle these challenges with a more systematic approach. Another challenge is to maximise local production capacity.
Following the commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy, Gipuzkoa authorities have decided to invest almost 900,000 euros in 18 innovative experimentation projects. According to the results of the call, five projects on mobility and thirteen on sustainable food will be launched. Food-related projects will promote sustainable food system solutions, local products, sustainable gastronomic tourism and the development of local and sustainable fish products. The automotive projects will focus on electric mobility, energy sources, and reducing emissions. One of the mobility projects will focus on the development of a BMS system for the management of electric mobility vehicle batteries.
Gipuzkoa is also looking to the future by taking inspiration from the transformative actions of other places that are going through similar processes. One of the main aspects of the Deep Demonstration programme is to showcase international solutions so that local actors can draw lessons from them and see that experimenting with innovation brings profound benefits. “We recently travelled to the Netherlands to visit some companies and technical centres and talk to other people undergoing similar transitions. We have also decided to set up a Gipuzkoa Science Lab with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to test artificial intelligence and work on prototypes and pilot experiences to improve our mobility patterns. Of course, we plan to involve our citizens in this initiative, because they will be the users, so we want to test new solutions with them,” – said Errazquin Amiano.
Building the climate-proof future
The next steps for the process in the upcoming years are to provide guidance and advance understanding of systemic thinking across the Etorkizuna Eraikiz strategy, programmes, and wider stakeholders’ group, including a wider array of climate initiatives in the Basque region. Activities will also focus on connecting Gipuzkoa to other opportunities – increasing visibility and funding opportunities for systems transformation, and identifying and proposing new partnerships, initiatives and funding opportunities.
Through this partnership, Gipuzkoa also has the opportunity to leverage and showcase the participatory governance, social inclusion, and equality measures that make up the Etorkizuna Eraikiz programme, placing them at the heart of a comprehensive portfolio of actions to address the changes needed to decarbonise and build resilience in Gipuzkoa. In this way, the Gipuzkoa experience can be harnessed for the broader European context.